All About 3-Legged Cats

One of our favorite customers, Kelleen (Kelly) has a feline-family of 4 “tripod” cats a clever name for cats who have only 3 legs. She was delighted to share their story and photos with our customers and readers. Here’s her story about her tripod cats!

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From Kelly: Elixir

 
 

Tripod cats have a special place in my heart, and a big place in our family. Between myself and my daughter, we now have four three-legged cats – as well as one four-legger!

In our minds and theirs, our tripods are just cats – active, curious, playful, and loving. Missing body parts or no, these resilient little beings are amazing, gorgeous animals, each with their own distinct personality, deserving of love and pleased to give it in return. They don’t have any pain related to their missing limbs, and are not bothered at all by their differences, still approaching everything with a cat’s “can-do” attitude.

Living with tripod cats is not much different from living with their 4-legged counterparts, except they are perhaps a bit noisier as they thump around the house and scrabble to climb things. There are a few factors to consider, though, when deciding to adopt one (or if your cat is injured and loses a limb). For example:

  • Litter boxes need to be larger because they can lose their balance and go outside the box – but at the same time, the sides can’t be too high because they need easier access.
  • It’s important not to overfeed tripods, as too much body weight will make it much more difficult for them to remain active and navigate their surroundings on 3 legs.
  • It is more difficult for three-leggers to run or climb to get away from predators, so it’s best for them to be indoor-only cats. I built a fully enclosed catio outside my back door so my four can spend time in the sun being cats – chasing snakes and voles, watching birds, climbing tree limbs, and relaxing in the grass – while they remain safe from our resident eagles, raccoons and neighborhood dogs.
  • Some toys are better – for example, all three of mine, who are each missing a rear leg, love the Kitty Kicker-style toys that they grab with their front legs and kick at with that extra-strong back leg of theirs. They love ground-level scurrying toys they can “catch and kill” also. Toys that dangle in the air are not so enjoyable because with only one rear leg tripods can’t stand up and swat or jump up to bat them out of the air.

Not all tripod cats are the same, of course, or have the same needs. Cats missing a front leg are sometimes more likely to hide or to use their teeth – just as cats who have been declawed may – because they feel they can’t protect themselves or communicate their displeasure with their claws. Cats missing rear legs have a harder time climbing, balancing on narrow walkways, and “landing” gracefully when they jump. There are also differences between those who lost limbs as adults and those who grew up already missing a limb. Our three who lost limbs as adults sometimes still try to jump/climb on things that they can’t handle because they seem to forget that the leg is missing!

The wonderful characters of our quartet of tripods and the enjoyment they have brought into our lives make it well worth the bit of extra thought and work involved in creating a fun, healthy, safe environment for them. They may be missing some parts, but they make our family whole!


Here is some background on our tripod family:

Our family’s very first cat was a tripod who lived in a home with too many animals that bullied and terrorized the little 3-legger who couldn’t get away or fend the others off from his food. My daughter, who has always had a soft spot for the underdog (or undercat, as it were), asked the family if she could have him, and brought him home so he would have a loving, quiet home where he would be protected and cherished. Although I had always been a “dog person” (who liked cats but had no particular interest in having one as a pet), I soon fell in love with little Prince Arcane and was on my way to becoming a “cat person” as well!


 
Arcane

 
 

Because Arcane was officially my daughter’s cat, I adopted a lovely little silver tuxedo girl of my own (who still has the use of all four of her legs), but Juju was not a very feline-social cat and wanted little to do with Arcane, who always wanted to play with her. I watched him trying to play, and her rebuffing him and simply removing herself to someplace he couldn’t get to, and I always felt badly for him. When I saw a feisty young male flame-point come in to the shelter who needed to have his back leg amputated (it had been broken in multiple places and the previous owners had tried to set the leg themselves instead of taking him to a veterinarian), I thought how perfect it would be for both of the tripod boys to have someone to play with, so Ozymandias joined our family. The two boys became fast friends and wrestling partners, thumping around the house after each other and taking each other down with WWE-like body slams.


 
Juju

 
 


 
Ozymandias

 
 

Since then, my daughter moved out with a roommate, taking Arcane with her. I knew Ozzie would drive Juju crazy chasing her around wanting to play, and wanted a playmate for him. Since I already had the house catified and the catio designed for the needs of 3-legged cats, it was a given that I might take in another tripod if the right one happened along. Coincidentally, a litter of 4-month-old kittens had been brought in from a local feral colony a couple of months before. The entire litter was ear-tipped and placed into the shelter’s barn cat program, but one was found to have an injured leg that would not heal and had to undergo amputation. Although she was still very skittish, she could not go to a barn home due to her missing leg, so one of our cattery volunteers, knowing my setup at home, suggested I meet her. Though my plan had been to get an adult male cat as a companion for Ozzie, I could not pass on little Alchemy once I met her. She came home with me, and after an extended introduction period she and Ozymandias are the playmates and bosom buddies I had hoped they would be!


 
Alchemy

 
 

My daughter noticed that Arcane seemed at a loss alone at their new home, and her roommate had always wanted a cat of his own, so when just a few months later another laid-back young black male cat had to undergo an amputation of a shattered rear leg, I immediately offered to help the kids adopt him. Elixir is now comfortably ensconced in his new home and gradually becoming friends and playmates with his “brother from another mother.”
 
 


 
Elixir

 
 

 

 

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