The University of Nebraska students majoring in biological systems engineering have succeeded in creating a prosthetic leg for a three-legged feline. They conducted experiments with Olive, a brown tabby cat.
Olive, a stray cat, found in a local shelter, had a cleft in her leg and was born with three paws. One of the veterinarians, Dr. Beth Galles, had initially fostered the tabby cat rescued by the Capital Humane Society in Lincoln.
After the project’s conclusion, the assistant professor of practice in the veterinary medicine department at Cornell University adopted the brave kitty.
Dr Galles told magazine Catster:
“Olive is the sweetest cat! I brought her home to foster her during this project, and after about one day, I knew my children would be devastated if she left again.”
In the spring of 2020, the venture began after the local humane society welcomed a severely obese cat who needed to have its front legs amputated. The shelter was worried the kitten might be unable to walk after surgery.
In collaboration with Dr. Galles, the refuge reached out to Nebraska University’s engineering department to see if they could create a prosthesis for feline patients. The initiative came to a halt as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
When Olive was brought to the shelter in the fall of 2020, the discussions re-started. The employees discussed the prospect of creating a ready-made cat prosthesis for felines having difficulty adapting to life without a leg.
Three-legged Olive receives an extra paw
According to Dr. Galles, a temporary prosthesis may be very helpful in these cases while the animal is being treated and optimized for life on three legs. This includes losing weight and managing arthritic pain and inflammation.
At the beginning of 2021, college student Abby Smith enlisted the help of Harrison Grasso and three additional pupils. They spent hours with Olive the cat, once a week for a few months.
College graduate Abby found the assignment challenging. Likewise, as they had no previous experience with kittens, no student in the group knew how to handle a cat.
Still, Olive proved to be quite cooperative. Abby continued:
” She was such a good sport throughout it all and was so kind to us. She never lashed out or anything at us,”
The cat remained completely calm with the students and the rest of the veterinary personnel.
To manufacture the prosthesis, the students used a 3D printer and polylactic acid. The synthetic leg featured two Velcro straps and a silicone sleeve to ensure a snug fit on the cat’s leg.
It was mobile, non-toxic, and relatively cheap to make (less than $100).
Furthermore, they had to remove a significant portion of the kitty’s left foreleg.
With her newest paw, Olive likes playing with her brothers and relaxing as they watch birds. The kitten can now enjoy a happier and bolder life in her new home.