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Special Needs and Other-Abled Cats: Amputee Cats aka Tripod Cats
Photo of Sierra, a Tripod Cat

Sierra, a Tripod Cat

Photo Credit: © About.com Guest Bungee

Amputee cats are not as rare as one might think; in fact, they have acquired a common name: Tripod Cats. Cats' limbs are amputated for two main reasons:

  1. Vaccine-Related Sarcoma (VAS)
  2. Injury, Intentional or Accidental
Although its incidence is rare, VAS has been particularly controversial ever since the development of the Feline Leukemia (feLV) and Rabies vaccines. Prior to that, cats with feLV and rabies not only died from the disease, but, particularly in the case of feLV, spread the virulent diseases to other healthy cats. Unfortunately the vaccines also could cause death, as a result of vaccine-related sarcoma. When the vaccines were originally developed, they were commonly given in the "scruff" of the neck, as was common then. Thus, if a cat developed VAS in the vaccine site, death was inevitable.

With the development of vaccination protocols by the Vaccine-Associated Feline Sarcoma Task Force, established in 1996, we first began to see tripod cats. The reason: the protocols called for the feLV and Rabies vaccines to be given in the rear legs, (Rabies: Right; feLV: Left), as distally (distant) as possible. The reasoning behind this, unpleasant as it may sound, is that a VAS tumor on the leg can be treated by amputation, allowing affected cats to survive.

Amputee Cats Resulting From Injury

As noted above, injury requiring amputation of a cat's limb can either be caused by accident, or cruelty. Tens of thousands of cats are killed or severely injured every year by vehicular accidents, a good reason to keep cats safely indoors.

Sierra, the beautiful tripod girl pictured here, lost her leg as the result of being thrown out of a car window as a kitten. Sierra's adoptive mom wrote: "Sierra was a 6 month old Siamese who would soon become a tripod because some horrible person had tossed her from a vehicle and her leg was broken beyond repair. A few days after I signed the adoption papers, Sierra had her right rear leg amputated. She was up and purring within a few hours after surgery. The next day she was trekking around the shelter. She came home a few days after her amputation." Sierra, like Steve in the first step, was a winner in the "Most Unforgettable Adopted Cat Contest." Read the remainder of Sierra's story for an example of how tripod kitties can lead entirely normal lives.

See Other Tripod Kitties:

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