Over a couple of months, we noticed the cat seemed to be limping slightly. At first, we thought it might be to do with uric acid buildup because she had the beginnings of kidney problems. So we got her the recommended meds and waited a bit, but it only got worse. So, to the vet!
The vet decided to biopsy because it was likely osteosarcoma. The biopsy was fairly major surgery, because, really, anything has to be major on a cat. I think we both thought it would be something like a needle biopsy, but actually, they took out quite a big chunk of bone, and we were both a little sobered by that. The general anaesthesia really messed her up for a few days, and she needed to be pilled.
(post biopsy. Shaving the cat is quite eye-opening! This link shows what the stitches look like.)
They referred us to another vet hospital, where there was an oncologist, just for confirmation. We were, at this point, borrowing my parents' car and carting the cat around in a moving box, because this was around the same time we were moving house.
It was around this time we saw the X-Rays they had taken of her before the biopsy, and:
- It was obvious from the X-Ray that the bone on the bad leg had a different density or texture
- She had a pellet in her hip, presumable from when she got shot in the eye about 12 years ago. Kitty is gangsta!
Osteosarcoma in cats behaves differently from the way it behaves in dogs. While dogs will typically have it spread and kill them, cats often just need an amputation and that solves the problem. There's no need for chemotherapy or anything like that.
We had the option to have the surgery done at Sunnyvale Vet Clinic, where Paul usually takes the cat, and the second clinic, Veterinary Surgical Associates, where we saw the oncologist. This was a more heartwrenching decision than you'd think. The second place was clearly very professional and top-of-the-line. It was also about 3x the price. Sunnyvale is a smaller, more homey clinic-- well worn, but the people are really nice and they love the cat. We took her there, but it was kind of a sad thought to wonder if we were making the decision solely on price...
At this point, we started getting advice, wanted and unwanted, from others. I looked around on the internet for other people's experiences. The vet thought the cat was pretty healthy (other than being overweight) and recommended amputation. There were a lot of people on the internet saying they had done this with their cat, and the cat recovered and rebalanced quickly. Granted, there were more than a few "let the cat go, put it down" on the internet too, but not one was from someone who had actually gone through this.
Point is, if your cat has osteosarcoma, and it is localized, don't believe the folks who implore you to let go for kitty's sake. Cats get along fine with 3 legs. (she can't count anyway, so how would she know? We just tell her it was always like that.)
So we scheduled the surgery, at Sunnyvale Vet Clinic. In the meantime, she was just beginning to recover from the biopsy surgery. The anesthesia, pain medication, and antibiotics cocktail will make your cat pretty sad and pathetic, and royally screw up their digestive track.
For surgery, we borrowed the car again and Paul dropped her off in the morning, and we picked her up together in the early evening.
She. Was. So. Pathetic.
It was totally heartbreaking to open the box and see her in a little knit stocking with a cone on her head, her usually robust voice raspy, woozy, and scared.
So now you take the cat home, and there's nothing you can do to make the cat happy. What you have to do is focus on not letting the cat hurt herself further, from falling, ripping staples/stitches (she had staples), etc. We tried to remove anything that she might want to climb on. She sat around and cried a lot, and in between, she stumbled around loudly and frantically, confused by her meds, on top of the fact that her balance was gone. It was really depressing for a long while. And again with the digestive problems, but now you add the fact that she has no balance in the litterbox-- it's NOT a pretty sight.
It was pretty bleak around our house for a few weeks, but she started to heal, and the thump/drag sound of her getting down the hall got more rhythmic and less interrupted by loud thunks. the staples came out and the doctor gave her the all-clear. (though she does need to lose some weight to help her single leg support her) She started climbing up on the couch when no one was looking, and we wondered how she got down. Rather theatrically, it turned out, as it was a cartwheel every time. She's gotten a little better at that, but we still have to be really careful what we leave for her to climb on, because we don't want her cartwheeling and injuring herself.
(here she is after the amputation, several weeks later. Paul would have killed me if I was taking pictures of her right away. It was not pretty, really-- but it gets better!)
The best part is, her energy level is back up to where it was before she started limping. Before the biopsy, she had gotten quite lethargic, which is hard to discern in a cat due to their inherent love of laying around. But it's clear to me that she was tired from fighting the cancer, and with that gone, she has gotten a little of her energy back.
In the end, I wanted to report this in case anyone else is facing feline osteosarcoma and wondering if amputation is really something they want to go through with. If your cat is otherwise healthy, (or not, like, say, if it is missing an eye and grossly obese) then I say definitely consider it without your own baggage about how you think YOU might be impacted by losing a leg. Cats are totally different, and can get along just fine.
And plus it makes a great novelty when visitors come over.
The Short Version
Paul's cat was misbehaving, and we discovered it was because she had too many legs! So we had her altered into a much cooler novelty cat. Whilst in the process, we found out she was shot in the ass about twelve years ago (presumably at the same time she was shot and lost her eye) and has had the pellet lodged in her hip this entire time. Kitty's tough, yo.
Always remember: never pick a fight with the ugly chick-- she's got nothing to lose.