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The Daily Vet by petMD

The Daily Vet is a blog featuring veterinarians from all walks of life. Every week they will tackle entertaining, interesting, and sometimes difficult topics in the world of animal medicine – all in the hopes that their unique insights and personal experiences will help you to understand your pets.


In celebration of National Specially-abled Pets Day, I’d like to introduce you to my own specially-abled cat, Lilly.

Lilly is a tri-pod. She has only three legs. But please don’t tell her she has a disability, because she has absolutely no idea. She runs, she jumps and she climbs. She does everything that other cats do. And she is just as graceful as any of my other cats. In fact, she is actually more graceful in many ways than her adopted feline brothers Dillon, Rhette and Rusty.

Lilly was only a kitten, roughly eight weeks old, when she first came into my life. She had been attacked and mauled by a dog. The dog literally ripped one front leg from her little body. She also lost part of her tail and several toes in the attack. When she came to me, she was traumatized, suffering from shock, and in a great deal of pain.

Needless to say, Lilly had a very rough start in life. She was a stray cat, un-owned and apparently unwanted. When a couple of good Samaritans brought her to our hospital after her attack, her survival was far from certain. We didn’t know whether she would recover from her injuries. We didn’t even know whether she would live or die. But she was a trusting little thing and, looking in her eyes, I couldn’t make the decision to put her to sleep without giving her a chance. I knew then and there that if she did survive and recover, she would be coming home to live with me.

So, we took her into the hospital, stabilized her, and surgically repaired her injuries as best we could. The mangled stump that used to be her right front leg was amputated, the damaged part of her tail was repaired, and the rest of her injuries were sutured and treated.

When Lilly recovered from her surgery, we discovered that she also had nerve damage to her remaining front leg. For several weeks after her attack, she had difficulty walking on the leg. Often, the leg would knuckle under her as she tried to move from place to place. But slowly and gradually, she improved.

Lilly is now close to ten years old. She recovered fully from her injuries, adapted well, and now lives a perfectly normal life. She is happy and content. She has never appeared to miss her leg or realize that she is supposed to have more than three. Her short tail gives her a unique look and she has a character that is matchless.

Lilly is not alone. There are many specially-abled pets in the world. Some require special care, and some, like Lilly, lead perfectly normal lives. Almost all make wonderful, loving pets.


Dr. Lorie Huston


Image: Lilly by Dr. Huston

Comments  6

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  • The Lovely Lilly
    04/30/2012 07:40am

    You obviously made the right choices for Lilly. She's a trooper!

    Thank you for a story that started my week with a smile.

  • 05/02/2012 06:08pm

    Thanks, TheOldBroad. I'm glad Lilly's story made you smile. She makes me smile every day :)

  • Specially abled pets
    04/30/2012 07:54am

    Thank you for featuring Lilly, and sharing her story. I have rescued many cats and dogs, including two felines that needed to have a leg amputated (one front, the other rear). I am always amazed at how well cats and dogs adapt and live full, happy lives.

    I currently have two cats with cerebellar hypoplasia, and another that has rear end paresis and incontinence after being hit by a car. All live full, happy lives and give me much joy.

    I hope more people will consider specially abled pets, and not balk at their differences.

  • 05/02/2012 06:09pm

    I hope so too :)

  • Specially-abled pet
    05/02/2012 05:47pm

    I loved this article about Lilly. We have had 2 greyhounds that were tripods. One from a track injury and the other actually happened in our back yard. They were both very special girls. I think our bond with them was especially strong because we saw them through the surgeries and then admired them daily for their total acceptance of how their lives had changed. As you described with Lilly they did pretty much everything other dogs can do. They had to relearn some things like nesting and digging a hole in the yard ;) They still ran like the wind and you couldn't tell they were 3 legged when in flight. I'd adopt another tripod again any day. They are no extra trouble just joyful to live with.

  • 05/02/2012 06:11pm

    It is amazing how well these pets adapt. I'm not sure Lilly realizes she's any different than other cats.

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