When one unfortunate cat wound up at a Bulgarian veterinary surgery, his options were slim. Vets debated over removing his broken legs or simply euthanizing him to put him out of his misery. Then one vet had a genius idea.
Pooh the cat lived in a little village near the Bulgarian city of Pleven. The furry animal was happy and healthy and was often out and about chasing mice. And although Pooh didn’t have a family, he was well known throughout the village, and people looked out for him.
So, back in April 2016, it didn’t take long for someone to notice Pooh had been involved in a terrible accident. A neighbor noticed the cat in his usual spot, but the poor animal’s back legs were crushed and ripped apart.
There was no clue as to what had happened to the feline. Some believed a train or a car had run Pooh over as he enjoyed his daily mouse hunt. What was certain, though, was that the animal needed attention – and fast.
Hence, one kind stranger took the cat to Central Vet Clinic in Bulgaria’s capital city, Sofia. The clinic is one of the leading providers of veterinarian care in southeast Europe. So, if anyone could help Pooh, they could.
When Pooh arrived at the clinic, surgeon Vladislav Zlatinov was the first to examine him. The cat was suffering from two badly infected open wounds. Furthermore, some of the animal’s bones were protruding from its skin.
Poor Pooh was in dire need. But the vets had very few options to help him. They could either amputate almost all of his hind legs or simply put him to sleep. In the case of the former, the feline was not going to have much of a life.
However, Zlatinov was unwilling to give up on Pooh just like that. It was then that he had a brainwave. He’d recently heard about the work of fellow vet Noel Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick is well known in the U.K. thanks to his ambitious animal surgeries performed on TV.
The Irish-born vet rose to prominence in 2009, when he worked with a cat called Oscar. The black cat had been caught up in a combine harvester and, as a result, lost his hind paws. However, Fitzpatrick was able to fit Oscar with permanent prosthetic implants which screwed directly into his ankle bones.
So, Zlatinov was curious whether a similar solution could be found for Pooh. “I had the vague idea that this is done, but it sounded impossible for our practice,” Zlatinov explained. “But I wanted to try.”
And try they did. First, Zlatinov conducted a number of operations on Pooh’s upper legs. The surgeon implanted a titanium stalk to the cat’s thigh. This would protrude out of the bottom of his leg and enable an external prosthesis to be attached.
However, the process was slow. Each leg would need around six or eight weeks to recover from the first round of surgery. After that, Zlatinov would add two bionic “socks” that would act as new feet. If all went well, Pooh would soon be able to walk once more.
And, thankfully, Pooh’s surgery went to plan. “He’s doing surprisingly well so far,” Zlatinov later revealed. “Pooh can move freely on flat surfaces. [He’s] walking, running, even making small jumps. For now, he can’t make bigger jumps. What’s important is that he doesn’t seem to be in pain.”
However, although Pooh now had the ability the ability to move, he wasn’t really taking advantage of his freedom. “He is just one lazy, fat boy,” Zlatinov said. “Eventually, he will be able to move freely… if he loses the fat belly, of course,” he joked.
But, for the most part, Pooh was still getting to grips with his new feet. It was promising that he hadn’t seemed to notice the difference between them and the rest of his body. “He grooms them and tries to keep them clean,” Zlatinov revealed.
If anything, Pooh’s new look has made him even more special. Indeed, he’s the first moggy in Eastern Europe to receive bionic back paws. Furthermore, the lucky cat was only the second to undergo the procedure in the whole of Europe.
“We’re very proud,” Zlatinov told Reuters in February 2017. “It was quite a success. It gives hope to other patients.” And, indeed, since Pooh’s surgery success, the skilled surgeon has fitted another paw on a kitten named Steven.
Meanwhile, vets decided not to send Pooh back to his old life on the streets. So, the Let’s Adopt! Bulgaria animal shelter stepped in to find the feline a new home. And it didn’t take long for the adoption offers to come flooding in.
The black and white kitty has countless fans on Facebook. One recent update shared on the Let’s Adopt! Bulgaria page received more than 8,000 reactions. “God bless the entire medical team helped the pooh,” read one kind comment. “And [wishing Pooh] a long and happy life filled with lots of love.”
So, while no animal should have to go through the things Pooh did, at least his terrible tale has a happy ending. Not only does he have new paws and a second lease of life, but he will also soon find a new home. And, anyone would be lucky to own a cat as special as him.