College Seniors Create a Prosthetic Cat Leg as Their Final Project

May 27, 2021, 11 a.m. ·

Cat with a prosthetic leg
Professor of veterinary medicine and biomedical sciences Dr. Beth Galles hired the students to create the prosthetic. Her cat Olive is now one of the owners of the creation. (Photo courtesy of Abby Smith)

This wasn’t what you would call a typical final project for college graduates. Five University of Nebraska-Lincoln students got an interesting assignment as part of their senior design capstone: build a prosthetic cat leg.

Recent graduate Abby Smith and four other biological systems engineering majors at UNL were given the not-so-ordinary project by a professor of veterinary science.

Although Smith said prosthetics for dogs aren't entirely uncommon, cat prosthetics have pretty much never been done before.

Cat walking across floor with prosthetic leg
Olive walks with a prosthetic leg, testing the students' work. (Photo courtesy of Abby Smith)

"For this project in terms of designing a cat prosthetic, it is unique in that there is really not a cat prosthetic market out there," Smith said. "Cats shouldn't normally need a prosthetic because they are normally nimble enough creatures where they can kind of adapt to an amputation.”

However, Smith said if a cat is overweight or has bone problems, an amputation could cause serious health complications. That’s where their prosthetic comes into play. Although Smith will most likely not be building more cat prosthetics in the future, she says she’ll take the unique project with her as a learning experience.

"I want to work with people directly one day and I think this was a very important project and we all learned a lot," Smith said. "You can design something super great, maybe it passes all the tests and looks good on paper, but it really comes back to the user experience.”

Smith said her client, and the cat, were happy and the project was a success.