Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Six Million Dollar Cat

When I posted a while ago about our new cat, I was contacted by my friend J, who is studying to be Prosthetic-Orthotic Technician at George Brown College. She knows someone who does prostheses for dogs (and thus might have some insight into working with cats) and thought she might be able to make a project out of it. So yesterday, we crammed Carmen into her cage and hauled her up to PawsAbility, stopping to pick up J on the way. This entry will mainly be a blow-by-blow of the process, which was surprisngly fast and painless for everyone involved.

Janice, who runs Pawsability is a clinician, while my friend J is a technician. This means that Janice does most of the patient related things like making the cast, and J does most of the mechanical things, i.e. building the actual prosthesis. When we arrived, Janice greeted us. I panicked a bit when I realized that Janice's dog Kate was there.

New Friend

Kate was very well behaved and didn't bark once while we were there. Carmen didn't seem to be bothered by Kate one bit; she was probably preoccupied by the thought that every time she goes in the cage, someone stabs her with a needle when she comes out. Luckily for her, that didn't happen this time.

Janice prepared a little sock to put over the leg to be cast, the residuum, to keep plaster out of the fur. She poured a bowl of hot water and cut some plaster strips. She explained that, rather than building a fully circumferential cast, she would wrap the plaster around and pinch it on one side. That way, while it was drying she could pry it off instead of having to wait for it to dry and then fire up the saw.

Materials Crash Test Dummy

About halfway through, Janice had to stop and cut more strips because she didn't expect Carmen's leg to be so muscly. That's our girl!

Starting... Shaping and Forming

Janice used clothespins to keep the cast pinched shut and used her fingers to ensure she got the shape of Carmen's residuum.

Only 5 to 10 minutes after beginning with the wet plaster, it was already stiff enough that she could peel it off and it would retain its shape. She did so, then pinched it back together and left it to set.

Peeling Back Finished Product

We dried off our unhappy kitty, stuffed her back into the cage, said goodbye to Janice and brought Carmen home. J told us to pick out some fun patterned baby socks to add some colour to the outside of the prosthesis. In a few weeks, we will take Carmen back to see Janice for fitting.

I'll Get You For This Little Trooper

Carmen was surprisingly calm during the whole process — her usual response to being manhandled is to go stiff, which was helpful. After we brought her home she recovered almost immediately and this morning she followed me around meyowling while I made coffee just like usual. I'm not sure if she'll want to wear the thing once it's done but so far it's been a neat process and doesn't appear to have traumatised her. Also, I'm going to talk to J about adding a little rocket booster and maybe the ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

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