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Leo's Life on 3 Legs

A 6-year-old cat's journey after a hemipelvectomy

Day 1

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I think the best way to start this blog is with an intro of sorts. I’ll warn you now that this is a p long read, but when I first started dealing with this, I found very little information about cats’ experience with a hemipelvectomy, and I’d like to share as much of my own as I can!

My name is Sara, and I am the proud cat-momma to two goofy li’l fluffs named Leo and Zooey. I’ve had pets for most of my life, but after my first cat, Spot, was tragically struck and killed by a car, it was a good few years before another made its way into my life. For my 18th birthday, my parents’ gift to me was allowing me to at last bring another cat into our home.

That weekend, we took a trip to our local animal shelter and entered a room just bursting with kittens. I had no idea how I was going to be able to pick just one! But lo and behold, a then-tiny little brown n’ black marble tabby half crawled up my leg, just desperate to be loved. I picked him up, and knew right then there was no way I could ever put him back down. I turned around to see my mother with another tiny kitten curled up fast asleep in her lap that she clearly was not about to release herself. Lucky for everyone involved, it was literally 2-for-1 cat adoptions that day, which still makes me lol. I left the shelter with my bargain babies and made my way home with twice the bundle of fur to love. I called them Leonardo (after da Vinci, one of my favorite artists & philosophers) and Zooey (kinda after the actress Deschanel but I mostly just liked the name :p).❤

A lot happened over the following 6 years. I moved to Michigan for college, and my parents were so kind to keep Leo and Zooey for me while I was in school. During that time, much happened, and they eventually got a sister (er, aunt?) kitty named Charlie. When I finished school and moved on dorm life and into my own apartment, Leo and Zooey finally got to move back in with me.

Overall, life has been pretty good the last three years since. These cats bring so much joy to our little home, even if they don’t always get along with each other. :p Their personalities are both so distinct, and I love both of them to pieces. Zooey is very dainty and particular about ways, and likes to be right on top of me at any given opportunity—even when it’s not always the most convenient 😉 Leo is more of a big ole blob, with and endless capacity for love and headrubs on anyone who will let him.

This year especially seemed off to such an optimistic start, until about three weeks ago, Leo started to limp without any apparent cause. My life has been kind of a messy blur since.

Leo is prone to random bouts of leaping wildness, and I thought at first that maybe he’d just pulled a muscle or something. As the week went on, his limp just got worse and worse, so I took him to see our vet. She looked him over, weighed him, did all the usual basic exam stuff, but also could not see an apparent reason for his sudden limp, and so I okay’d an x-ray. I was entirely unprepared when she took me into another room to examine the x-rays. A pet owner never wants to hear the phrase “There’s something here that really worries me,” from their vet, but there I was, looking at a black and white image of my boy’s pelvis and trying to comprehend the ominous dark area around his hip-socket. I was devastated, especially as my vet kept repeating how unusual bone tumors in cats are in the first place, let alone in a non-limb bone, and especially not in a cat as young as he. She referred me to a specialist, and luckily was able to squeeze me into an appointment at the Animal Surgical Center of Michigan up in Flint. That’s a long drive for me, but she recommended them so highly that I just had to.

I clung to the slight hope that maybe it was not the dreaded “C-word” that was causing my boy such pain, but after that VERY long ride (Leo is absolutely terrified of car trips :c ), and a very short examination of the x-rays, the doctor said it seemed indeed a nasty cancer was eating away the left side pelvic bone and the top of his left femur. If I wanted to take away his pain and give him his best chance at life, our only option was a hemipelvectomy. This is a very drastic (and expensive, oh boy) surgery, and I had such little time to take it all in. I ultimately decided I had to do what I could to try and save the life of this sweet cat of mine.

The next week leading up to surgery day was difficult. Leo was clearly in a lot of pain, even while taking strong pain medication (0.15mL of buprenorphine orally every 12 hours) to try and ease him through it. Saturday night (3 days before this post) was particularly brutal, as Leo took a nosedive and began wandering around behaving very strangely as if in a daze, and growling in pain no matter what he did. I tried to wait it out, but when his next dose of bup did not seem to relieve him after an hour, we ended up going to a 24 hour emergency clinic, where I spent the next very long 4 hours.

The doctor there could not feel a pulse in his bad leg, and feared he’d either thrown a clot, or the tumor had begun causing an inclusion of blood to the leg. If the latter were the case, it would mean the leg would quickly start dying on his body, and he would not be a good candidate for surgery. He did a glucose test where he compared blood samples from his neck and each of his rear legs. If the glucose levels in the bad leg were lower than the other two samples, it meant the leg was dying—very, very bad. THANKFULLY though, all three samples came out a perfect match and I could breathe a tiny bit easier. They took some more x-rays, which revealed that Leo’s hip socket had been entirely eroded away so that his femur bone was rubbing directly against his pelvis bone, which was likely causing him an exorbitant amount of pain. It was truly heartbreaking, but there was also the silver lining that there seemed no evidence of other soft tissue masses in his legs. +1 for being cancer free post-amp!

We left the 24 hour clinic with an upped dose of bup, this time 0.2mL every 8 hours to get him through to surgery day. It was tough watching him hobble along, but we made it. We made another long drive up to Flint early yesterday morning for surgery day. It was a long day of waiting, but around 5 pm Dr. Walshaw called me to say he’d just completed the surgery, which went very well and that I could pick him up the next day!

It is now the next day, and he’s back by my side resting on my bed while I binge watch The X-Files. During discharge, Dr. Walshaw dropped by to let me know that Leo had been the best patient they had. No one can believe how sweet and loving this dang cat is. The technician who reviewed his discharge info with me said at one point, she had him on his back held between her legs to draw blood, and even then he was still just trying desperately to rub his face all over her 😹

We have our follow-up appointment next week, where Dr. Walshaw will review the biopsy results and give us his full prognosis. In the mean time, it’s time for a good rest for both of us (perhaps me more so than him at this point—I am le pooped).

Leo was given 0.25mL of buprenorphine at 3mg/mL concentration at the hospital today for pain relief, which they said should be good for 3 days but I can give other pain meds as needed for breakthrough pain. He was also given an injection of 0.6mL Convenia (Cefovecin sodium) at a concentration of 80mg/mL. This is an antibiotic that lasts for 14 days, and may cause some digestion side effects (vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite). He has not eaten today, and I still haven’t been able to convince him to, which has me a little concerned. The only medication I was prescribed to give him myself is (1) 6mg tablet of Onsior (Robenacoxib) every 24 hours for the next three days, first being today. However, it needs to be given with food, and I’ve tried all the tasty things I have on hand to try and encourage him, but to no avail. He just seems to want to sleep, this poor guy. :c He did use the litter box a couple times (even #2!) at the hospital today though, which is very good. I read that sometimes rubbing honey on their gums will stimulate a cat’s appetite, so I will try that in a bit. If not, I hope it will be okay going without the anti-inflammatory until morning..

I am exhausted, but I will share another update tomorrow! Thank you to everyone here who has offered their advice, encouragement, and positive thoughts. Leo is a very good boy with a strong spirit, and I very much hope I get to spend many more years with my very own tripawd. 💛

  1. Li’l boy is home with a fancy new haircut, one less leg, and still as handsome as ever. 😽💕


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4 Comments

  1. Sweet Leo is HOME🎉 👏🏻
    Leo looks great!
    Rest when Leo does! Hopefully Leo will eat for you today🙏
    Purrkins and Saxton were also buy one get one free:) lol
    Post in the forum if you need anything, or have questions.
    Heal well Leonardo
    Hugs,
    Holly & Purrkins

  2. Goodness he’s handsome! Much love to your boy as he recovers. Hopefully he will be eating soon!

    • bear + leo +zooey

      Feb 3, 2017 at 6:07 pm

      He is so handsome, truly! I can’t wait for his beautiful fur to grow back, and I’m eager to see how the scar will affect his marbling pattern. He’s just still not eager to eat, poor guy. ):

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