Oscar the Bionic CatPublished June 28, 2010
While some people don't believe in miracles, I do. And I bet Oscar the cat is a believer too.
Last October Oscar, the incredible, now famous two-and-a-half-year-old black cat, lost his two rear paws after being struck down by a combine harvester. A feline resident of the British Channel Isles, he owns two devoted humans, Kate Mike Nolan, is one fortunate kitty.
The Nolans rushed Oscar to their local veterinarian who referred them to the veterinary neuro-orthopedic surgeon Dr. Noel Fitzpatrick, whose practice is located 35 miles southwest of London, in Eashing.
Dr. Fitzpatrick, working together with biomedical engineering experts, fashioned two metal implants attached to faux paws. They were designed to bond with Oscar's bone and skin.
To blend with his fur color, Dr. Fitzpatrick covered them with black tape. Then, at the site of Oscar's missing paws, the veterinarians drilled into Oscar's rear ankle bones, inserting the peg-like implants. After being coated with material that aids bone cells to grow directly over them, they were attached into the ankle bones. To prevent infections, a natural seal of the cat's own skin formed over the end of the peg.
In discussing this pioneering surgery Dr. Fitzpatrick explained, "That allows this implant to work as a seesaw on the bottom of the animal's limbs to give him an effectively normal gait. Oscar can now run and jump about as cats should do."
Although at first a bit shaky, after less than a four-month period of rehabilitation, Oscar was able to walk again. This motivated kitty even surprised his docs when he defeated obstacles on the clinic floor to deter him from overdoing it.
Since felines are generally less adaptable than dogs in the use of carts to assist in ambulation, without this surgery Oscar's ultimate outcome may not have been as miraculous.
Dr. Mark Johnston, a veterinarian and spokesman for the British Small Animal Veterinary Association said, "Giving cat artificial limbs is a very novel solution. If a cat has two legs that are damaged beyond repair, it's very hard to keep him going. We would generally euthanize a cat in that situation."
Oscar's progress will be carefully monitored to ensure that no infections, sores or movement problems develop. The next 6 months are crucial. While the long-term outcome cannot be predicted at this time, I think adding possible several years of a happy, high quality life for Oscar makes this surgery worth its weight in gold.
However since the cost of making the prosthetic paws was over $2966, it is doubtful that this surgery would be widely available to many folks. Fortunately an animal losing two limbs at the same time is not a common occurrence. Should this surgery prove a lasting success, perhaps pet health insurance companies may someday consider covering part of its cost.
For an uplifting treat, watch the riveting video documenting Oscar's post-surgical progress, uploaded to YouTube by NowLiveTV.
Do you believe in miracles now? Leave a comment and share.