Anyone with a Three-Legged-Cat? I am a wreck deciding what to do with my boy....


8 Years
Sep 24, 2011
Central California
I have had so much support here for caring for my chickens, that I hope in a time of really horrible stress, that there might be someone out there with a tri-pod kitty cat.

Two days ago I noticed a very large bone-hard lump on my 10 year old cat's shoulder. I took him to the vet today and, after x-rays, they said that he has a bone tumor. They were surprised because apparently this typically occurs in large dogs, not cats, and so there aren't a lot of previous cases to go by. Later in the evening they called to tell me that after an expert examined the X-ray, they believe that it might be a benign tumor since his bone has not been destroyed – it is just growing. He is not in any pain at all, and he has no limp. However, they say that even if it's benign it will continue to grow rapidly and will break his leg and cause extreme pain. We could do a biopsy, but its a painful surgery and even if it is benign, the amputation would still be required.

So, I am faced with this horrible decision that I must make quickly, as this thing is growing very rapidly. I dont know if I should amputate, or put him to sleep.

I keep reading that cats do very well with three legs, and I was feeling much better – but then I looked at videos. It seems like cats that lose a hind-leg do fantastically, but the videos seem to show me that when they lose a front leg, walking around seems to be very difficult. Some of them seem to almost have to crawl all the time. I am back to being a wreck. I don't know what to do.

Part of the issue is my cat's personality. He is already a bit skiddish – he likes to cuddle but hates strangers and quick movements. I have no idea if that will worsen after the surgery, but I kind of feel like it. Also, he is an outdoor cat. He has spent 90% of his life hunting outside and hates to be cooped up indoors. But, with a front leg amputation, will it be possible for him to really run around outside like he used to? It doesnt seem like it from the videos…. I think he might hate his life if I forced him to be inside forever.

Also, I feel so guilty. I take him to the vet and they put him to sleep and then he wakes up with no arm? That's horrifying, isn't it?

I don't know what's best, and I don't know what to choose. I feel like I'm condemning him no matter what I do.

Does anyone have a cat without one of it's front legs? And can they actually lead the lives they led before?

Any advice at all would be so helpful, as I am physically ill over this decision. It's such an important one, and I need to make the right choice, but I just don't know what that is.

My boy, Fang:
I've got a 9year old cat that had to have her front paw amputated. She was originally an outdoor cat and got caught in a fox trap. She escaped but the trap broke all of her bones, and the paw eventually died. She gets around fine, although has a little bit of a hard time jumping down from something. She even refuses to come in in the spring and summer (she will literally scream and climb windows to get back out, all of this with only one paw that has claws). During the fall and winter, she is outside during the days but comes in at night. For the most part, she hops on her front leg and does fine. When the grass is taller or she is on a soft surface, she will use her stump.She also uses her stump to clean herself.

If this tumor is going to grow and break your cat's leg, then there really is no choice but to have it amputated. Our vet told us that we need to keep her weight down just because of the pressure on her one leg, but other than that we don;t do anything different.

Here is picture of her from last summer. You can see her stump on the left, she normally tucks it under her:
Kaitie - I am so glad to hear your story (Obviously not that your kitty had such an unfortunate accident, but that she is such a success story!). This truly makes me feel better. Especially that she goes outside, which I was so worried that I would have to take away from Fang. He, like your girl, would absolutely shriek if I tried to keep him inside.

I know I cannot let the tumor grow - that would be terrible - but I just am having such a difficult time deciding if his quality of life will be such that I should amputate, or if it is more merciful to put him to sleep. It's probably the hardest decision I've ever had to make.

I wonder if the stump helps her with balance a lot, or if it will be about the same as with Fang. I am so heartened to hear that your girl was about the same age as Fang - I was worried he would not be able to handle it at his age.

I have seen so many videos of cats without a front leg and it seems like is takes so much more effort to get around - do you find that this is the case?

Did you have to change things around the house to better suit her disability? How far down can she jump without issue?

We are soon moving to South Dakota, which will be another huge stressor on him since he's lived here in California for his whole life. I was especially worried that, living near forests, he might have a run in with more mischievous outdoor predators than he has here (we are in the boonies so we have possums and racoons, and sometimes coyotes but that's it). I see from your window that you look to be in a more forest-y location. Do you feel like your girl could fight back if she needed to?

Thanks again, so so much for sharing your experience with me. I am so much in search of support in making this decision from people that understand what type of life change this is for the cat. He is such a part of our family that I just couldn't see him go on in a terrible life, but I don't want to condemn him to die either.
Ugh, I just wrote this whole long thing and accidentally deleted it...

I wonder if the stump helps her with balance a lot, or if it will be about the same as with Fang. Her stump does let her balance better I think than most cats without a front leg, although for the most part she keeps it tucked up against her chest.

I have seen so many videos of cats without a front leg and it seems like is takes so much more effort to get around - do you find that this is the case? I do notice that she takes frequent breaks if she walks a lot. She normally spends most of her day lying around now, so another reason to keep her weight down. when she is standing still, she will shift her front leg over to create a tripod. Here is a clip of a 15yr old cat getting around just fine:

Did you have to change things around the house to better suit her disability? How far down can she jump without issue? We didn't change anything in the house for her. She can easily jump up to my bed which is about 4 1/2 ft tall. She can also jump on the porch railing which is only 6 inches wide. The hard part is coming down, as it puts a lot of pressure on the leg. I did notice that when getting down, she will jump to my laundry basket that has a lid, which is only 3ft from the ground, before getting off my bed.

Do you feel like your girl could fight back if she needed to? No. We do live in a heavily wooded area but we really don't have any predators except for raccoons and opossums. she would be easy picking for a coyote She recently went missing for 2 months and we had given up on her, when she returned one night just a little skinny. You will have to do research on the area you are moving to to be sure about your predators.

I wonder if you can put off the amputation until you move. That way he is not under stress so close together, it is all just lumped into one. Also, he will have to be inside for at least 2-3 weeks after the surgery, so you may be able to end up keeping him inside since he is not used to his surroundings. If you find you have very large predators, and he still wants outside, you could always build a catio or purchase a cheap chain link dog kennel and create an outdoor area for him. He would be outside during the day in a safe area, but you could bring him in at night.
I don't have an amputee cat, but I have a cat with cerebellum hypoplasia. Basically, his cerebellum is way too small, so his coordination is shot. He falls down constantly. He could care less. He gets right back up, and continues to be a purring, happy go lucky guy. In his case, he is too uncoordinated to jump onto the bed on his own. That does not seem to be an issue with cats who are missing a limb.

A neighborhood cat lost a leg after being attacked by a pack of dogs. A week later, and she was back outside, walking the fence line and teasing the dogs.
Thanks for your responses - I tried to get on earlier but had a "fatal PHP" error which I think a lot of the BYC community had for a while there.

Kaitie - Thanks for writing it all out again! You're feedback really means a lot to me.

While your girl has to rest more often, does she still seem happy? I mean, does the effort it takes for her to walk seem to put a big damper on her happiness? This is one of the things I am most worried about. The video kitty seems happy enough :) Though still so hard to imagine my Fang that way, ya know?

I've read people ranging from changing all kinds of stuff in the house to not changing much at all - My guess is that because you didn't change much it forced her to be more adaptable? Maybe that's a better way to go. I don't want to coddle him into being non-self-sufficient. I think. -.-

I will read up on the predators out there. I don't think I can wait until we move, as the tumor is growing quickly and will soon begin to hurt him. Furthermore, if it is cancerous, it could spread to his lungs and then he would have no chance. :( I hope he can deal with the change.

Have you had any issues with phantom-limb pain? Does she take medications every day for anything now?

punk-a-doodle - I have heard those types of stories and they give me a lot more hope :) Though it seems like the one's that can still get on fences are usually back-leg amputees :(
I've never had a three legged cat, but good luck to your boy, I'm sure you'll make the right decision
She still seems happy and very talkative, it just takes her a little longer to get somewhere. She will go about 50-100ft and then sit for about a minute, get back up, and move one. She never started drinking more than she used to, so It must not be effecting her very much physically.

As for medication, we never gave her any after the initial antibiotics and pain meds. The only thing we every do differently for her is totally keep her inside if there is snow on the ground. She has a hard time if there is more than a couple inches on the ground. She cant really move in deep snow, and we worry about frostbite as she has no real padding between her skin an bones on the stump. I think she realizes she cant move in snow, because she does not complain and want to get outside at all.
StarLover21 - Thank you. I keep thinking... It's such an important decision, and I so desperately need to make the right choice but I just don't know what it is. But I think that I am leaning toward amputation.

Kaitie09 - Thanks so much for the reply, again. It is so helpful to hear from a three-legged-kitty mommy who's lived through this. I have never had to deal with snow before (California), and neither has Fang so I feel as though he wont want to go out into the snow anyway, when we move. If he does, he'll just have to learn not to, I guess. Or we will have to go with what you mentioned before and build a porch that's closed in for him to hang out in in the winter. I'm so glad that she seems happy - It will be very hard to see Fang go through this. I'm just happy that maybe it's not such a condemnation to lose a limb. Maybe he'll be okay...

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