Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Backwards walk caught on video

Here's a video to illustrate Bella's new backwards walk. This was actually a pretty tame incident...usually the back leg drags her around the room like it's possessed.

Monday, December 28, 2009


Things sure have changed since my last blog post about Bella's attempts at walking backwards. I'm not sure what happened, but that incident seemed to cross some wires so that now she has a difficult time walking forwards. Every time she tries to walk now, her remaining back leg starts dragging her backwards and she has no control over it. If she hits a wall or a piece of furniture, the back leg will even climb up the vertical surface. Sometimes the whole process scares her so much that she panics and starts violently rolling and somersaulting about. At this point, I would say she is only able to walk forwards normally about 15-20% of the time!

Bella adjusted so well after her surgery that we were completely unprepared for this kind of setback. My best guess is that her amputation has healed enough now that she is experiencing some kind of phantom limb sensation as the nerves are growing back. She doesn't seem to be in any pain, but from the way her stump moves during these incidents it looks like she expects the missing leg to still be there.

We're trying not to baby her too much during this difficult time, but we do carry her to her food bowl when it's time to eat. I've found a few accounts online from others who have experienced the same backwards walking problem with their recent amputee pets. The consensus seems to be that there isn't anything to do but wait for Bella to figure it out and start walking normally again. If there are any other three-legged cat owners out there, any advice would be greatly appreciated!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Back that thing up

Oh dear, I've finally discovered something Bella can't do with only three legs. After cooking dinner tonight, I left the oven open a crack to let the heat out into the house. Bella went up to the oven to investigate, and must have been surprised by the warm air rushing out. She tried to back up, but she doesn't know how to anymore. Her poor little stump was flailing like it does when she forgets that there's no leg there anymore, and she toppled over on her side.

She's such a smart girl that she started practicing going backwards a little while later. It was still a little clumsy, but at least she didn't fall down. I'm sure she'll add going in reverse to her list of accomplishments soon!

Here's another picture of four-legged Bella. This is how she likes to watch TV with her Dad.

Friday, December 18, 2009


I found another great picture of Bella back in her four-legged days. Here she is last fall enjoying some sunshine. It makes me sad to think that I won't get to photograph her outside anymore.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Don't sweat the technique

I finally got a picture of Bella trying her best to figure out how to climb up to Chico's cage. She tries this from every side of the bookcase, and I can see her thinking about how she might incorporate objects like the candlestick into her strategy.

Don't ask me how she makes herself look six feet tall like that. She looks like a normal cat until she stretches herself out to her full length!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Chico and the cat

In addition to our six cats, we also have a parrotlet named Chico. When Bella was an inside/outside cat, she rather miraculously did not realize that Chico was an actual bird. I think she thought his cage was something akin to a television set - one that was tuned all day to a fairly boring program about a green bird. Now that she's had more time inside to process the situation, she has figured out that Chico is an actual bird, and a tasty-looking one at that. Luckily, she can't jump or climb high enough to get to him without that fourth leg. She spends a lot of time standing on one leg against the bookshelves he lives on, gazing longingly at him. Keep on dreaming, Bella!

The highlights of Bella's week thus far:

  1. A cricket made its way into the house, and she got to hunt, maim, and kill it. Sorry, little cricket!
  2. Sleeping in a sunbeam all afternoon on a relatively warm day.
  3. Learning how to properly play with her toy mousies again (see below).

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Cat scratch fever

I thought Bella might need something to sharpen her claws on now that she's not climbing trees anymore. I picked up a SmartyKat SuperScratcher at Target, but she has no interest in it beyond huffing the catnip off of it. Her big brother and sister did their best to demonstrate how to use it, to no avail.

She did pose next to the scratcher for everyone, and this picture gives you a pretty good look at the extent of her amputation. She still has her right hip and tiny bit of her femur (I guess it's still called a femur in cats?). Today she mastered the art of the three-legged pounce, which is pretty much the most adorable thing ever. She's been busy trying to keep her hunting skills sharp by practicing it on her fur mousies.

Thanks again to everyone who has made a donation towards Bella's vet bills! I have been so moved by people's generosity and concern towards a cat they've never even met before. The internet is a strange and wonderful place indeed.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


One of the most surprising things since Bella's amputation is what a good runner she is with three legs. When you see her walk, it's obvious that she's missing a leg. She takes a step with each front paw, then does a big hop with her back leg. If you just saw her run, though, you would never notice her handicap. I swear she is every bit as fast as she was before, but I won't be letting her outside to test that theory!

We finally seem to be settling into a good feeding routine now. Before we added Bella to the mix, our two inside-only cats were on an all canned food diet with strict feeding times to help keep their weight under control. I want to make sure Bella is getting enough to eat, especially while she's healing, so that diet isn't going to work anymore. Right now we're keeping Iams Indoor Weight & Hairball Care available to everyone all the time, supplemented with canned food a couple of times a day. So far, so good, although we'll be keeping an eye on everyones' weight. You have to watch out for weight gain in tripods since they only have three legs to support themselves!

I've been trying to get a good picture of Bella standing up so that I'll have a shot of the tiny bit that is left of her leg from that angle. I haven't been able to accomplish it yet because as soon as she sees the camera, she starts posing. Instead, here's another picture of her back when she had four legs.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Baby steps

Last night Bella and Clementine slept almost-but-not-quite touching each other on the couch. More progress! Clementine got a little hissy a couple of times yesterday, but their relationship is slowly improving. I love the kitty ears in this shot.

I know most of my recent cat pics have been taken with that fake fur blanket in the background, but it is nearly impossible to keep the cats off of it.

In other tripod news, Bella chewed off one of the scabs where her incision had been last night. Now it's looking a little raw and icky, for lack of a better descriptor. I'm not sure if I should put some peroxide or antibiotic ointment on it, or just leave it alone. I really, REALLY want to avoid any further vet bills, so I want to make sure it doesn't get infected.

I was excited to learn that Google Chrome Beta was finally released for the Mac today. I've only been using it for a few hours, but so far it seems to be lightning fast. Once they start releasing some Mac extensions for it, it might even be a Firefox contender for me.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Troll cat

While she still had her stitches in, we were keeping Bella isolated from the other cats when we were away or asleep. Ivy, our 20-pound calico bully, has been a bit aggressive with her and we didn't want anything to happen that would cause Bella's stitches to come out. Last night was Bella's first night having complete freedom, and Ivy sat by the bedroom door like a troll all night to keep her from sleeping with us. I beg to differ with anyone who says cats don't have emotions - that's jealousy if I've ever seen it!

Here's a nice article about pets with disabilities: Dealing with devastating pet injuries: Spared euthanasia, animals can overcome adversity surprisingly well. I'm so glad every day that the doctors were able to save Bella. Her leg was already so infected when we found her that I was afraid she wouldn't make it. Even after the amputation, she was in the hospital for four days because her fever kept coming and going. She is one lucky cat, and quite a fighter too. Jason and I are so lucky to have her in our lives.

I don't have any new pictures of Bella today, but here's one of my all-time favorite shots of her.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

No more stitches!

Bella finally got her stitches out yesterday. She was so scared when she realized we were back at the vet's office. There was much clawing at the front of her cat carrier when we got out of the car. She was very brave during the actual removal, though, and the vet said her incision and her bite wounds looked great. Hopefully it will be a while before she has to go back to the doctor now.

To celebrate, I threw a catnip party for all the kitties. Here is Bella high on catnip and playing with her mousies.

And here she is doing some post-catnip chilling with her adopted big brother.

Bella and her sister Clementine slept on the same bed together last night for a few hours, and there was no drama at all. They were on opposite sides of the bed from each other, but I'm glad they're making some progress. I think we'll be one big happy family again before too long.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


I realized that I've neglected to post a picture of Bella with her sister Clementine. Here they are hanging out together on top of a mountain of laundry (pre-amputation for Bella). Clementine still hasn't accepted her sister after her surgery. Every time we get them together, there is much hissing and growling on Clem's part. I hope she gets over it soon because they've always been such good friends. I think Clementine might be mad because Bella can't go outside to play and hunt with her anymore. I wish you could explain to a cat that their anger is misplaced.

Bella is continuing to do well. Only two more days until her stitches come out!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Inside Cat

Bella was one of three feral kittens that were living under our house when we bought it. At first both their parents lived with them and kept us away from the babies, but once the kittens were old enough to be weaned mom and dad abandoned them to us. They were completely wild, but with a lot of patience and a lot of tuna we managed to tame and adopt all three. Note the insanely cute picture of baby Bella at right - can you blame us for keeping her? Bella never wanted to give up too much of her independence, and was never comfortable spending more than 4 or 5 hours at a time inside the house with us before her accident. Now that she's an inside cat for the rest of her life, Bella wanted to reflect on some of the things about the outside world that she will miss the most...

1. Sleeping in my vegetable garden. Nothing keeps a cat cool on a hot South Carolina summer day like sleeping in the middle of a thick tomato patch!

2. Chasing her sister Clementine around the yard, doing all manner of flips and crazy kung-fu cat fight moves.

3. Hunting, maiming, and killing! Our husband and I are practically on a first name basis with the staff at our local wildlife rescue organization. They officially dubbed Bella and her siblings "a menace to wildlife" this summer after we brought in an adolescent dove we rescued from them.

4. Taking dirt baths in the driveway.

5. Sitting on the roof of our gardening shed, and also the roof of the house next door.

6. Drinking out of mud puddles.

7. Taunting Coney, the dachshund who lives next door to us. Wait a minute...a dachshund couldn't snap a cat's leg in two, could it???

8. Lying under a tree, hoping a squirrel might fall out of it and into her clutches.

Bella and her brother Neko, doing some late summer gardening

Monday, November 30, 2009


Enjoying a sunbeam. Her fur is (slowly) starting to grow back.

The vet who did Bella's surgery called to check in on her today, and she was very happy to hear how well she was doing. She said Bella can go in on Friday to get her stitches out! I'm glad she doesn't have to wait until next week; I think they're getting pretty itchy because she keeps plucking at them with her teeth. Now we just have to wait for her fur to grow back in so that she can stay warm.

Bella's been making a lot of new animal (and human) friends on Twitter. We've been so touched by all the sympathy and concern expressed by complete strangers. I've never been able to figure out the appeal of tweeting myself, but it seems to be working out really well for Bella! She has already attracted twice as many followers in a few days as I have managed to accumulate in over a year.

We're going to try to have friends come over and visit periodically for the next few weeks so that she can start getting used to people other than me and Jason. As a former feral kitten, she has always been scared of everyone except us. My seven-year-old nephew was our first guest after her injury, and she was absolutely terrified even though she was hiding in the bedroom with the door closed while he was here. We need to warm her up with some visitors who are quieter and calmer than a Wii-playing second grader!

Even when she was in the hospital, she always managed to roll over for tummy rubs!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Birdwatching and staying warm

Yesterday Bella discovered looking out the window...the next best thing to being outside. She sat on the back of the couch for much of the day watching the birds fly by, but she was so cold sitting next to the glass. We live in an old house, and haven't been able to replace our ancient, inefficient windows yet. I tried to keep a blanket over her, but every time she saw something exciting she would jump out from under it to get a better look.

Today is day six of being back home, and she's doing pretty well so far about staying inside. She'll cry at the back door for a few minutes at a time, but she always abandons the effort pretty quickly. I'm afraid the lack of trying is only due to her not feeling 100% just yet.

Either because of muscle memory or because she keeps forgetting she's missing a leg, she has also started trying to use the nub where her leg used to be for more and more things. I don't think I can call it a stump - she's just too cute for such an ugly word! Yesterday was the first time she tried to use her imaginary back leg to scratch the right side of her head. After the giggles subsided, I helped her out and got the job done for her. I've also noticed her moving the nub as though her leg is still there when she is climbing on laps or furniture. I'm curious to see if she keeps that up for the rest of her life, or if it will eventually subside once she gets used to the leg being gone.

One last note: if you are taking care of a sick or injured cat, or just want to spoil your cats rotten, I highly recommend these faux fur throws from Target. They immediately put your cat into a chilled out, purring, paw-kneading trance. Here's Bella wrapped up in hers with a towel "blanket" on top to keep her extra warm. With half her fur shaved off, she's been doing a lot of shivering!

Saturday, November 28, 2009


When Bella came home from the hospital, I was expecting that we might have to teach her to walk all over again. Apparently I was underestimating her - she came out of her cat carrier walking (hopping might be more accurate), and within five minutes she had jumped on and off of a chair and the bed. She had many more emotional problems than physical ones. First was the separation anxiety. For the first couple of days, she needed constant attention. There was lots of crying if she wasn't on a lap or at least being petted constantly. Completely understandable for a little girl who had suffered such a major trauma. She's a little more independent now after five days home, but she still likes to have a lot of lap time with us. We're lucky that she came home during a holiday week so that we have plenty of time to baby her!

Then there was the problem of the other cats. We have six cats altogether, including Bella's brother and sister. The only one who didn't completely freak out at the sight of her was my seventeen-year-old male cat. Perhaps it's all those years of experience, but he seemed to be the only one who recognized her. It was especially painful to watch Bella's sister Clementine hissing and spitting at her. That situation hasn't improved too much, but I'm hoping it will get better with time.

Bella's main complaint right now is that she is missing half the fur on her body, and winter has finally decided to come to South Carolina. She shivers a lot of the time, so I bought some soft hand towels that we can put over her as blankets. She loves it, and it's highly adorable to see her all bundled up like that.

Overall, our girl is doing great. I can't wait to take her back to Shandon-Wood to get her stitches out so they can see how well she has recovered!

Bad haircut! You can see how much fur she is missing, and also one of the bite wounds on her back.

Friday, November 27, 2009

What happened to Bella?

Bella, pre-amputation

After a 36-hour absence, our cat Bella showed back up in our yard last week with a severely broken leg and several bite wounds. Luckily, my husband works from home and found her right away. After an emergency amputation and four touch-and-go days in the hospital, our sweet girl got to come back home with us.

The title of this blog is inspired by the Red House Painters song "Three-Legged Cat."

she was asleep when i hobbled to the bed
with a broken foot bleeding
i clawed at her head
"the mirror tumbled on me," i cried
"but it wasn't my fault," i lied
spend my whole life neurotic and fat
now i'm just a three-legged cat
doctor said, "we'll have to amputate that"
so now i'm just a three-legged cat
a three-legged cat

Bella's first day home post-amputation