Life with a tripod cat continues to be interesting. We brought Zombie home on the assumption that he would eventually learn to ambulate as close to a four-legged cat as possible. I have met a variety of tripod cats in practice, some of them later-life amputees who have adapted to life without a leg without missing a beat. So you would think that a cat whose leg was amputated as a kitten would have it even easier, right? Not necessarily.
Watching him move around, even from the time he was a very small kitten shortly after his amputation + death (for those of you who missed Zombie's story, go here. There is a very real reason why his name is Zombie!) and well before he was ours, one of my concerns was how normal his remaining hind leg would be as he grew up. He had this tendency to bow out the leg so that his stifle was completely perpendicular to his body while hunching and twisting his back. I couldn't imagine that to be comfortable. He was still doing this when we brought him home at 4 months of age. I watched him and worried about him developing into a sort of three-legged Quasimodo cat as a result of assuming these awkward positions while his body was still growing.
I figured we would deal with it if that happened but in the meantime I started to do little things to try to straighten him out. A sort of physical therapy if you will.
I don't think I would have adopted him if we had not had another young cat for him to play with because I believe it has been vital in his development. The only time when his back was straight was when he was in full flight running around the house with Aengus. He might be missing a leg, but even in the beginning he was FAST! He could actually outrun four-legged Aengus! We gradually let them interact longer and longer to allow Zombie to build up strength, until they were together all the time. Playtime occurred in the morning when Charles and I woke up ("They're awake! BREAKFAST TIME! YAAAAAY!!!"), in the late afternoon around dusk, and later in the evening close to midnight (because of our work schedules, Charles and I tend to be up later than most even on our days off.) Play involved chasing in a sort of game of tag, and some rambunctious wrestling where the two would grapple at each other and kick one another's heads with their feet. Initially I supervised these wrestling matches, fearful they would turn into fights, and I sometimes scolded Aengus if he got too carried away...but Zombie would always go jump on Aengus begging for more. So I started just letting them do what they wanted. (Boys I tell you. Even kitty boys...For example, Zombie has an unending fascination with the toilet bowl which has meant that since his arrival in the house, we keep the toilet lid DOWN at all times. The toilet gets cleaned regularly but still...Only a boy cat!) Aengus would win at wrestling because 4 legs, but Zombie would win at tag.
Do you think cats are weird? Oh boy, you have no idea! Cats love what we call the butt pat or spanking. Examples:
Check out what she does every time her owner stops the pats!
Owner is using foam paddles. They make a lot of noise but he is not spanking this cat hard. And NO, you certainly cannot train a cat to like anything. This kitty genuinely loves this!
I have yet to meet a cat that didn't like this kind of patting. One of the ways I introduce myself to cats in the hospital is by letting them sniff my hands, then I scratch their ears and chins, and if they are receptive to being loved on, I'll lightly pat them over their rump right in front of their tails or around their hips. A relaxed kitty will slowly straighten their hind legs until they are on their tippy toes. Some cats like it so much that they get overstimulated to the point of gently nipping you. Yes, cats will nip you with affection. Yes, cats are weird!
Back to my own cats. Astarte loves butt pats so much that she will do a little dance with her hind feet. It's hilarious.
She doesn't do her tippy-toe dance with her hind feet in this video, but you get the idea.
When Aengus was a kitten, he didn't quite know what to make of it when I started patting his rump. I'd pat him simultaneously while patting Astarte and he'd get this confused expression, "Ummmm...I think I like this?" Then he'd look over at her who was obviously enjoying it and he'd relax, "Okay, I think I like this." He'll raise his rump so high that he'll eventually just topple over.
Zombie liked it but would fall over because of his missing leg. So I would just place a hand under his nub and pat his rump. Result? He'd straighten his back and lift his tail. I showed Charles and we started doing this several times a day, whenever we thought about it.
And he started surprising us. By eating like a normal cat:
And being able to climb on things:
|Just because the toilet lid is down doesn't mean that his endless fascination with the toilet has ceased...|
But we were still impressed that he was able to climb up there!
Cats walk and trot as their default gaits:
But they can also run or basically canter/gallop:
|The difference between a galloping cat and a horse is that cats have these crazy elastic spines that allow them to WAAY overtrack. Definitely would not want to ride a cat!|
|Same phase of gallop in a horse.|
Last week, he trotted up to me for breakfast. I have no idea how and I was not able to catch it on video with my phone. But he trotted.
On three legs.
He is also now able to jump up with his one hind leg:
And he is also able to stand for his rump pats with no assistance. Of which I have no video because cats.
So I think our original assumptions ended up being correct. :)
His neuter occurred last week at about 6-7 months of age. We (vets, foster mom and I) had all agreed that it was best to wait as long as possible for his neuter. The vets and his foster mom wanted him to weigh more than 6 lbs before his neuter and I personally wanted him to get full advantage of all of that testosterone to make him as strong as possible. I think it worked: he went into his neuter weighing 8 lbs of rippling muscle.
I was trying really hard not to stress about it since Zombie had already died under anesthesia once. But he did not die during his neuter and he came back home to us alive and well. Not a zombie x2 cat. ;)
|I caught him licking his surgical site once so he had to wear the Cone of Shame for 24 hours.|
He was fine without it after that.
|He adores Charles.|
Yes, he knows his name!
This is one of the big reasons why I enjoy having cats so much: all three of ours talk back!
Because one Zombie-cat talking video isn't enough... :)