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Feline Rehab Helps Tri-kitty Stiletto Get Strong After Amputation

Three legged kitten Stiletto benefits from feline rehab therapy thanks to Tripawds Foundation Rehab Grant #174. The free consultation and at-home rehab exercises help Stiletto stay strong and love life on three legs. Read her story, and learn how you can get a free veterinary rehab evaluation for your dog or cat.

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Meet Three Legged Kitten Stiletto

My tripawd is Stiletto. She’s a 6 month old brown tabby three legged kitten. I adopted her (and a black and white kitten from a different litter with slight vision problems, now named Sawyer because they Tom Sawyered me into taking him) from the Memphis Animal Shelter on September 20, 2023, a week after my 16 year old black cat passed away. I had intended to adopt two black kittens together. Instead I ended up with the pair I affectionately refer to as “The Rejects” since both Stiletto and Sawyer were the last of their respective litters and had issues.

Stiletto came into the shelter as a young kitten not using her rear right leg and they amputated it at the time of her spay. They couldn’t tell me what caused it. At first I thought Stiletto was a normal three legged cat, but after googling young three legged cats (which is how I found Tripawds) I realized she was not moving normally at all. Stiletto tended to scoot on her amputation site, so much so she began to develop a callous.

She used her remaining rear leg to partially push her as her front legs did the bulk of the work dragging her around the house at full speed to keep up with Sawyer. She would growl a lot, undoubtedly from soreness, and her back would occasionally twitch. I took her to my primary vet, telling her I wanted to visit a rehab vet. My vet looked at Stiletto’s x-rays from the shelter and realized that while the leg that had been amputated had had a break, she also had a broken pelvis in two places. My primary vet’s best guess was that she had been stepped on or possibly hit by a car and managed to survive.

feline rehab
Feline rehab helps tri-kitty Stiletto.

How Feline Rehab Helps Stiletto

Recommending feline rehab, my primary vet gave me the name of Dr. Heather Laros-Beard who worked for Healing Paws Animal Hospital (healingpaws901.com). I actually had experience with rehab exercises (although not using a vet) thanks to two dogs having CCL tears so there wasn’t a lot of new information I learned except cats are treated essentially the exact same as dogs, and after Dr. Laros looked at Stiletto’s x-rays, she believed all of Stiletto’s walking issues were a result of her broken pelvis and she never needed to have her leg removed at all. If she had just been kept under strict rest her leg and pelvis would have healed normally. While that was a bummer to learn, Memphis Animal Services is a kill shelter so I’m grateful they at least tried to help her and didn’t put her down, which would have been the easier option.

feline rehab

The good news was that Stiletto’s pelvis did heal and x-rays showed there was no physical reason she couldn’t learn to walk like a normal three legged cat. We now have a long road a head of us to build up muscle in her remaining rear leg and her core strength. They prescribed a bunch of “easy” at-home feline rehab exercises. We do 5 reps of passive range of motion exercises on her remaining hind limb. Then we do 2 sets of standing for 15 seconds while I gently push her side to side with a minute rest between them. Next is 2 more sets of 15 second standing while I gently rock her front to back. Then three lures of her head to each hip while her front feet are on a box. This is her favorite exercise.

feline rehab

The next feline rehab exercise is standing with front limbs on the box for 10 seconds for 2 sets. And then we do 5 square sits to the best of our ability while I throw a treat to make her move forward and push off her hind leg. Her rehab is finished with a cold pack to her upper back and a gentle massage on her mid back, both for 5-10 minutes. We do all of this twice a day, every day. When we first started, she could only hold positions for around 7 seconds despite me supporting nearly all of her weight. And as a young kitten, she would rather be scurrying around the house than sitting still for a massage.

~ Erica & Stiletto

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