Cat fitted with bionic feet

1 min read

A cat whose rear paws were chopped off by a combine harvester has undergone a radical surgical procedure that fitted the animal with a pair of new artificial feet.

Surrey-based neuro-orthopaedic surgeon Noel Fitzpatrick performed the procedure with prosthetic technology developed by a team from University College London.

The design of the feet uses custom-made implants to ‘peg’ the ankle to the foot and mimics the way in which deer antler bone grows through skin.

Photo: Jim Incledon

These pegs, or ITAPs (intraosseous transcutaneous amputation prosthetics), were first developed by a team from University College London led by Prof Gordon Blunn, head of the Centre for Bio-Medical Engineering at UCL’s Institute of Orthopaedics and Musculoskeletal Science.

Working in partnership with UCL, Fitzpatrick has pioneered the use of these weight-bearing prosthetic implants, combining engineering mechanics with biology to give the cat, who is called Oscar, two new feet.

In a three-hour operation, 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 challenging as it had to be performed twice.

Photo: Jim Incledon

As Noel Fitzpatrick explained: ‘The real revolution with Oscar is because we have put a piece of metal and a flange into which skin grows into an extremely tight bone, with very narrow tolerances in the region of nanometres, rather than millimetres. 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.’