Image Credit: gem66
Doors, windows, and feet are all hazards to a cat’s tail, and they seem to get it caught on a regular basis. Usually, it happens as they run from room to room or flop on the floor in front of you without you noticing. The first thing heard is them screaming bloody murder and then you see the blur of fur running down the hall. Nine times out of ten a cat’s tail will survive these incidents with no lasting issue and they’ll be back to their normal attention seeking ways in no time. It is that one time that is more difficult as you find them later, and their tail is sitting at a funny angle. What do you do then?
What Is A Cat Tail?
A cat’s tail is not a cattail. Cattails are a type of reed found in wetlands, whereas a cat’s tail is an integral part of your furry feline companion.
A cat’s tail is usually 9-12 inches long and has 19-23 vertebrae. These bones are covered in 6 muscles on each side allowing for long, sweeping movements as well as those tip twitches when they are about to pounce. There are also plenty of nerves that run up the tail. The base of the tail connects to the spinal cord and houses the nerves which allow the cat to feel the entire back part of their body. It also houses the ones that control their bladder, large intestine and anus. This is one of the reasons why a broken tail can be a disastrous event for your feline.
What Role Does The Tail Play?
The cat’s tail primarily is used for communication. You can tell how your cat is feeling by their posture and what their tail is doing. When a cat is scared or startled, they will puff their tail up by having all the hair stand on end. Cats about to scratch will usually wag their tail in wide, jerky motions.
Another purpose would be for the balance. Cats use their tails to help them manage feats such as balancing on the top of your LCD screen as you are trying to get your work done, walking along window ledges or balancing before they leap. It also helps when they are making fast, tight turns so they don’t “wipe out.”
Signs Of A Tail Injury
If you think your cat’s tail has an injury, it is always better to be safe than sorry and to ask your veterinarian for their perspective and diagnosis. Some changes are very noticeable though, things such as a dragging tail, incontinence, and poor rear end coordination. These are all signs that something is not quite right with your cat’s tail. Other signs that you should have checked out as soon as possible are things such as blood appearing in the urine, no feeling in the tail or pain at the base of the tail.
Your veterinarian will want to examine your cat. Make sure you write down any symptoms you have noticed so you do not forget to mention them at the vet as these trips can often be quite stressful for both you and your cat. If your veterinarian feels the tail is broken, they will want to have x-rays taken of both the tail and the back end of the cat, in order to see how extensive the damage is.
There are multiple factors that determine treatment. Issues such as permanence, damage done, location of the damage and the overall health of your cat will all be taken into consideration.
Cats, who have only mild symptoms, should recover quickly without any cast. Putting a cast on a cat’s tail is next to impossible and will only stress the cat out further which can cause slow recovery and depression to set in.
Cats who display issues with moving the tail or issues with bladder leakage should recover with time and care. Cats who have issues with occasional bowel incontinence, lack of feeling or movement in the tail will need to have further testing done to determine how much nerve damage exists and what the prognosis for recovery is. These cats may require amputation.
Cats who have no ability to move or feel their tail and cannot control their bowel functions should see a veterinarian with neurology training to determine the extent of nerve damage. They should be able to tell you whether or not they feel there is any hope of recovery. Amputation is often recommended in cases where it does not look like the cat will ever regain control of their tail if only to prevent the tail from being continually soiled and sores forming from it dragging everywhere.
Unfortunately, nerve damage takes a long time to heal and even if the cat makes a full recovery you may be waiting for six months to a year to see the full potential. What is also unfortunate is that cats who have not regained full use of their tail by week two or bladder function by month two will probably never fully recover these things.