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How Should I Prepare for My Cat’s Surgery and Recovery?

I’ve advised cat parents for almost 10 years. Now my cat is losing her leg -- and I need your help.

 |  Nov 7th 2012  |   32 Contributions


My sweet Kissy is going to have her left hind leg amputated next Monday.

It really wasn’t a difficult decision, after a recent trip to the vet revealed the extent of the damage caused by the bone deformity with which she was born. My heart broke when I realized that the poor cat has probably never lived a day of her life without pain, and suddenly it was obvious to me why she’s been so fearful and hyper-reactive toward Siouxsie and Thomas.

The X-rays reveal that one of her calf bones is bent and twisted, which caused a lot of the problems with her knee. The radiograph of the knee shows the severe arthritic changes and extra bone growth. She's only about 2-1/2 years old, and she's probably never known a day without pain.

The vet who’s going to perform the surgery has been incredibly responsive and quick to answer any questions I’ve had about the procedure. In fact, I’d say she’s the best vet I’ve had in many years. I trust her implicitly and I feel very comfortable working with her and having her work on Kissy.

I’m getting ready for the big day and preparing a safe space for her recovery. One of my colleagues is lending me a large dog crate, which I’m going to place near the gas heater that warms my apartment. My good friend Angie, who was with me at last weekend’s Cat Writers’ Association conference, won one of the door prizes -- a heated cat bed -- which she gave to me to make Kissy’s recovery more comfortable. I’m going to get a low-sided container to use as a litter box so she doesn’t have to try too hard to do her business. (I’m also going to get some wee-wee pads to place around the container just in case she goes over the side.)

In this video I shot about two weeks after I brought Kissy home, you can see how odd her left hind leg looks, and you can see that she's favoring it:


On Saturday morning she’s going to the vet to have a Fentanyl patch applied and have blood drawn for her pre-anesthetic testing. She’s going to come home with a Cone of Shame so she doesn’t nibble off the patch and wind up at the emergency clinic with a narcotic overdose. She’ll be wearing that cone until her incision heals, too.

On Monday morning I’ll drop her off at the vet ... and fret all day while I make a futile attempt to think about anything but my sweet little Kissy under the knife. Since Monday is a holiday (Veterans’ Day) here in the United States, I won’t have any work to distract me. On the other hand, I’ll probably be so distracted by thinking about the surgery that it would be pointless to even try to do any work.

Kissy perches on top of the couch. She often lets that leg hang down instead of folding it under her -- I think it hurts less that way.

The vet said Kissy will probably be up and walking around in a couple of days. I’m planning to wait until Friday to let her out of the crate when I’m not home -- unless she seems to be ready to run free before then.

I think I’ve got all my preparations in place, but I don’t know. I’ve never had a cat whose leg needed to be amputated, and I really have no idea what to expect in terms of recovery time and potential issues other than the standard risks of surgery. Lots of people have commented on the Kissy post I wrote in my personal blog, and they’ve been very encouraging with comments about how easily cats adapt to having three legs, so I’m not very worried about how she’ll get along as a tripod.

Kissy yawns while I fret.

So, if I've done all these things to get ready, why am I writing this? Because I need your advice. If one of your feline friends has had an amputation, what preparations did you make? Looking back, is there anything you wish you’d done or that you might have done differently? I could really use the benefit of your experience so that I can give Kissy the best possible care as she recovers.

Thanks in advance for sharing your advice in the comments. Both of us are very grateful for your help and support! 

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