“I think she has broken her tail!”
I hear this often enough. Cats quite regularly get issues with their tails, and sometimes it is a fracture, although just as often it might be a bad bruise or a bite wound.
I have a stuffed toy cat called ‘Pilchard’ who accompanies me when I talk to nursery school children about caring for animals. It’s stuffing has aged in the otherwise upright tail, causing it to sag over, just like a real cat’s might when it hurts. I bandage this up and pretend that I have mended it, as part of my chat.
If only real cats were as easy to mend!
I met Mitsi for the first time at only eight weeks of age, and there was obviously something wrong with her tail. It was sagging over, and she could not lift it upright in greeting.
I carefully examined her tail, testing to see if she felt any pain at the site of the injury and at its tip. I searched for blood and wounds, and clipped the fur away from the tip as well as the wounded area so that we could assess its blood supply.
Sadly, over the space of a week, it became clear that there was no blood reaching the end of Mitsi’s tail any more, and the skin there changed colour as it died. She was at risk of gangrene, which could ascend up to her body and cause far greater problems, so with tears in my eyes, I recommended tail amputation.
I think she was the youngest little individual whose tail I have ever had to operate upon. It affected me more deeply than I expected, and I had to keep reminding myself that cats adapt and do really well without a tail. One of the first cats I knew belonged to my aunt and was called ‘Pompom’ because she had lost her tail as a kitten.
Little Mitsi followed suit. She coped beautifully with a day in hospital and an anaesthetic. The young tend to heal well, and she was already used to not being aware of her tail, so she hardly seemed to miss it!