Every year our family fosters a few homeless mama cats and their kittens for the Humane Society — in general, a very rewarding and heartwarming experience, even with all the poop scooping. But our most recent fostering came with a traumatic twist. One of our tiny foster kittens, SmokeyBear, fell off our stair balcony (about 11 feet) and broke his leg.
SmokeyBear and his mama were in my bedroom and the door was ajar (my fault completely and I was absolutely sick about it) and they zoomed into the hallway playing…. I heard a loud thump, then his sharp cry and immediately I knew what happened. My stomach lurched as I ran downstairs and found him immobilized on the floor mewing pitifully. I instantly knew he was very hurt.
I whisked him to our vet and after x-rays, discovered he clean snapped his femur and it would need to be pinned. Since this was going to require expensive surgery to fix, the vet suggested I take him to the Humane Society where vet care is free for their foster animals.
However, the Humane Society has limited resources and they told me they did not have the equipment to pin his leg. So the only likely choices they had were amputation or euthanizing the poor little guy.
I thus called back my private vet and asked how much it would cost for the surgery to pin his leg. They said normally it is $1,800 to $2,200 but because I was a long-time client and SmokeyBear was a foster cat, the surgeon would do it for $1,200 to $1,600. With this surgery, Dr. Bybee told me SmokeyBear would most likely have FULL recovery of his leg in less than a month.
When my young daughters heard that euthanasia was being considered, they broke open their piggy banks, as did two of their friends and together they came up with $250 for the private vet surgery. I was so proud of them and said I would match their $250. A few other friends offered another $400.
About that time, the Humane Society called us back and said their vet had examined the x-rays and that there was now a 3rd option – do nothing.
Do nothing?! What? I was confused.
But then they explained that their vet was very confident that Smokeybear would make a full-recovery without any medical intervention. No surgery. No amputation. No splint. No meds. Kittens, he said, have a near miraculous ability to fully heal broken limbs. He said he has seen this near miracle over and over again in his career as vet. Because newborn kittens are so light and they grow so fast, clean breaks left alone heal very effectively. (For the record, the same is not true for crushed bones).
So we picked up SmokeyBear and brought him home. He was groggy on pain meds that first day and his back leg dangled grotesquely, but we put our trust in the vet that this was the right path to follow.
Astonishingly, within a few days he was bearing weight on the leg and within a week, he was RUNNING! Yes, seriously. If I had not witnessed this myself, I would indeed have a hard time believing it.
So now with this traumatic experience behind us, we can vouch for a vet that says do nothing for a kitten with a broken leg. Not only was this the least expensive option (free after the x-ray), it was non-invasive, SmokeyBear was quickly reunited with his mother and her comforting milk and we watched firsthand the miraculous ability of a body to heal.
We have fostered many kittens and SmokeyBear was an extra special kitten. Not only was he cute as a button with his soft grey fur and grey button nose, but his personality was irresistibly charming and spunky. We are thus delighted to report that within a month he recovered the full use of his leg and soon after that he found his forever home.
Next page – See Smokey Bear playing two weeks after breaking his leg. Can you even tell which hind leg he broke?