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Can a Three-Legged Cat Lead a Normal Life? (How to Live With a Tripod Cat)

Posted in: Cat Health - Last Updated: November 2, 2022 - Author: Dexter Jones
Posted in Cat Health 
Last Updated: October 26, 2022  
Author:  Dexter Jones

For most people, it's easy to perceive a cat with four legs to be the only type of cat that can live a happy, fun, and engaging life. 

After all, if anyone ever suffers a disability such as a missing limb, it's to be expected that the quality of life is going to suffer to some degree. 

three legged cat

And while it would be silly to say that a three-legged cat (Tripaws) will have the same type of life as one born with four legs, that doesn't necessarily mean it's going to be the doom and gloom many pet owners may be afraid of.

Can a Three-Legged Cat Lead a Normal Life?

With a little patience, lots of supervision, and understanding on your end, your cat can be just like the countless other handicapped cats that live happy, engaging, fulfilling, and truly inspiring lives.

Provided they are given proper love, care, attention, and affection by their pet parents, a cat with three legs can live a life just as fulfilling and engaging as its four-legged counterparts.

If your pet has suffered a hindleg wound, had a limb amputation,  or was born with only three legs, I'm here to tell you that there are a LOT of things still open to them using their remaining limbs. 

Below, we'll tackle several things they can do with a bit of training while also running over some useful kitty lifestyle adjustments that you can implement to help make their lives just a bit easier.

Everything a 3 Legged Cat Can Do

About two years ago, my wife had found a small stray kitten who, by a freak accident, had irreparably broken its hind leg. 

My wife, the saint that she is, felt the need to want to take care of her, taking her to the vet to see what her options were. 

Unfortunately, the leg had to be amputated, however, my wife continued to love this little kitten, raising her through the adjustment period and training her up to an almost unrecognizable level.

Today, that young kitten is named Thomas and is as lively and vibrant as any four-legged cat. 

three legged cats

It was Thomas that inspired me to write this since I saw firsthand what a cat with only three legs could do with a bit of patience and a loving owner.


You'd expect that a cat missing her hind leg would be perpetually off-balance whenever running but you'd be surprised. 

While likely a bit difficult at first, as with anything, it seems like they are more than capable of adapting to their new situation.

Three-legged pets probably won't be winning any races or outpacing most four-legged cats, sure!

But, I assure you they can still keep pace well enough when you're heading towards their food dish, and water bowls and things like cat lasers and strings can still have them bounding through the room like the furry devils they are.


I can't swear to this when it comes to a cat that has lost its front leg. However, for those that have lost a hind leg, tripawds are still just as quick to climb up a tree as their four-legged brothers.

My mom has a few cat towers in the living room, and the first day I saw her leap up only to continue climbing all the way was astonishing. 

Again, not just because she could do it, but because she did it just as fast as any of the other cats there. It was honestly as if the lack of a leg had no effect whatsoever.


Jumping, on the other hand, while still well within their power, does pose a bit of an issue for cats missing a hindleg compared to a foreleg. 

This is because they get most of their power from their hind legs when jumping up like a springboard.

Again, these cats can still do it, but it's much more of a challenge.

On the other hand, cats missing a foreleg seem to have very little challenge jumping just as high as they did when they had four legs. 

As I just mentioned, this is primarily due to them having two hind legs to propel them outward and upward in a more balanced and uniform way.

Either way, if you have a cat with only three legs (regardless of how it's set up), you'll be happy to know that it can still do all the jumping it'd like, it may just be a bit more difficult.


Leaping onto a high place is a bit different from jumping even if they are in the same family of physical actions. 

You could say that "jumping" is a vertical propelling into the air whereas "leaping" is meant to be horizontal.

Here too, a cat missing a hindleg will have a harder time leaping than one with a missing foreleg. 

The good news is that leaping is often easier for a cat missing a hindleg than jumping is, as most of the force is going in a forward motion rather than straight up. 

3 legged cat

Thomas, as an example, can regularly leap up on the bed or dresser without any issue, though high jumps directly onto the kitchen counter are more of a problem compared to the other cats.

Toilet Adjustments

Be aware of litter tray issues. Going to the toilet is a private activity and may make your tripod cat feel a little more vulnerable.

So make sure the box is within easy reach and ensure easier access.

If they struggle with using the litter box toilet, consider providing ramps for easy access, purchase a low-sided litter box, and be patient as they learn to cover, dig and clean themselves with three legs instead of four.

Ways To Help Your Tripod Cat

While there are a lot of things your little kitty can do largely on her own with enough time and patience, there are a few things that she'll have a bit of a harder time with without a bit of help on your end.

Pick them up

As mentioned earlier, while climbing and running aren't too big of an issue, jumping and leaping can pose a problem for cats suffering from three legs, especially if one of their missing legs is a hindleg. 

Even if your cat is suffering from a lack of foreleg, it's worth it to pay attention to them and see if they need a bit of a helping hand or a boost.

If you want to keep a bit of a hands-off approach (like myself), you may want to instead invest in a cat rail or stack some smaller boxes out to make their jumps more reasonably paced. 

I like this method myself since it not only doesn't detract from my day, but it also reinforces that trademark feline independence in them rather than turning them into an animal that relies on you for everything (trust me, it can get very loud).

Consider Keeping them Indoors 

I'm more of a "let them enjoy the wild" type of guy. 

However, when a cat is missing a limb, they're at a considerably greater risk of danger compared to one with all four legs. 

Whether we're talking about other animals, rude people, or just the outside hazards, virtually all cats run the risk of something terrible happening to them. 

This is exacerbated if your cat already has a handicap.

But saying that, our Thomas LOVES being outside and leading a normal adventurous life.

Help Out with Scratchies!

Lastly, you'll want to help out in the most important area of all, neck and ear scratches! 

I'm being a bit silly but these areas can be very frustrating if your cat is missing one of its hind legs. 

Not only are they missing one for scratching, but they often can't use the other since they have nothing to balance themselves off of.

The ideal solution is to consider taking a few minutes every day to give her some scratches along her ear and neck as well as any other places you might notice she is especially itchy in. 

You'll be able to tell pretty easily since these cats will often perform the same action as if the leg was still there. 

A phantom leg scratch.

It's kind of sad as a reminder of what they're missing, so you must jump in and giving them a few good scratches would probably mean the world.

We are always giving Thomas's right ear a thoroughly good scratch and regularly take him to the vet to get his ears cleaned PROPERLY. 

Otherwise, you may risk ear infections.

tripod cat

Keep a 3 Legged Cats Weight Controlled

Maintaining a healthy weight and a daily exercise regime is important for cats, particularly as it will guard against joint problems such as arthritis. 

Unnecessary excess weight means more pressure on their joints so it’s important to keep your puss well-toned and in shape. 

Strong muscles will help support the joints in the remaining limbs that will now come under increased strain. 

If worried about their diet, consult with your veterinarian about an ideal weight for your tripod cat.

Can a Three-Legged Cat Lead a Normal Life? Summary

Can a Three-Legged Cat Lead a Normal Life?  The answer is, "Hell yeah!"

Cats suffering from a loss of limb isn't a death sentence nor does it mean they can't still enjoy virtually all that life has to offer. 

What it does mean is that they'll need to take things a bit slow at the start, whilst adjusting their mobility and they will be a bit more careful about what they're doing.

Adoption rates for recuse tripod cats are lower, but I assure you, we have Thomas, and he is the most loving cat ever! 

They just need love.

About the author

Dexter Jones has been a solid member of the ‘Mad Cat Dad’ club since time began! Dexter has been a keen cat writer for many years and lives in Croatia. He lives with his two tabby cats, Milly & Marly, who also flew in from the UK to start their new Adriatic island life together.