A Whole New Life

The past month has been a whirlwind of challenges, triumphs and emotions.  I have been blessed with meeting so many people on this site who are so giving of their time, thoughts, suggestions and just general support.  I have shared a great deal of Rusty’s story and my struggles on the forum http://tripawds.com/forums/3-legged-cats/new-tripawd-mom-trying-to-take-it-all-in-stride-for-my-furbaby/  .  I wanted to share and summarize some of the highlights of this journey here for others that may be going through something similar.  

(Parents of Rusty: Gina and Nick)

The Beginning and Diagnosis

At the end of August/beginning of September, I noticed the back leg of Rusty was a little swollen.  He wasn’t showing obvious signs of pain at first, only an occasional limp.

I brought him to our normal, wonderful vet, Dr. Scott Witham of Westfield Veterinary Group, who said it looked like soft tissue trauma and maybe he just hurt his leg somewhere.  This was a cautious diagnosis because we weren’t sure. He gave him a shot of 2 weeks of antibiotic but there was no positive change within the next two weeks.  We brought Rusty back and the vet ran cultures.

Within the 4 days it took for the results to come back as signs of cancer, he started hissing at his back leg anytime he moved so it was very evident something serious was going on.  Our vet gave us the names of two surgical centers with oncologists and we knew our lives were about to change.


 So it has been one month since I dropped my little guy off and the vet and began praying for the words “We can amputate”.  The vet was going to run the tests to see if cancer had spread to other parts of Rusty’s body before doing the surgery.  After an overnight stay at the vet, Rusty had his tests done on Thursday morning.  We got the news that they were going to be able to amputate.  At home, Nick and I were crying-tears of happiness that we were going to be able to help him and not having to let him go, tears of fear because we didn’t know what type of cancer he had and if there was going to be follow up treatments, tears because of the unknown of now being the parents to a tripawd cat and tears because of the doubt that comes with making a decision like this.

I found this site and with it, confidence that it would be OK.

While Rusty was undergoing the surgery and then going through the recovery at the vets, we got the house prepared as much as we could.  We bought a 48″x30″ dog crate at the vet’s suggestion to keep him contained when he returned home.  We emptied out the closet (his favorite hang out) and put it there.  We got stairs to go up to the bed for after his recovery, and the rubber tiles to cover the wood floors for traction and softer landings if he lost his balance.

The New Flooring in the Bedroom

Surgery=Thursday, September 14, 2017.

Return Home=Saturday, September 16, 2017




Instructions from vet: Got a shot of pain meds that would be good for 3 days.  Give an antibiotic (liquid) twice a day.  Keep him contained for two weeks.  Keep the cone on.  Keep him calm.  Try to get him to eat.





  • First cone removal of Rusty-IN THE CAR ON THE WAY HOME.  We managed to get the cone back on.

    Very Happy with my accomplishment-NO CONE! Don’t tell Mom!!!
  • Used litter box in cage immediately.
  • First dose of the meds: about 0.3mL of the 1.0mL got in the cat.  The rest was on the collar.
  • Second dose of meds; about 0.2 mL of the 1.0 mL got in the cat.  The rest was on the collar and cage.
  • Second cone removal by Rusty: OVERNIGHT the FIRST NIGHT HOME.  He was QUITE PROUD. We couldn’t get it back on. We tried multiple times.  I ordered the Kong Comfy Cone for overnight delivery (LOVE AMAZON PRIME)

I called the local vet, in tears about what a horrible cat mommy I am because I couldn’t give him meds or get the cone back on him, and they (1) calmed me down (2) had me come in and gave him a 2 week shot of antibiotics and (3) they put the Comfy Cone on him with gauze AND a cat collar (which lasted for the next 3 weeks!!!).

Rusty has not figured out how to get this one off.

The next two weeks were filled with many posts on this forum (see above link), with support from the other Tripawd Moms and Dads.  I found that if I held his food bowl, it was easier for Rusty to eat.  We also got bowls that are on an angle.  He preferred Mommy holding the bowl though.

Rusty Having Lunch (Video) (best with sound)

During those two weeks, we also were looking ahead at the best and worst case scenarios regarding what type of cancer Rusty had in his back leg.  We got the report back that it was hemangiosarcoma (HSA).  This type of cancer is commonly found in dogs and is little more rare for cats so there was not a lot of information for me to reference.  Also, a lot of the data was from when the tumors formed on organs, not a limb that was removed.  As Rusty’s parents we went back and forth over whether or not we would do chemo treatments if there were needed.  Again, this group was wonderful with sharing what they went through.  We went from a hard NO to we would listen to the vet and then make the decision.

Then it was FINALLY stitch removal day as well as the dreaded conversation with the oncologist.

The outcome:  No chemo! From what they could tell, the cancer was completely removed. We now have to do checks every few months for the first year then can spread out to every 6 months.  When the stitches came out, we were hoping for complete cone removal too but since the area was a little scabby, the vet recommended we keep the cone for another week.  He was allowed to be cage free though!!! (We were surprised but we actually did manage to keep him in the cage for most of the 2 weeks.  There was one breakout.)  We kept the cone on for the additional  10 days just to make sure it is healed.

These photos are from Rusty’s first night of being cage free. He has managed to get back on the bed using the pet stairs.












He is also on nightly mouse patrol.







On Sunday night/Monday morning around 1am, Rusty became CONE FREE with full run of the first floor of the house.  He will be allowed access to the second floor at the end of the month.  He had a few licks of Dairy Queen Vanilla soft serve ice cream to celebrate.


He now freely gets on the bed using his staircase.  He also has returned to his favorite chair- a chair that is by the sliding doors with the blinds up for proper viewing of Cat TV.  He has mommy’s favorite robe draped on the chair for extra comfort as well as another set of pet stairs to get up and down.  You can also see that my dining room floor also has the rubber tile decor.

He really likes this spot because in addition to the Cat TV, this is the main door we use to enter the house so he can now greet us when we enter into the house.

Each day he gets stronger.  Each day I get emotionally stronger.  I know we did the right thing.  On another forum/blog, some said remember you are choosing to save their life instead of saving a limb.  This is SO true.  All doubt is gone.

Rusty the Bunnyman… He is neither a bunny nor a man but he IS OUR BUNNYMAN, hopping through our house and life, bringing more smiles and love to each and everyday we are blessed to have him here.



Hanging out on back of couch as our new tripawd.

Author: reilly95

Aug/Sept ‘17, the back leg of Rusty was swollen. HSA cancer was diagnosed. Back left leg amputated. He remained cancer free over 900 days. Cancer returned as of emergency visit on day 931. 15 days later, he gained his wings 04/18/2020 due to congestive heart failure.

3 thoughts on “A Whole New Life”

  1. Rusty your loving your whole new life ! It’s great to back to normal you have the purrfect cat TV chair & greeting chair a two for one spot! Look at you buddy on top of the back of the sofa!! See three legs what’s that mean;) I’m still king of the sofa! Mom hasn’t seen all that you can do buddy! 😉

    You chose Rusty’s life over a limb pretty simple when it comes down to those terms.
    I am not surprised to read all doubt is gone! No you will never regret this choice! You have your Rusty 3 legs is good with him he is happy to be hopping on & getting rid of that painful lump! Plus bonus your Bunnyman everyone understands that at Tripawds😻

    We understand the real meaning your Dads really special guy, because your name stands for both his loves! But now with the hop 😉

    Holly & Purrkins❤️

  2. This is great you’ve put all of your experiences together in one blog. I’m sure it will help others when making a decision or dealing with some of the healing challenges, such as have a cone houdini. All cats are different and we all have to find what will work for our cat. You’ve done great at getting Rusty this far. He’ll continue to improve and become more confident in the months to come. Wishing him a long life.

    Kerren and Tripawd Kitty Mona, 3yrs, 4months cancer free

  3. WOW! What a journey you guys, thank you Gina and Nick for sharing all the details here. I have no doubt it will help others when they see how Rusty did during and after recovery. HSA in cats is so rare, you’ve done a wonderful thing by showing the world that it’s not a death sentence and life can be great on three. THANK YOU!!! All three of you are rock stars!

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