I don’t think I would have believed it if I hadn’t seen it. A veterinarian in Jersey has managed to successfully graft two prosthetic limbs onto a cat that lost both its back paws in a combine thresher. Named Oscar, the 2 year old cat was walking freely only a few hours after receiving its new limbs! The metal pins that attach to the prostheses were surgically embedded in the cat’s residual legs and were specially designed to allow both skin and bone to grow into them. This should prevent infection and long term complications associated with exposed metal pins in living tissues. We have two amazing videos for you, both from the BBC. The first shows Oscar’s first steps after receiving his new limbs, and the second showing him weeks later enjoying a more advanced version of the devices in his home. You’ve got to see this.
Noel Fitzpatrick, the veterinarian who performed Oscar’s surgery, had previous success in attaching prostheses to animals. In fact, he’s the star of a new upcoming BBC pilot for a series called “The Bionic Vet.” The prosthetic limbs were developed in association with researchers at the University College London and have implications for human-used devices. The metal pins embedded in Oscar’s legs are called intraosseous transcutaneous amputation prosthetics (Itaps) and are specially shaped (like umbrellas) to allow tissue to grow onto and into them. This shields them against infection. Similar techniques are already under testing for humans and may allow for sturdier and safer human prostheses. For now, it’s unlikely that Oscar’s style of Itaps will be used for other cats as they are expensive: £2000 (~$3000) without the cost of surgery). That means that, for a while, Oscar is likely to be one of kind. Lucky cat.