Cats frequently get into mischief, whether they live inside, outside, or go back and forth. It’s not surprising then that cats can end up with a variety of injuries, including damage to the tail. If your cat comes home and will not lift his tail or if seems bent or broken, your cat may have a tail injury or even a broken tail. You may even see an open wound, blood or bone. Cats most commonly damage their tails from crushing (an item falling on it or door closing on it), pulling (getting stuck then the cat tries to run away, young children, abusers), or both. Once you’ve determined whether the cat’s tail is broken, learn to care for the cat during the healing period.
EditDetermining if the Cat’s Tail is Broken
- Watch your cat’s behavior. Your cat’s changed behavior might be one of the first signs you notice that alerts you to a tail injury. Your cat may begin dragging his tail or keeping it low to the ground all the time, dribbling urine randomly, or diarrhea. Your cat may begin walking unevenly or lose coordination with his back legs.
- Dribbling urine and having diarrhea are not symptoms of a broken tail on their own. If the tail injury was severe enough to cause these signs, the cat will definitely be dragging the tail.
- Examine the cat’s tail for injury. Gently feel along the length of the tail. Signs of injury or break include tender, swollen or bent areas. If you notice redness, tenderness, and swelling with fluid underneath, there may be an abscess, or pocket of pus, forming on your cat’s tail. If there is exposed bone or if the skin has been stripped from the tail leaving only bone this is called a ‘degloving’ injury.
- If you happen to notice a hard, non-painful kink in your cat’s tail, it’s probably because he was born with the kink in the tail or it’s an old, already healed injury.
- Never pull or try to remove a severed portion of tail since there are tough tendons and sensitive nerves. If you pull or stretch the tendons, you’ll damage the use of the tail, hind limbs, bladder and bowel functions. It may also cause arterial bleeding, which is difficult to control and potentially life-threatening for your cat.
- Take your cat to the vet if you suspect a tail injury. The vet can address the injury without additional damage to the tail. Your cat may need a partial or full amputation of his tail if he has a degloving injury, deep cut, or if his tail is deeply or mostly severed. Your vet can also prescribe antibiotics to prevent infection which is highly likely with any open wound. Even if there are no external wounds, the vet can check your cat for other injuries. The vet may find neurologic damage from the tail being pulled during the accident.
- The vet will examine the tail for signs of physical or neurological damage. If the vet suspects nerve damage, your cat may have an electromyogram test. Anal sphincter and tail muscles are tested for nerve input. This lets the vet know if the tail will be able to recover.
- Your cat may still be in pain when you bring him to the vet’s office. Stay close to him and speak in gentle comforting tones. You may want to loosely wrap your cat in a towel and place him in his carrier when you bring him to the vet’s. This will calm him.
- Understand treatments. Depending on where and how the tail is injured, your veterinarian will determine surgery or another treatment. If the tail is paralyzed, but your cat can still walk, the vet will probably amputate the tail. If the end of the tail has a break that’s not causing problems for your cat, the vet may tell you to let it heal on its own.
- Your cat may need to stay at the veterinarian’s for a few days to either rest and heal, or to determine the extent of the damage to the tail.
- If your cat’s tail must be amputated, don’t worry. It may take him a while to adjust to the lack of nerve sensation and change in balance. But, your cat will adapt to the change and his mobility won’t suffer in the long run.
EditCaring For the Cat
- Allow your cat to rest in a quiet space. Keep the cat inside to let him rest and prevent further trauma to his injuries. Try putting your cat in a small room (like a bedroom, bathroom, or laundry room). This way, you can easily find him, check on the injury, and administer medications.
- Cats that are sick or injured often prefer to be away from children, other pets and a lot of noise or activity.
- Monitor your cat’s habits. You’ll need to pay attention to your cat’s appetite, water intake and litter box habits. Tail injuries can sometimes affect bladder or bowel functions. If your cat is leaking urine or feces or not urinating or defecating at all, he could have nerve damage affecting these functions.
- If you notice these problems continuing, talk to your vet. The vet may need to test your cat’s urine for infection and adjust any medications.
- Give your cat medication. It’s easiest to remember if you give medications on a schedule. You’ll probably need to give antibiotics to prevent infections for any open wounds. Only give pain medication if your vet instructs you and gives a prescription. Never give over-the-counter pain medications.
- Many of these, like aspirin, or tylenol, are very dangerous to give to cats. They can have severe, even fatal, side effects in cats.
- Keep any wounds or incisions clean. Check the wound at least once a day. Your cat may soil himself with urine or feces since it may be too painful to lift his tail or if there’s nerve damage. Sometimes wounds will have crusted blood, discharge, hair, litter, or other debris stuck to or around them. You may need to clean the wounds gently with lukewarm water or very diluted betadine or chlorhexidine solutions, and some gauze or a washcloth. Tail wounds usually don’t need to be bandaged.
- Don’t use soap and peroxide since they’re irritating and damaging to tissues. If you see dry scabs, remember that they’re good and don’t scrub or pull them off.
- Watch for infection. Whether or not you take your cat to the vet you will want to monitor the injury (or surgery) site very carefully. Don’t let your cat lick any wounds. While there are some compounds in saliva that can help heal wounds, excessive licking can irritate the skin and bacteria from the mouth can cause serious infections. Signs of infected wounds are redness, warmth, swelling, and discharge that is white, green or yellow in color.
- You may want to keep an Elizabethan type collar on your cat to keep him from licking the injury. It could take up to 2-3 weeks for a tail fracture to heal, depending on the severity of the injury. Note that it may not heal perfectly, leaving a kink in the tail, but there should be no pain. All open wounds should also close up.
- Your cat may have other injuries from the same incident. Cats whose tails are caught in doors may also strain their back legs trying to get free. Cats whose tails are pulled off instead of cut may have nerve damage that impairs their bowel functions.
- Only follow this guide if your cat has a new kink in his tail. Some breeds of cats have naturally kinked tails which are not broken and will not need to be treated.
- Take Care of a Kitten with a Broken Leg
EditSources and Citations
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