A cat from Jersey (the one across the pond, not river) is now being called the "Bionic Cat," thanks to his new prosthetic back paws. According to the BBC, Oscar was "snoozing in a maize field" when "his back paws [were] sliced off by a combine harvester." One of his owners said that a passer-by asked him if he owned a cat; Mike Nolan said he felt "Complete panic at that point, [Oscar was] covered in blood, bits of flesh, it was very gruesome."
Oscar's vet Peter Howarth was able to stabilize him and suggested Nolan and Kate Allan (Oscar's other owner) contact Noel Fitzpatrick, a neuro-orthopedic veterinary surgeon in Surrey, who has been working with cutting-edge prosthetics. Fitzpatrick decided to take on the case; Allan said, "The fact that Oscar was such a young cat, he was only two and a half when it happened made him an ideal patient for this surgery. Oscar is a very chilled cat, he is very laid back, he takes things well which led to the surgeons in Surrey describing him as a very suitable candidate for this kind of surgery. Oscar had to be transported to the UK from Jersey by air cargo and the whole journey meant him spending up to eight hours in his box."
According to Fitzpatrick's website, the operation took three hours:
"The veterinary surgical team had to insert the ITAPs by drilling into one of the ankle bones in each of the back legs - an extremely delicate feat, which could have fractured the ankle joint before the procedure had even begun, and even more challeging had to be performed twice. These artificial implants which are attached to the bone at an amputation site are coated with hydroxyapatite, which encourages bone cells to grow onto the metal. The skin then grows over the special umbrella at the end of the ITAP to form a resilient seal against bacteria and potentially fatal infections. The ITAP itself protrudes through the bone and skin, allowing the custom-built artifical paws to be securely attached.
The paws apparently "mimic the way deer antler bone grows through the skin." Four months after the November surgery, Oscar could stand and bear weight on his four limbs. Fitzpatrick says, "We have then successfully managed to get the bone and skin to grow into the implant and we have developed an exoprosthesis that allows this implant to work as a see-saw on the bottom of an animal’s limbs to give him effectively normal gait. Oscar can now run and jump about as cats should do."
Fitzpatrick's work is the subject of a new reality show, Bionic Vet, which airs next week on the BBC; it's unclear if the show will hit BBC America, but we hope it does! As for Oscar, he's remaining in England for his rehab; his owners says that when he's well enough to come back to Jersey, they'll keep a better eye on him. They are also thankful for the unknown passer-by who alert them to his injuries.