Cat Adjusting to Life on Three Legs


It started out as a quiet evening in late autumn for Renee C. — a Massachusetts housewife and part-time yoga instructor — but it certainly didn’t end up that way. She, her husband, and their two-year-old daughter had just finished dinner and were relaxing in their living room when there was a knock at the front door. “It was a neighbor,” recalls Renee, “with some very bad news. Our cat Shady had been struck by a car.” The driver had continued on, and Shady — a coal-black cat — had hobbled away from the scene of the accident and had disappeared into the dark woods surrounding Renee’s home. For the next three hours or so, she and the neighbor searched for the injured animal before finally spotting him, hiding in a dark corner of the family’s garage. It was clear that the accident had shattered one of Shady’s rear legs.

As gently as possible, Renee placed Shady — now vocalizing loudly in pain — into a large crate, loaded the crate carefully into the back seat of her car, and drove to a Tufts-affiliated veterinary emergency hospital in nearby Walpole, MA, a trip taking 20 minutes or so. At the hospital, X-rays revealed that Shady’s leg was damaged beyond surgical repair; either the injured leg would have to be amputated, Renee was advised, or Shady should be euthanized. Although the amputation would cost about $2,000, she and her husband decided to go ahead with the surgery, using money that they had set aside for home repairs.

The amputation was done the following morning, and a day later Renee was told that Shady was ready to go home. Within a week, she recalls, the little animal was hobbling tentatively around the house, as chipper as he’d always been and showing no signs of pain whatsoever. From then until the following spring, as his mobility continued to improve, Shady was kept indoors, usually in the basement where he was free to roam around and get used to life with only three legs.

There was one problem, however: According to Renee, he started behaving as if he were depressed. “He really wanted to be outdoors,” she recalls, “so we eventually began letting him out of the house for short periods of time with supervision, and he was getting along just fine — running around the yard on his three legs, chasing after us, catching chipmunks, and bringing them home to us every evening, just like he’d always done.” Free to roam again, Shady’s agility continued to improve over the summer, and his apparent depression disappeared entirely.


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