(BIONIC CAT) UNITED KINGDOM — A black cat named Oscar who lost both hind paws in a combine harvester accident is now sporting a world’s first – shiny bionic legs that even flex. — Global Animal
Herald Sun, Staff Writers
A black cat that lost both hind paws after being run over by a combine harvester on the island of Jersey, in the English Channel, was revealed to the world overnight as the world’s first cat to be fitted with a pair of flexing bionic legs.
Without the prostheses, Oscar would have been unable to walk and may have been put down.
The two-year-old’s owners, Kate and Mike Nolan, were referred by the local vet to Professor Noel Fitzpatrick, a veterinary surgeon based in Surrey, south England, who pioneers prosthetics.
Oscar’s custom-made implants are attached internally to the ankle joints, where the foot was amputated, and emerge through the skin like a pair of stilts. They are coated with hydroxyapatite, a material that mimics the way antler bones mesh with soft tissue.
“Oscar is the first creature to have a prosthesis that is osteointegrated, skin-integrated and part of a moving joint,” said Prof Fitzpatrick. “It’s a miracle of biomechanics.”
The implants, known as ITAPs (intraosseous transcutaneous amputation prosthetics), were first developed by Gordon Blunn, a biomedical engineer, and colleagues at University College London. The honeycomb structure allows skin to bond to the implant, forming a seal against infection.
In a three-hour operation, the ITAPs, costing £2000 each ($2,987), were inserted by drilling into Oscar’s ankle bones. Prof Fitzpatrick then studied Oscar’s gait to design suitable feet. After eight months at Prof Fitzpatrick’s practice he can now walk, run and climb stairs on his rubber-soled prosthetics. He will not be allowed outside unless on a harness once he goes home, in a month. “Imagine he goes outside and tries to climb a tree – what then?” said Prof Fitzpatrick.
Oscar’s case shows that the flesh and bone melds to the bionic limb well enough for it to bear weight and bend beneath the skin. “Noel’s experiences are informing human surgery, which is very unusual in orthopedics,” said Mr Blunn, a biomechanics specialist. Prof Fitzpatrick said he welcomed a collaborative approach with human surgeons but that his primary responsibility would always be the pet. He and his clinic are the focus of a BBC TV series, The Bionic Vet which begins in the UK.