Vincent the cat was born without most of his hind limbs, which left him unable to walk. But when Cindy Jones of rural Iowa first laid eyes on him at an animal shelter, she thought he was purr-fect.
Jones' daughter, Emily, attends veterinary school at Iowa State University, and thought one of her teachers may be able to help, Science Daily reports.
Dr. Mary Bergh, who has worked with a wide range of injured animals, first attempted physical therapy with Vincent, but decided prosthetic limbs would offer the cat the best chance for a normal life.
She, along with the veterinary orthopedics company BioMedtrix, used 3D modeling and printing to build Vincent titanium-alloy rear legs, according to Tech Times. The prosthetics implants are inserted into Vincent's femur bones and come out through the skin.
"A lot times when people think of prosthetics, they think of something that is strapped onto a leg to allow walking," Bergh told ISU News Source. But Vincent’s deformity occurs just under his thighs, which is not an area of a cat’s body where anything can easily be strapped.
Three-year-old Vincent has had two surgeries. After his first, in February 2014, he was walking within days. He underwent a second surgery in February of this year in order to be equipped with longer limbs.
"The first time I saw him after surgery, it was scary, I’ll be honest, because you don’t normally see metal things poking out of your cat," Jones said
This type of surgery is so rare that Bergh approximates fewer than 25 animals in the entire world have received it.
She also thinks 3D printing will help disabled animals in the future.
"I think this does open the door for us to be able to help other animals that have similar problems," Bergh told 3DPrint.com. "And even what we've learned just through Vincent's one case, we've actually refined the technique and the implants, so the next cases we do moving forward will be even more successful."
Although Vincent’s recovery has been lengthy -- since his surgery earlier this year he has received treatments to gradually lengthen the prosthetic legs until they are the length of an average house cat's hind legs -- his future looks lively.
"His bone is looking great," Bergh said. "The implants are stable, and he’s walking really well on them. We couldn’t be happier with how he’s doing at the current time.”
The one thing Vincent can’t do?
"He can't jump yet ... and we don't let him go upstairs," Jones told ABC. "You know he wants to and he'll look at a table top and he'll go, 'Hmmm.'"
"I anticipate that he'll be jumping and doing really normal cat things very soon," she added.
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