Adopting a three-legged cat- are there considerations we're overlooking?
March 5, 2017 4:58 PM   Subscribe

My partner and I lost our beloved kitty of many years, and after taking some time, we're starting to think about adopting a new cat. Today we visited a local shelter and met a sweet, loving 1 year-old kitty who is missing one hind leg. We know that "tripod" cats tend to get along quite well and we'd take care to provide steps and a good soft bed. But my partner and I are both usually gone during the day, and we're wondering if a three-legged kitty might be more prone to falling, and whether she might be better off with more supervision than we could provide. Are we worrying too much?
posted by brackish.line to Pets & Animals (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Given the number of tripod barn cats I've known in my life I'd say yes. They generally do just as well as regular cats. You don't have to worry about them getting stuck behind the sofa or anything.
posted by fshgrl at 5:01 PM on March 5, 2017 [4 favorites]

My mother has a tripod cat. They learn their limits and operate according to them. On whole they do not need more day to day supervision than a regular cat.
posted by Ferreous at 5:02 PM on March 5, 2017

The one-year-old tripod cat will be fine in your loving home. It might have a few falls in a new environment but it will quickly figure out what it can and can't do.

You will also have done a mitzvah by adopting a hard-to-place animal.
posted by ITravelMontana at 5:04 PM on March 5, 2017 [21 favorites]

Cats who are down a hind leg often have some trouble with climbing and jumping, but you'll be able to figure out what kitty needs by hanging out with her when you're home. She'll do just fine with you and won't need special supervision.
posted by bile and syntax at 5:25 PM on March 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

They don't need any special handling. Plus , they can't scratch furniture, only flooring
posted by canoehead at 5:33 PM on March 5, 2017 [3 favorites]

you are worrying too much. all three legged pets I have had exposure to have adapted very well. the evolutionary reason is that if they weren't able to, they wouldn't last long.
posted by evilmonk at 5:40 PM on March 5, 2017

Our cat Yorvit has all four legs, but he also has cerebellar hypoplasia, like Charley in this fpp. It's milder than Charley's but he's pretty wobbly, and his jumping and running are not all they could be. He'd been at the SPCA longer than your average kitten by a few months, so of course we had to bring him home. He knows his limits, wrestles happily with his adopted brother Roswell (brought home the same day), gallops like a rabbit up and down the hall, and generally shows no signs that he thinks he can't do stuff. He just doesn't really do stuff he can't do.

Bring home your three-legged wuzza!
posted by rtha at 5:47 PM on March 5, 2017 [5 favorites]

I had a three legged cat for years. He did just fine in my apartment, complete with stairs and another cat. I'm sure your little guy with be fine!
posted by christinetheslp at 5:54 PM on March 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

I grew up with a three-legged cat, who lost one hind leg since she was a kitten due to gangrene. She couldn't jump as high as other cats, but she was not unsteady and otherwise seemed fine.
posted by adamrice at 6:37 PM on March 5, 2017

You will be fine as-is but if you want to go the extra mile some DIY with carpet tiles is very easy and can really contribute to a cat's ability to comfortably go up and get back down from interesting ledges and shelves. The low pile kind with linoleum backing is really easy to cut to size with a utility knife. Look for places your cat likes to land on the floor so she can cushion her fall a bit and grab onto the carpet fibers with claws so she's steadier. Also look for vertical surfaces leading up to areas of interest where you can glue/staple/tape a piece of carpet tile so she can more easily use her one back leg to give herself a stable push up.

Only bother to do this after she's explored if you think she's having trouble getting places she wants to be. It's completely likely that it won't be a concern until she is much older with weaker joints.
posted by Mizu at 7:14 PM on March 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

posted by serena15221 at 8:17 PM on March 5, 2017

My boy had his rear left leg amputated due to cancer. He lost some vertical leap height but otherwise was 100% fine. Possibly more maneuverable as a tripod really. Cat could take a corner. Your kitteh will be a-okay.
posted by Medieval Maven at 8:49 PM on March 5, 2017

My three-legged, one-eyed cat did fabulously and thought a whole lot of herself, too. She didn't even seem to notice that she was not whole, and galumphed through the house with abandon. I wouldn't hesitate to adopt another tripod.
posted by thebrokedown at 9:44 PM on March 5, 2017

We adopted a three legged cat 2.5 years ago. The rescue people told us they had been looking after him for 5 months when the average cat was picked out in 4-6 weeks, and that we were only the second people to look at him, so you may have done him a big favour by selecting him. Ours is also missing a hind leg, we actually find there is some advantage since he can't jump up on kitchen work surfaces, (though actually it may be his previous owner trained him not to since he is pretty sharp at working out ways up things however and he has got 12' up a palm tree before). One thing to look out for: ours can't scratch the right side of his face since he would have used the missing right leg. Sometimes he will sit down and turn as if he was scratching and his stump will flick. Whenever he does this we give him a scratch or use a wire brush to scratch him, he loves this and would happily let us brush him till he was bleeding I think.

Otherwise he does fine, likes to hunt, likes to cuddle, likes to sleep on the bed when we let him.
posted by biffa at 5:20 AM on March 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

My only thought is unrelated to his legs: any one-year-old cat is still quite kittenish and will get bored and lonely if you are gone a lot (or even if you are gone the normal 9-5). He will benefit from having a well-matched companion to play with. A lot. As will you, oh owner of things that are best left unchewed and untoppled, sleeper of sleeps that are best left undisturbed, stander on feet that are best left unpounced-upon at midnight.
posted by amtho at 5:47 AM on March 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Amtho is correct. Never get one young cat. Always get two or three.
posted by bile and syntax at 6:59 AM on March 6, 2017

Thank you for all of these answers! It's really helpful to hear from multiple folks who have known and cared for tripod cats.

We'll be taking our kitty girl home tomorrow morning. :)

Amtho and Bile and Syntax, you make a very good point- she is indeed quite young and kittenish. The folks at the shelter said that she's a bit wary of other cats, though, so for now, we're going to start by helping her settle in with us before broaching the subject of another kitty. We have acquired a solid array of toys and scratching surfaces, and we'll be on the lookout for other (non-destruction-based) ways to help her stay active and happy.

Thanks again!
posted by brackish.line at 4:19 PM on March 6, 2017 [4 favorites]

My tripod is missing his front leg, and he seems to be pretty adept at figuring out where he can and cannot go. His main issues are that he can't wash the side of his face next to the missing leg, so I have to take a wet cloth to his eye gunk, and that he tends to jump down off of things and faceplant a little, but it's never higher than, say, the arm of the couch so it doesn't seem to bother him? I try to provide "steps" for him but he ignores them most of the time in favor of going where he pleases.

Cats jump up with their hind legs and land with their front legs, so your hind-leg tripod is likely to stay a little lower to the ground unless you provide steps to high areas.

Also you will want to watch the cat's weight - with only three legs to bear the impacts of running and jumping, tripods can be prone to developing arthritis and the like. After my kitty lost his leg (cancer), the vet put him on a specific diet (1.5 cans wet food and 1/4 cup dry) per day, instead of his former free-feeding. So you may want to consult with your vet on that point.
posted by oblique red at 8:54 AM on March 7, 2017


I miss my three legged boy so much. biffa's comment about scratching his face for him made me tear up a little because I remember that so well, too. I hope you enjoy this sweet thing. She will be very happy. <3
posted by Medieval Maven at 9:11 AM on March 7, 2017

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