Parents Speak
Batman and Robin:
The True Story of the Dynamic Duo’s Amputations
As told by Sydney Wade, foster mom
November 1, 2012

Shortly before I was to return to Greece after spending the summer in the U. S., I received an email from
Cordelia, one of the coordinators of Nine Lives Greece, asking if I would foster a kitten when I returned. His
name was Batman and he had a severed nerve in his left foreleg that would likely result in an amputation. This
email was followed shortly thereafter with another one asking if I would also take Robin, a kitten with the same
injury in his right foreleg. I readily agreed to take both but asked her not to schedule the amputations until I had a
chance to see the kittens for myself. I wanted to cry when Cordelia told me their stories. Batman was being
affectionate with some people near the Acropolis and they shooed him into a very busy street where he was
struck by a car. The incident was witnessed by a kind person who rescued him and took him to a vet. Ioanna of
Nine Lives found Robin dragging himself between cars in busy square in the center of Athens.  It took two days
but she finally succeeded in catching him and getting him to the vet.

Nine Lives Greece, is a remarkable organization of volunteers dedicated to the
reduction of the huge stray cat overpopulation through catch/neuter/release programs. Each year they are
responsible for the sterilization of about 600 stray cats in Athens. In addition, they improve the quality of life for
over 250 street cats with daily feeding programs and veterinary care while trying to find loving and responsible
homes for as many stray or abandoned cats as possible. Nine Lives is completely dependent on donations from
the world community to fund their work. On the afternoon of September 6, 2012, the day I returned to Greece,
Cordelia brought me the two wounded caped-crusaders, Batman and Robin. Imagine my delight when Batman, a
5-month old black kitten, emerged from his cage, all purrs and affection, followed by Robin, a 4-month old ginger
tabby. Robin was a little timid at first but soon followed Batman’s lead, rubbing against me and purring. This was
actually the first time Batman and Robin had met but you would never have guessed it. They bonded
immediately. As they cautiously took off to explore the house, Cordelia and I following close behind, I had the
opportunity to observe their gait and realized that their injuries were considerably more profound than I had
imagined. But I wasn’t ready to subject them to amputation just yet. As they turned the corner into the hallway,
they came face to face with my adult male cat, Chief Crooked Tail, who had come out of my bedroom to find out
what had disturbed his nap. Cordelia and I froze, not knowing how the cats would react to one another. After a
sniff all around, they became fast friends. Chief seemed to know that he had to be gentle with them. He was their
big Bat-brother!
The following day, I took Batman and Robin to my vet who confirmed that amputation would be the best
treatment. Batman had no sensation from the elbow to the paw and Robin had none from below the shoulder to
the paw. Batman had functioning shoulder musculature but Robin did not. Even though I knew that amputation
was the only reasonable treatment, I still wasn’t ready. I took them home for a few weeks of observation, love
and cuddles, hoping against hope there would be some improvement. Batman was able to hold his affected leg
up off the ground so he was already adept at walking 3-legged. Robin was unable to hold his affected leg up
because of the atrophy of his shoulder musculature. To walk or run, he had to bend down and push his right leg
forward, walking a bit like a crab. I consulted my vet in Pennsylvania; Cordelia consulted several of her vet
friends in the UK as well as various vets in Greece and the unanimous opinion was for amputation. At the
suggestion of a couple in Scotland who were interested in adopting Batman and Robin, I contacted the Bionic
Vet in the UK known for his miraculous interventions and procedures to avoid amputations. Sadly, even he recommended amputation. I cried buckets.

It was heartwarming to watch Chief with Batman and Robin. He played with them, cuddled with them, groomed
them and they all slept on the bed with me at night. I’ve never seen three cats meet each other for the first time
and get along so well. No hissing, no spitting, no fighting, no territorial disputes, just genuine affection.  
Sometimes they curled up so close to each other that they looked like one big, multi-colored cat with three
heads! While the three cats played, not a care in the world, I frantically scoured the Internet for information on
amputations in cats. I am a physical therapist by profession and have plenty of experience with human
amputations but none with cats. I didn’t know what to expect. I was concerned about post-operative pain and a
phenomenon called phantom pain that is common in humans. Finally, I found a fantastic article written by
Heather Laskey on, of all places, a website devoted to IBDKitties that is written by a wonderful woman, Lisa
Provost. Heather’s article took me through the entire procedure of dealing with an amputation, step-by-step, day-
by-day. I was so impressed that I wrote to Lisa and asked her to convey my
thanks to Heather for the wealth of valuable information her article contained. Both Lisa and Heather assured me
that Batman and Robin would be just fine with only 3 legs. (Bless them, they were right!).

On October 4, 2012, I took Batman and Robin to my vet for their surgery. I was a wreck. I cried for days before. I
cried at the vet’s clinic. Poor Christos, my amazing vet, had his hands full consoling me. You would have thought
I was the one having the amputation. I went home and cried some more. I called the clinic for updates every few
hours. Christos had told me they would stay at the clinic for three days. I couldn’t wait for three days to see them.
The day after the surgery, I sneaked over to the clinic when I knew the vets wouldn’t be there and one of the vet
techs took me back to see them. Batman was sleeping in the litter pan and though he was a bit wobbly, stood up
when he saw me. Robin was sleeping next to the litter pan. He looked up at me, glassy-eyed from the anesthesia
and pain medication, and I imagined that he smiled at me. I couldn’t believe how great they looked. I went home
and stopped crying! I was surprised and thrilled when Christos called the following day and said they were doing
so well they could come home a day early. I couldn’t get to the clinic fast enough; I broke speed limits and ran
yellow lights (neither of which is uncommon in Greece.) Another surprise, they had no bandages. I was
astonished at how fantastic their incisions looked. There wasn’t a trace of blood or drainage, no scabs and no
evidence of swelling.  
As soon as I put their recovery cage on the floor of the living room, Chief stretched out beside them and stayed
for more than an hour. I put on their onsies to keep their incisions clean and prevent excessive licking. I
purchased the smallest onsies I could find (0-3 months) but as you can imagine, even the smallest are too big for
kittens. I have to thank my dear friend, Lorraine, who patiently altered 6 onsies to fit Batman and Robin. You may
notice from the photos that they are inside out. That is to prevent any pressure from the seams against their skin.
During their first day home (post-op day 2), I kept the recovery cage, AKA the bat cave, in the living room so I
could see it wherever I was. Chief stayed right beside their cage, guarding them. I took them out and cuddled
them one at a time. I was afraid of hurting them though they did not appear to have any pain whatsoever. They
allowed me to touch the area around their incisions without the slightest indication of pain. Amazing!!! At night, I
put an old shower curtain on my bed and placed the bat cave on the bed with me. I will tell you that it’s because
they needed to be close to me at night but the truth is that I needed to be close to them and so did Chief.

Post-op day 3, Batman and Robin were very stressed at being confined in the cage. Chief and I were equally
stressed. Since I was working on the computer which is located in the living room, I decided to put a blanket on
the floor and close the living room off from the rest of the house so I could watch their every move. Their
movements were a little awkward at first. It was difficult for them to roll over but they kept rocking back and forth
until they finally got all the way over and were able to stand up and walk, even run a little. I didn’t even consider
leaving the house so I allowed them to stay out all day. Chief and I watched over them like mother hens! But at
night, I put them back in their bat cave on my bed. On day 4, I had to go to the grocery store and pet shop. They
may have lost a limb but they didn’t lose their appetites. They ate like little piggies which reassured me that they
must be feeling OK. They hated it but I had to put them back in the bat cave while I was out getting their gourmet
food. By now they were able to jump up on the sofa. Cats with an amputated foreleg can jump up very well but
have more difficulty jumping down because they are landing on only one leg. I wanted them on the sofa with me
so I surrounded the sofa with pillows to soften their landings. I was astonished at how playful they were. They
were already running. Batman had completely adapted to functioning on 3 legs. Robin, while totally independent,
was still hunching over when he walked and ran much as he did prior to the amputation. The shoulder
musculature did not appear to be atrophied so I thought this posture must be a result of habit.

Very early on the 6th morning, they rebelled. I awoke to a kerfuffle within the bat cave and found that one of the
dynamic duo had overturned the litter pan. (Thank heavens for the shower curtain on my bed!) Thus, on day 6,
the bat cave was retired and they had full run of the house. I placed pillows and duvets all around my bed just as
I had around the sofas. Every spare pillow and duvet was called into service. There are three steps that go from
the living areas in my home to the bedrooms. I was concerned about the steps as my floors are a rough-hewn
stone and very, very hard. I lined the steps with fluffy bathmats so that they wouldn’t injure their incisions coming
down the steps. I needn’t have bothered. They instinctively knew to be careful on the steps. They would run
toward them, slow down, descend with great care and then continue running. I, on the other hand, nearly ended
up on my butt because of the bathmats so I removed all but the one at the bottom of the steps. By post-op day 8,
they had figured out how to get out of their onesies…free at last!  We resumed a normal life, no restrictions. The
absorbable sutures were beginning to absorb. Robin was still hunching over when he walked, more so after a
lengthy game of tag with Batman and Chief. I started massaging his leg during our cuddle sessions hoping to
stimulate circulation.
Post-op day 9, they had a checkup at the vet and with the exception of a flare up of ear mites, passed with flying
colors. I looked back on my pre-operative apprehension, anxiety and emotional response to the amputations and
realized how much I had over-reacted. The amputations were much easier on Batman and Robin than they were
on me. An appeal went out to Nine Lives supporters to raise funds to help pay for Batman and Robin’s medical
expenses and transportation expenses to their new home overseas. The response was overwhelming.
Donations poured in from Greece, all over Europe/UK and the US. We received a huge donation from a very
kind couple in the Czech Republic. In the midst of a worldwide financial crisis, people were touched by Batman
and Robin’s story and gave more than enough to cover all of their expenses.

Post-op day 16 and Robin was still hunching over when he walked, though this posture didn’t affect his mobility
in the slightest. Sometimes he was able to walk more upright so I decided that perhaps the posture was because
of weakness. My attempts at getting him to do one-legged pushups were an abysmal failure. I tried holding his
back legs up to get him to walk on his foreleg only (like a wheelbarrow) but he only rolled over onto his side,
rolled his eyes up at me as if to say, “Are you kidding me, Mom?”. Day 18 and I thought that the absorbable
sutures should have been more absorbed by now. They looked a little raggedy and I had to resist the temptation
to give them a little tug. It’s possible that a few of them may have to be removed at our next visit to the vet. And it
seemed to me that there should be more evidence of hair regrowth. All along, the three cats had been playing
with their catnip mice and furry mice but today, I brought out the laser light and they loved it. I also noted that
chasing the laser made Robin use his foreleg a little more. It’s his preferred means of therapeutic exercise and
much easier for both of us. Only time will tell if it will strengthen his leg enough to allow him to walk more upright.
And if it doesn’t, then Robin will be a little hunchbacked.  

I am so blessed to have had the “Batman and Robin” experience. It has been a delight to watch their
personalities develop. Batman is the more confident of the two and quite a lover! He is more laid back. He eats
slowly and would prefer to eat a little, wait awhile and then eat a little more. Robin is the “baby”. He loves to
suckle the loose skin on my neck (of which there is plenty) and has given me a kitty hickey or two. (Try
explaining that to your friends!) He has a voracious appetite and cleans his dish like a vacuum cleaner and then
goes to finish Batman’s dish and Batman lets him…if Chief hasn’t already beaten him to it. They have enriched
my life immeasurably providing me with hours of entertainment with their hijinx and antics, showered me with
masses of their bat-love and reminded me what true unconditional love is. Arrangements are almost final for Fred
and Sandra to adopt Batman and Robin and the Batmobile is scheduled to depart for Scotland on November 23.  
It will be agony for Chief and me to let them go but we will console ourselves in the knowledge that they are
headed to their new home where cats reign supreme and they will be cherished.

My sincerest thanks go to Lisa and Heather for their continued support and extremely useful information; to
Cordelia and the Nine Lives volunteers who never wavered in their support; to my phenomenal vets, Christos
and Christiana; and to the many donors who gave so generously to make sure that Batman and Robin have a
very bright future in spite of their dreadful start in life. Thanks to Chief Crooked Tail who was their body guard,
their guardian angel and the best Bat-bother ever. And bless Fred and Sandra for opening their home and their
hearts to the Dynamic Duo!

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