They say that cats have nine lives and although a bit of a myth, our feline friends are known to be pretty resilient creatures. Cats are very capable of adapting to life even though they lose one of their limbs although it takes them a little time. Our feline friends are clever, they are very adept at finding ways to compensate which means they go on to lead happy and full lives.
A lot of the time, it's through an accident involving cars or motorbikes that many cats end up losing a limb whether it's a front or back leg. However, it does take them a little while to realise they can no longer do certain things they once did so easily. In some cats this can bring on a lot of fear, frustration and anxiety which can make them very unsettled. It may even result in a change in their personalities with an outgoing cat becoming a little more reserved.
A lot of our feline friends tend to go very quiet when they first lose a limb they become less inclined to move around too much which is understandable. For owners too, this can be especially hard because suddenly their pets aren't that keen on interacting with them. Some cats will stop grooming themselves which means they need help to stay “clean”. The saddest thing is when a cat stops purring which can really affect their owners. However, the one thing cats never seem to lose interest in is eating and the reason for this is that tucking into food does not cause them any pain.
It's during the first few days when a cat comes home from the vet that can be very difficult. The fact, they want to hide away is perfectly normal, but most upsetting is when a normally outward going pet starts cowering whenever anyone goes near them. However, this is also perfectly normal because it takes our feline friends time to feel relaxed about things again. You have to bear in mind your pet is still in considerable pain too.
Recovery can often be hindered by something called “hallucinosis” which is when a cat thinks and feels like their missing limb is actually still there and not missing at all. This impression of having a phantom limb can make their recovery time that much longer. Some cats will still try to scratch themselves with a missing limb years after it was removed. On top of this cats may also feel “phantom” pain which again, can make life a bit miserable for them. It can be years before a cat would be happy to let you touch the stump where their limb used to be which is something you need to be prepared for and as such be really careful if and when you need to examine it.
All cats are unique and therefore each one will cope in their own different way when they lose a limb, but it's during this period when they are learning to adapt to the fact they only have three legs that they need lots of love, care and understanding from their owners. When cats realise they can no longer jump up onto a favourite chair, they will soon give up even trying. This is when rearranging the furniture so a cat can get up on it can really help them out both physically and mentally because it helps them rebuild their confidence.
After a while and it may take a little time, cats get used to the fact they only have three legs and as such they find ways to get to where they want to go. This means that given a bit of time furniture can be put back to where it used to be, but only when the cat shows they no longer need the help to get around. Over time, a cat will start developing new muscles which help them become more mobile and active again.
Until a cat manages to get their balance back, using a litter tray and going to the toilet can be a real problem for them. As such they need help and because many cats like to do their “business” in private, you need to reassure them they can trust you which may take a bit of time. However, it's important that you persevere and show your pet lots of patience and understanding. You may find you have to clean them after they have been to the toilet too.
As previously mentioned, even though a cat may have undergone serious surgery which has left them feeling very vulnerable, they don't tend to go off their food, unless of course an infection sets in once they are allowed to go home. However, if all is well, cats will eat as normal, but because they are less active and move around a lot less than they used to, it can lead to them putting on far too much weight.
Carrying too much weight will not help them adapt to the fact they only have three legs and will in fact, make it that much harder for them simply because they are carrying more weight. As such, it's a good idea to feed them a low calorie diet, but before you change anything it's best to discuss things with a vet first.
If losing a limb means saving your cat's life, then naturally this is the right thing to do. Cats manage very well on three legs although it does take them some time to get used to the fact they no longer have one of their limbs. It's during the first few weeks that your cat would need lots of love, extra care and understanding because they will need your help in lots of ways. However, in time they soon learn to adapt to their new situation and will go on to lead very full and happy lives.