Frog-legged Kitten

Swimmer Kitten

Splay-legged Kitten

Kermit's Story

When I first became aware of this oddness with my kittens back legs, I searched and searched the internet looking for stories, solutions or a definitive diagnosis.  I found anecdotal discussions but little in the way of concrete medical information.  Thankfully I found one link of a breeder in the UK who had a similar story that told me what to do for my baby.  I'm leaving Kermit's page on the web, headed by several possible search terms, in hopes that another kitten owner one day will find their answer more easily and save a kitten from being euthanized or living as a cripple.


Kermit's story - at about 4 weeks of age I noticed something different between the two boys.  While his brother was walking perfectly normally, Kermit would lift up on his front legs and push along with his back legs off to the sides like a frog (hence the name ;-)  I looked all over the internet for information, found splay-legged syndrome in birds, swimmer syndrome in puppies and pigs, but neither condition described exactly the issue this boy seemed to have. I finally found a site that saved us! (the page is linked at the bottom of this story) The kitten shown on this page had the exact same problem and, like my boy, showed normal chest development and no lung impairment, just these flopped out rear legs.
(Swimmer puppies are often victims of
pectus excavatum and the front legs or all 4 legs are affected- the flattened chest wall may or may not have an affect on various internal organs as the puppies mature)

After the extensive research I've done and in consult with my vet, I have discovered that this odd condition, while very rare in kittens, is
and the kittens affected go on to have completely normal lives.


I had already started doing physical therapy with Kermit, massage and limb manipulation several times a day, lifting him lightly at the belly to encourage keeping his legs under his back end properly.  After seeing the pictures of this UK kitten, I got out the surgical tape and taped the back legs together just enough to keep them from splaying out to the sides.  In just a couple of days I saw vast improvement!  After a full week of having his legs tethered, he was walking almost completely normally, but I continued the manipulation therapy and encouraged running and playing on a carpeted surface where he could get good traction.

He was 5.5 weeks old when I put the tape on his back legs. I removed it altogether 8 days later.

Seeing the progress Kermit made in just two weeks was a great validation! It seems the leg muscles or ligaments in these babies somehow "forget" their job and just need to be reminded of what they're supposed to do. In my reading I found a number of folks who said their vet recommended putting the kitten down, that they would probably have residual health problems, but many folks (like me) couldn't bear the thought of euthanizing a kitten who was otherwise completely healthy without giving them every chance. These dedicated folks all testify that their "frog-legged kittens" have grown into normal healthy adult cats and have no problems at all.

Thank you Julia for permission to post the link that showed me how to "fix" this baby!  I'm sure it's saved a number of kittens over the years and I know Kermit and I are so glad you have that page on the internet!

I removed the tape after one week and the only time Kermit ever had any problems was occasionally on a slick floor (wood or vinyl) when he'd get excited in his running and his back legs would slide a little.  In his exam when Kermit was 7 weeks old, the vet suggested that running and playing on a good textured carpet was his best therapy at this point, that even though he was "moderately cow-hocked", in all other respects he showed perfectly normal kitten development.  As he was still so young, continued use of the legs and body in normal function would strengthen the muscles and ligaments and probably lessen the degree of cow-hocking.


2 weeks after tape removal:  Running, jumping, playing and climbing like any other kitten at this age!  He's a total joy and is going to make his new family very happy.


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