Damaged Cats

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Cats, just like people, can be damaged.They may become blind or deaf, they may lose limbs. this is no cause for concern though.

Three legged cats.

3 legged cats adapt well and are usually as agile and active as 4 legged cats. Three-legged cats may need help grooming areas that would normally be groomed by the now-missing leg. Th cat will work out his new limitations and how to compensate for a missing leg. He must build up additional strength in his other limbs. He can't do this if you carry him everywhere.

After an initial adjustment period, which is sometimes painful to watch, he will probably be able to jump and climb much as before. If he has lost a hind leg, he may not be able to jump as high. If he has lost a foreleg, he may find landing more difficult, especially when jumping down from a high place.

The loss of a fore-leg is actually more serious for a cat than the loss of a hind-leg. This is because the forelegs are used when the cat lands after jumping while the hindlegs are used mostly for propulsion. If the cat cannot 'stop' quickly enough it's jaw can be damaged and of course it's remaining leg. He will also not be able to defend himself as well as before. It may be necessary to consider making him an indoor cat if he wasn't before.

It is important that a three-legged cat is not allowed to become obese because he has fewer limbs on which to distribute his weight. It is also important that he get exercise, gentle at first to help him adapt to his condition and more active later on to strengthen his remaining limbs. Most 3 legged cats adapt well enough to become as active and energetic as they were before losing the leg - but you can't expect this to happen overnight and it may be painful to watch him adjusting.

Some kittens lose a limb very early on because the umbilical cord gets tangled round it and stops it from developing, or because the mother cat is inexperienced and mishandles the kitten (sometimes biting off the kitten's paw due to a fault in her grooming behaviour) or through some other birth defect which caused the limb to be deformed. If the leg is amputated early in life, the kitten grows up on 3 legs and doesn't know any different. There are very many happy and healthy cats in the world whose nickname is "tripod".

Deaf Cats

Some cats, e.g. some blue-eyed whites, are born deaf. Many other cats are thought to be 'grumpy' by owners who don't realise that their cat can't hear. Deafness can be congenital or related to age, illness or physical injury. Many cats lose their hearing gradually as they age (as do many humans), sudden loss of hearing is normally the result of illness or injury and may be temporary or permanent.

Where hearing loss is gradual, it can be ages before you realise that Puss is deaf because the cat compensates for its lack of hearing. Where hearing loss is sudden, the cat may appear confused, irritable, over-attached to the owner, insecure or exhibit other 'unusual' behaviours in response to the sudden loss of this sense. Some deaf cats call out more often and more loudly (they cannot regulate their own volume) while others may become mute.

As with blindness, deafness varies in degree. In most older cats, hearing loss is gradual and not apparent until the later stages since cats do not always respond to being called. A cat with unilateral deafness may turn its head more often to increase the chance of picking up sounds with the hearing ear.

Poor hearing makes cats defensive - they strike out first and ask questions later. Click your finger nails close to each ear in turn (make sure that it can't see your hands though) - does it respond? Is it easily startled if you approach it from behind and touch it?

Some deaf cats learn to respond to hand signals similar to those used in distance control of dogs. At close range, sharp handclaps might provide enough vibration in the air to get the cat's attention. Flashing a torch (flashlight), shone in the direction of the cat, on and off can be used to call it in from the garden at dusk (this also works with hearing cats) especially if it the flashing light is followed by a tasty incentive.

Deaf cats cannot hear warning sounds such as car engines, lawnmowers or barking dogs. If it goes outdoors, make sure it is wearing a collar (in case it is startled by something and bolts) and write 'I AM DEAF' on the collar to help people who wonder why the cat fails to react to shouts, car horns etc.

A noisy bell on its collar will help you to locate its whereabouts when it is in motion. It is safest to confine a deaf cat to a safely fenced garden unless, like me, you are in a quiet area with no aggressive dogs and plenty of cat-lovers pre pared to take extra care.

In June 2003, a German acoustics expert announced his invention of a hearing aid for cats. Hans-Rainer Kurz, a hearing aid specialist, took two years to develop the hearing aid with help from experts at the Vetenarian University in Hanover. They developed a tiny device, which can be implanted in the cat's outer ear. Herr Kurz has already had success with a similar aid for dogs. He admitted that the device would not cure totally deaf cats, but could help those with severe hearing difficulties. The hearing aid ensures that the cat is able to take the usual acoustic signals and re-work them into sounds in the brain. Quiet sounds that hearing-impaired cats had never heard before would become distinguishable. The feline hearing aid currently costs around £300.