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Living with the (newly) Three-Legged barn cat

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  • Living with the (newly) Three-Legged barn cat

    A few weeks ago, my wonderful barn cat showed up with a hind leg basically dangling off. We assume she'd been stepped on by a horse. Rushed her to the vet, and the only options were amputation or euthanasia...so now, she has 3 legs. The first few days she was content to mostly sleep and learn to walk and balance again, and she was confined to the barn office. When she became more active, I took her to my house. She is currently confined to a bathroom when the dog is in the house, and gets the run of the house all night.

    I'm not sure what to do with her at this point...I think she'd like to be a barn cat again, but we have so many predators in this area (TONS of coyotes) that I feel like I'd be dooming her. Plus it's getting cold, and while she used to sleep in the barn office at night in the winter, the way she stumbles, I don't feel safe leaving a heater on for her there like I used to do. She's also not nearly as quick as she used to be - despite being very careful, I've already tripped over her a few times - so I worry about her around horses/kids/clients in my busy barn.

    Surely others have been in this situation...My gut says she should be a house cat, and maybe I'm just looking for some support in that decision...But I also know she would probably be happier in the barn. Thoughts?
    Ristra Ranch Equestrian Jewelry

  • #2
    When I was a kid one of our cats tangled with the hay mower. He lost 1 hind leg at the stifle, and his other was fixed with a metal plate so his hock was permanently bend in 'sit' postion - presumbly because that would allow him to sit or lie down more comfortably.

    He not only lived for several more years, he got around every where he needed to go and continued to be an excellent hunter.

    Due to the fixed hind leg with the plate he would thump when he came down stairs (pad, pad, THUMP) but he never appeared compromised. And he was blind in one eye from a fight with his brother when they were kittens. Tough old buggar.

    Around here predators are really only a worry at night, so cats come in, but I'd see how she fares and she may surprise you!


    • #3
      We found my newest kitten with a broken rear leg and had it amputated. She does amazingly well and is so fast! I often forget that she only has 3 legs
      She is an indoor cat so I can definitely understand your concerns about yours being outside. If you think she should be a house cat now, I would go with your gut. She may love being inside! If she seems to not like it you could try keeping her as a barn cat again and see if she's happier out there. Either way she's in good hands! Don't worry I'm sure she'll adjust to whatever you choose.


      • #4
        Mine loves the outside. He can actually climb a tree. Just pogos right up it. He is out when I am home and comes in at night. Although he does like to play hide and seek with me when I am running late and NEED to bring him in.

        His limb is also off at the hock and on rainy snowy days he prefers to be in doors. But when its a warm summer night and the breeze is blowing and the moon is out, well there is no catching him!
        The View from Here


        • #5
          I think keeping her inside is the right decision. She will get used to it. I've seen really hardened outdoor barn cats turn into 24/7 lap cats in 6 months. Once she is totally healed and readjusted, she may learn to go out for just a few hours while you are around and come back in with you.


          • #6
            Follow your gut. Maybe a modified barn life- out during the day and in the house at night. I've never had a three legged cat but the small animal vet in the practice where I work says cats do super well with three legs. I do have a one eyed cat and the day after his enucleation he was outside and caught a small snake.


            • #7
              I agree - go with your gut and keep her inside. It sounds like she deserves the lap cat luxurious life!


              • #8
                I've brought at least 3 barn cats home (because of illness or injury) and they adjusted immediately! Nice pillow on the bed and they didn't even bother looking out the window! Good luck!
                She wasn't running away with me, I just couldn't stop her!


                • #9
                  House cat. Not safe at the barn. Period. They adjust and are usually happier for it. I have a previously confirmed barn kitty in my bedroom at present. She contracted Vestibular Syndrome and now has a permanent head tilt and balance issues so she won't be going back to the barn. She can't get out of the way of the horses or dogs as she should and she's a coyote snack waiting to happen. Best of luck with your girl.
                  Fat Cat Farm Sporthorses on Facebook
                  Fat Cat Farm Sporthorses Website and Blog


                  • #10
                    I found a cat half dead in my barn in Oregon many years ago, the day after I arrived home from Rolex. It was half dead. The vet said his temp didn't register and it's back legs were cold. I said I'd pay $200 to save it, but it wasn't my cat and I knew nothing about it. $1,000 later (only $450 to that vet, but they wanted $800 -- another story -- and $500 to my vet to have its back leg removed), I had a three-legged cat.

                    The night he came back from having his leg removed, I put up two dog gates in the door to the bedroom. He climbed over and jumped down -- I couldn't keep him in. Didn't seem to faze him at all -- even the first day! He stayed as a barn cat and was awesome. Caught mice all the time.

                    We had coyotes (think that's what got him in the first place), but they never bothered him again. He didn't stray far from the barn and horses.

                    Fabulous cat -- more than worth the $1,000. Used to take walks with me hanging around my neck with five dogs and two goats tagging along.

                    He did great in my barn in Oregon. He did end up getting killed on another farm, but I think it was my friend's dogs Being three-legged had nothing to do with it. He could not have escaped with four legs. Very sad day.

                    If you want to keep the cat in, go for it. It was not an option in my situation, and the cat hated it (except for short spurts when I'd watch a movie and he'd sleep on my lap -- then he'd want back out).

                    He was very happy outside with three legs and could run with the best of them.

                    BTW, I also had a three-legged dog at the time, missing the same leg. When she was young, she could almost keep up with the greyhounds in training, and she was a cocker-mix. They both traveled across the country with me. I finally had to put the dog down when she was almost 17.
                    Last edited by Bacchus; Nov. 6, 2009, 04:01 PM.
                    "If you can't feed 'em, don't breed 'em."


                    • #11
                      We had a three-legged cat for years. Alberta got her leg stuck in a leg-hold trap and it had to be amputated. Mom gave us as kids a choice, Christmas presents or the fix Alberta. Of course we picked the cat!!

                      She would climb trees, run outside, etc. We lived in rural MT, lots of predators and Alberta with three-legs was still a great mouser.

                      Best to you and the cat's recovery.



                      • #12
                        Petals is my three legged kitty or otherwise known as Tripod. She stood being a house cat for only so long. No, she is not as fast as she once was but.............she got a lot darn smarter. She climbs, she bug hunts, she is careful of what and who is around her now. If yours is happy just being a house kitty, good, its safer but...................it it is not, I think I would take a chance. IT took Petals a while to regain her balance as well but she did. yours will too.
                        Our horses are not seen as the old and disabled they may have become, but rather as the mighty steeds they once believed themselves to be.

                        Sunkissed Acres Rescue and Retirement


                        • Original Poster

                          Thanks for all the support. After a bried adjustment period where there was a lot of meowing and hanging out by the doors, Snowy is doing really well in the house. She has discovered the (human) bed, and is in love - hopefully she will continue to be content inside.
                          Ristra Ranch Equestrian Jewelry


                          • #14
                            How could she NOT love the bed!?!? Seriously, if you think she'll be best off indoors, then go for it. If down the road you realize that she really wants to go back out, even part time, then let her be happy. I'm a firm believer that sometimes it's better to let them be happy and lose some longevity, than keep them in a situation where they are miserable every day.
                            Flip a coin. It's not what side lands that matters, but what side you were hoping for when the coin was still in the air.

                            You call it boxed wine. I call it carboardeaux.


                            • #15
                              My three legged cat has her RH gone at the hip-she does great, runs the house and bosses all of us around, including all 6 dogs. She goes outside some during the day, but is always inside by dark. I make sure there is a dog ouside with her even during the day. She lost her tail in the accident as well as her leg-she is really a sight.

                              She's hard on the upholstery, as she can't jump at all. We have a leather chair that's especially clawed up-but what are ya gonna do?


                              • #16
                                One of our barn cats is black,smart,funny & fast.oh is 3 legged as well.great hunter,catches bunnies,birds and mice with no problem.No one ever told her she is disabled........