My cat Maddie, a 9 year old rescue, has been through plenty of big life events—from her unknown first year or so of life before being put in a shelter, being adopted by my dad, moving from the apartment to a house and transitioning to being an outdoor kitty, subsequently being injured twice by other cats—and arguably has spent a couple of her 9 lives along the way. Maddie, however, has never been through anything like what happened on July 21st.
I was woken up early that morning by my dad’s wife, who said “Something’s wrong—there’s blood everywhere.” I immediately thought something might have happened to my dog, Fisher, but the dogs were okay—it was the cat who was missing. I walked out of my room to see a thin trail of blood all around the upstairs, and red pawprints leading down the wooden stairs. Hearts pounding, we all searched the house, following the trail throughout the house, wondering what would be at the end. I went outside to search, knowing that Maddie sometimes spends the morning wandering the yard. Sure enough, I found her curled underneath a wooden shelf in the back yard. I bent down to see what was wrong, and my breath caught in my throat—her back right leg and paw were mangled, bent at a slightly strange angle, and her fur was matted with dried blood.
We gathered around her, unsure of what to do, as the vet didn’t open for another few hours. As we wondered what happened, she got up and limped toward the door. Normally a quiet cat, Maddie was yowling and hissing with pain as she dragged her useless leg behind her.
She couldn’t be operated on right away, for residual effects from shock were still causing her blood pressure to be too low for anesthesia. The hospital kept her overnight, calling us the next day to tell us she would go into surgery that afternoon. It went without issue, and the vet told us that when Maddie woke up from surgery, she was already trying to walk! How’s that for determination?
She was kept for another day to administer IV fluids, pain medication, and veterinary supervision, but on the 23rd she came home. Her fur had been shaved off the whole right rear area of her body, and her tail was shaved too. With the stapled-shut amputation site, the bare patches of her body, and the thinness of her furless tail, she looked like an entirely different creature. But, she was still our sweet Maddie, and we drove her home with hope that she would recover quickly.
The first thing she did when she got back was go straight to the door! When we didn’t open it, she made a (wobbly, slow) beeline to the cat door. She already wanted to go outside! Our new “triPAWd”, drugged on pain medicine and unsure how to walk yet, was ready to get back to her normal routine. She didn’t seem to care that she only had 3 legs!
As her pain killers wore off over the next few days, she became stronger and became more active. The most important thing in those first days was trying to get her to eat—she hadn’t eaten since her attack, and she needed energy to digest. We tried tuna, sardines, all types of wet cat food, dry food, treats—she didn’t want any of it, and for a cat who usually is begging for food ten minutes after dinner, it was unusual. She was given pills to increase her appetite, and finally, after a long couple of days, she suddenly became ravenous. It was like she suddenly realized how hungry she was, and tore into her food. Her appetite was back!
She was walking further every day, and began clawing her way onto the couch. With each day, she made so much progress. The only hint of her recent trauma was the shaved fur around her surgery site and the E-collar she had to wear on her head. When she was around us, we gave her a break from her ‘satellite dish’, and she settled in comfortably at our sides. She was warm and she was safe, and I know she was aware of how much we all cared about her.
Maddie’s constant determination to overcome each strange new obstacle put in her way was surprising and an inspiration to all of us in her family. We have always known her to be a cat with a rich sense of independence and a healthy dedication to herself, but we were uncertain at how she would handle such a dramatic change. With untold resiliency she has taken to her three-legged life in style, and hopefully through sharing her story, Maddie can be an inspiration to cats and their people who face this same journey.