LONDON June 25, 2010— -- Oscar the cat has leaped into medical history books by becoming the first ever feline to get prosthetic cat legs.
The bottom half of Oscar's back legs were sliced off by a combine harvester nine months ago. That would be a death sentence for most pets, but breakthrough surgery has given him a shot at another of his proverbial nine lives.
When Oscar was first found after the accident, he was very weak and had lost a lot of blood. Oscar's owners, Kate Allen and Mike Nolan, were told to expect the worst.
"[Oscar was] covered in blood, bits of flesh. It was very gruesome," said Nolan, who recounted the experience to the BBC.
Veterinarian Peter Haworth covered Oscar's wounds and got him comfortable by administering cat painkillers, but there was little else he could do. Cats are able to have a comfortable life on three legs, but not with just two.
Haworth recommended Allen and Nolan get in contact with another veterinary surgeon, Noel Fitzpatrick, to seek further treatment at his state-of-the-art practice.
"It was very much a three way communication time, a lot of e-mails, pictures and x-rays flying around and Noel pretty quickly decided Oscar was a good patient," said Nolan.
In the three hour operation, Oscar had metal holes drilled into what remained of his legs so that special implants – known as ITAPs - could be attached. Skin will eventually grow over the implant's umbrella-like end, which is specifically designed to form a seal against bacteria. The pegs protrude so that prosthetic "blade runner" paws can eventually be fitted on Oscar.
This ground-breaking operation will eventually pave the way for the procedure to be replicated on humans.
As for Oscar, he has successfully adapted to his new legs, much to the relief of his owners, although for now, he will have to remain a house-cat because his limbs aren't suitable for outdoor activity.
"As he is at the moment we're told he is running around. He has taken to his new feet really well," said Nolan. "He is jumping about, walking as a cat should, eating, sleeping. It's phenomenal really."