BECAUSE Cyrano weighs more than nine kilograms, amputating his cancer-weakened leg was out of the question.
So the tubby tabby’s owners turned to doctors and engineers at North Carolina State University to get who they describe as “their child” back into mice-catching trim.
On Thursday, the 10-year-old cat from Upperville, Virginia, received what doctors believe is the first feline total knee replacement in the US.
“This is the most complex implant that NC State has made and really, in all honesty, that anyone has built for any situation that I know of,” said surgeon Denis Marcellin-Little, a French-born veterinarian.
Cyrano underwent treatment last year at Colorado State University for cancer in his left hind leg. The disease is in remission, but the treatment left the leg nearly useless and extremely painful.
In 2005, Marcellin-Little performed the world’s first surgery to fuse leg implants with a cat’s bone tissue, so Cyrano’s owners turned to him for help.
Such implants have become commonplace in dogs. But a cat’s smaller anatomy has proved more difficult.
Unlike other joints, which are machined, Cyrano’s knee was fabricated using a laser process that hardens metal powder to exactly replicate his bones. More than a dozen people worked on developing and testing the implant and the operation lasted around six hours.
Marcellin-Little said the tabby’s girth and big bones were a plus. He said Cyrano should be up and around in about a week, although he will not be climbing trees for a while yet.
“We would like him to take it easy for about three months after surgery,” the doctor said. “And then we will let him be himself.”
The full cost of the operation could not be measured but is thought to be around $20,000.