Bionic cat Vito becomes 'superstar' with his prosthetic legs

image copyrightVituzzo Superstar/Instagram
image captionVito's latest Instagram post reads: "The whole press talks about me. But I remain humble"

A six-year-old cat has become an internet "superstar" as the first in Italy to receive two prosthetic hind legs following a serious road accident.

Vito, or Vituzzo, had both rear legs amputated after they were crushed by a vehicle in Milan while his owners were away on their honeymoon.

The couple, former basketball player Silvia Gottardi and her wife Linda Ronzoni, returned home immediately.

Vito's story has been widely shared with the hashtag #vituzzosuperstar.

His surgery to attach two prostheses by inserting them directly into his remaining upper leg bones has reportedly never before been achieved successfully in Italy.

image copyrightVituzzo Superstar/Facebook
image captionVito stands tall on his new hind legs following his pioneering surgery

Cats who face having both rear legs amputated in similar circumstances would often be euthanised.

Vito can now be seen wandering about his home again via his popular Instagram and Facebook accounts.

Owners Silvia and Linda also appear in a recent post captioned "family portrait".

They told the BBC that they were inspired by the British cat Oscar, who was the first to receive prosthetic legs following an accident involving a combine harvester.

What is Vito's story?

Vito comes from the small town of San Vito Lo Capo in north-western Sicily, the Vituzzo Superstar Facebook page says.

He belonged to Silvia's mother, but had to find a new home when she died and Silvia's father later started dating someone with a cat allergy.

Used to the outdoors, Vito was gifted a couple of cat flaps when he moved in with Silvia and Linda in Milan.

image copyrightVituzzo Superstar/Instagram
image captionRegular updates appear on Vito's Instagram and Facebook accounts

In July 2018, the pair were married. Their honeymoon was delayed until December because of work commitments, and Vito was cared for by a friend at their home while they were away.

This is when he suffered a terrible accident while out wandering the streets. He was missing for more than a day. When he was found, his injuries were so serious that one rear paw was immediately removed, but surgeons tried to save the other.

"[Vito has] lost a paw and risks losing the other, without which he couldn't live," Silvia and Linda wrote at the time. "We are far away, it is a terrible moment, but luckily we have beautiful people nearby who can take care of him."

image copyrightVituzzo Superstar/Facebook
image captionSilvia Gottardi (R) and Linda Ronzoni with Vito shortly after his accident

After it became clear that, due to infection, the second paw would have to be amputated, surgeons provided temporary "legs" for Vito, while getting to work on a permanent solution involving spring-loaded legs with joints - similar to those used by athletes.

The subsequent operation was a success, and after months of coming to terms with being a "bionic cat", Vito appeared to be getting on comfortably.

One year on, the now famous feline can be seen in videos walking the streets again and climbing cushions at home to reach a sofa.

On Monday, an article telling Vito's story by photographer Claudia Rocchini was shared on Vituzzo Superstar's page.

The story was picked up by local media and later widely reported across the country.

The latest comment on Vito's Instagram page reads: "The whole press talks about me. But I remain humble."

Silvia Gottardi is a former player of the women's premier national basketball league. She also played for a Welsh basketball team - the Coca-Cola Rhondda Rebels. Her partner Linda Ronzoni is a graphic designer and art director.

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