Nine Lives: Black Cat Is Lucky Recipient of Bionic Legs

Is there anything more tragic than a family pet suffering a tragic accident? In the past, a pet who lost two legs would have been put to sleep to end its suffering, but thanks to one pioneering vet and a team of biomedical engineers, there’s now an alternative: bionic legs.

The world-first operation was performed by Dr. Noel Fitzpatrick, a veterinary surgeon in Surrey, England. Oscar the cat was the unlucky animal on the operating table; he lost both hind legs after falling asleep in an unfortunate place. As he dozed, a combine harvester rolled over him, destroying the legs but fortunately sparing Oscar’s life. The cat was brought to Dr. Fitzpatrick, who worked with a team from University College London to develop the special prosthetic legs.

With most prosthetics – for both animals and humans – the artificial limb simply sits on top of the stump. One of the reasons this operation was so revolutionary is because it uses weight-bearing implants to which the prosthetic legs attach. The implants have actually bonded with Oscar’s body, making them a permanent part of the cat’s physiology and giving him a natural gait.

(all images via: BBC)

The team who developed the implants based their design on deer antlers which grow through the skin. The implants have a big advantage over conventional prosthetics in that they won’t produce the friction and rubbing that often plagues their wearers. Oscar won’t be able to feel his new feet, but his doctors are certain that he’ll be able to live the healthy, happy life of a normal cat. The technology is being developed for humans, and Oscar will go down in history as the lucky black cat who helped advance this research by leaps and bounds.


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