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One of my cats recently came back home after going missing for a few days and now his tail and one of his back legs had to be amputated. He is feeling better now but I wanted to ask if I should still let him outside and if I do if he will still be able to climb and run properly.

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    We ask contributors to provide more information than "I know a three-legged cat and it's fine". Answers that don't provide any objective consideration or analysis of the cats ability to move and stay safe outside will be deleted without further notice.
    – Elmy
    Apr 7 at 11:04
  • @Elmy Fair warning ;) Apr 7 at 11:46
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    "Is it safe to let an amputee cat go outside?" is a completely different question than "Should I let my amputee cat go outside?"
    – chepner
    Apr 7 at 15:45
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    We also answered a very related question before: pets.stackexchange.com/questions/28615/…
    – C.Koca
    Apr 8 at 8:00
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    It is not safe to let cats roam outdoors unsupervised, period, as your cat has recently demonstrated in a traumatic and life-changing way. If you do, you always accept a major risk of it getting maimed or killed.
    – JohannesD
    Apr 8 at 13:11

5 Answers 5

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I've seen plenty of animals with missing limbs playing and exploring outdoors without problems. Your situation is a bit different though. Your cat is a recent amputee.

Losing a limb is a serious traumatic event. It takes a while to re-learn how to get around without that limb. A cat's tail is important to their sense of balance, so for the next few months your cat will have an increased risk of falling, missing jumps, etc. I highly recommend keeping the cat indoors for the next few months, and possibly even close off stairs and other potentially dangerous areas of the house. Keep a close eye on them and monitor how well they're recovering. Make sure they have the confidence and skill to use their new body configuration safely and consistently before you start introducing them to additional hazards. When it's time to re-introduce the outdoors, you may want to start by using a harness and accompanying them.

Also, a cat's tail plays an important part in the body language used to communicate with other cats. Your cat will suddenly find themselves unable to communicate effectively with its peers, which can increase the chances of getting in a fight. This again takes time to adjust to, and you should make sure your cat is completely ready before putting them in a potentially risky situation.

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    This is a well reasoned answer. Could you please add some source for the importance of the tail you mentioned? Apr 7 at 11:29
  • Great! Thank you :) Apr 9 at 21:29
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I would keep him indoors. If he gets into a fight with another cat, he would be at a disadvantage because of his missing back leg and tail, and could get seriously injured.

He should be able to climb and run, once he gets used to his new body. But he will be much safer indoors.

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    "could get seriously injured" -- uhh, too late?
    – Barmar
    Apr 6 at 14:20
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    Could you please add some kind of source? (Own experience for example) "I would keep him indoors" indicates some kind of opinion based answer :) Apr 7 at 11:25
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Your cat has just suffered a severe injury from being outdoors. There is no way to look at this and not conclude that the area he roamed was already unsafe for him.

So the answer to the question of if it is safe for him to go outside now, missing a leg and tail cannot be anything other than "no".

You will have to use your best judgement as to whether he will get enough enjoyment from going outside that it is worth that risk, knowing that he is now more vulnerable than he was before (the extent to which his missing leg and tail make him vulnerable will doubtless reduce over time as he adapts, but will never disappear entirely).

You should also consider the effect that outdoor cats have on the local wildlife bearing in mind your location. If you live somewhere where street cats are common like much of the Eastern Mediterranean, the cats have become part of the current ecological balance and there are so many that one pet, provided they're spayed or neutered, is unlikely to have much effect on that balance; in most of the rest of the world, especially places like the US and Australia, free-roaming cats pose a major threat to local bird species.

You should also think of ways you could adapt your home to make it more enriching for him, allowing him to live a happy life without going outside. Investing in cat furniture (including plenty of scratching posts), toys he can play with on his own, and taking the time to regularly play with him can all help here.

You can also consider allowing him outside in a controlled way where he is not free-roaming. This can be done with catios (an outdoor space the cat cannot escape from, and which dangers cannot enter), or through harness-training after which you can take him outdoors in a way where you can ensure he does not encounter dangers.

Indoor cats, or those only allowed out in controlled ways (such as those outlined above), can live full and happy lives if provided enough enrichment. They are much less likely to suffer serious injuries, their diet can be controlled completely (making it much easier to manage their health as they age), and it is easier to monitor their health meaning illness is likely to be caught early when it is more easily treated. As such, their lifespans are much longer (typically 10-15 years for indoor cats, compared to 2-5 for outdoor cats).

With that all in mind, I would strongly advise you not to allow your cat to free-roam again, and to instead keep him indoors, only allowing him out in either a catio or on a harness.

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    Even if your answer holds a lots of information, it is not exacrly what thw OP asked for. We have other questions handling cats outdoors or indoors in general, which also speak about the risks for cats and wildlife. Please take focus to the question, of loosing a leg and a part of the tail will CHANGE anything for the cat outdoors. Apr 7 at 11:35
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    I agree there are plenty of questions already addressing indoor vs outdoor cats but imo this question is best addressed as a wakeup call to the risks inherent to outdoor cats. The outside environment demonstrably was already unsafe, and it's absurd to think that losing a limb and tail will make the cat less vulnerable. That's why I focussed on what factors OP should consider in making the decision, and potential accommodations to make a lack of free-roaming easier on the cat, rather than only pointing out the proven danger
    – Tristan
    Apr 7 at 12:55
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    there does not appear to be significant literature on the effect of losing a limb and tail on cats' vulnerability in the wild so you're making an impossible demand
    – Tristan
    Apr 7 at 13:31
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    If it is impossible for me to answer a question in a good manner, I will not do it. If I want, I would share my thoughts in a comment. Apr 7 at 14:15
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    then you're welcome not to answer the question yourself. As it is, the only ways to actually answer the question are anecdotes or general statements about indoor/outdoor cats and possible accommodations. I'd rather provide some actually useful information (which is far more in depth than could fit in a comment) than leave the question unanswered because I can't fulfil your requirements that I bring data that doesn't exst
    – Tristan
    Apr 7 at 15:31
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I don't think this question can just be answered about safety, but also about the animal's wellbeing.

Our cat is 3-legged (he was when we got him), but he does have a tail, so that may make a big difference in getting about, as they obviously use tails for balance, and for communication. He was always an outdoors cat, and was in quite a rural setting when he got the injury, then he moved to us - we are in the suburbs (the injury has nothing to do why he moved). It is quite a busy road, but not a main one. There are a lot of cats in our neighbourhood.

He gets about just fine, climbs fences (6ft) and can even still catch a bird/mouse or two.

If a cat DOES want to go out and you keep it in, I'm not sure that is best for the cat's quality of life - it could be safer to keep it in, but it could be miserable. Unfortunately there may not be a generic "one size fits all" answer, you have to evaluate what is best for your individual cat.

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  • In general I agree with your point "individual solutions for individuals". But this site is not for anecdotes or opinions. There should be a source for your knowledge added. You told about your own cat, so experience could be your source. So you could focus to that or add another online-source/book/video focused on cats with lost limbs. Apr 7 at 11:38
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    Cats are not fully functioning adults who can take responsible decisions. If we don't trust your cat to decide his meal portions than we shouldn't cave in a cat wanting to go out, if going out might be dangerous.
    – C.Koca
    Apr 10 at 8:02
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One of our neighbours has a three legged cat, it can run, jump and climb just as well as our four legged ones can. I've tried to watch how it climbs the 6ft high fence, but it's too quick!

You may well find that he's less confident than before, at least to start with, and so might hang around closer to home than previously, but if he wants to go out and is used to doing so, then you should let him.

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  • Do you have other sources dor your answer than the one cat in the neighbourhood? In general I agree with your answer, but some kind of aource would bring it from "anecdote" to "worth an upvote" for me. Apr 7 at 11:32

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