Updated 23 April 2014

Out on a limb?

Your cat's been in an accident and the vet recommends amputating a limb. You're very upset by this. Rest assured, the cat will cope. But will you?


Cats are extraordinary creatures with agility that often surprises the feline fan. With seemingly little effort, they manage to jump great distances and they always seem to land on their feet.

But what happens when your cat develops a condition or is involved in an accident that requires amputation of a limb?

Contrary to popular belief, amputation is not an uncommon procedure in cats. Cats also adapt fairly fast, often being up and about the very next day after the procedure. Amputation is often much harder on the owners of the cat than on the cat itself.

It takes time for your cat to adapt fully, but you will be surprised how quickly they are jumping again. Just remember that cats learn by trial and error, constantly pushing their boundaries. So when your cat falls out of a tree, go inside to laugh.

Here are some hints:

  • Speak to vet you trust and even get a second opinion.
  • Ask for a quote.
  • If your cat is allowed visitors after surgery, try to be there. It is not nice to see your cat for the first time after this kind of operation, so prepare yourself.
  • Speak to your vet about pain management and antibiotics.
  • Keep your cat inside initially. They need to develop new skills in a controlled environment. The wound also needs to heal.
  • Make sure that your cat has enough food and water at all times and that it is easy for them to reach.
  • Move the litter tray closer to them for easier access. Consider getting a small one or using a cardboard box or something similar with low sides to make it easier for your cat to get in and out.
  • Speak to your vet about giving your cat a controlled diet – remember that they have one less limb to rely on and cannot afford to be overweight.
  • Check the wound regularly for signs of infection.
  • Provide your cat with a dark, safe place to crawl into when it is needed.
  • Check if your cat is licking or fiddling with the stitches. Speak to your vet about options to prevent them from doing this.

Cats are remarkable and they adapt fast. Don't be disheartened when you hear your cat will have to make due with one less limb. They cope fine – do you?

- (Andre Britz, Health24, July 2006)

- Last updated: June 2010


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