Accidents happen — and sometimes, when a cat gets into an accident, injuries follow. As a pet parent, you’ll want to know how to treat a cat-tail injury.
But before we get into the most common injuries, let’s first get a little more familiar with the tail. The tail is made up of many small vertebrae, ligaments, tendons, and nerve bundles. The first vertebra of the tail connects to the sacrum, a special backbone. The spinal cord ends inches above the sacrum, but nerve endings extend down and through the tail. These nerve endings are responsible for feeling and control in the hind legs, as well as the bladder, large intestine, and anal muscles.
Now that you’re more familiar with a cat’s tail, here are 7 common cat tail injuries — including their causes and treatments:
Wounds and Burns
Whether your cat has sustained a bite to the tail during a fight, caught and cut its tail in a fence, or suffered a burn while exploring near a hot stove, it needs to be treated, and properly.
When treating any type of tail injury, you should first bring your cat to a familiar space that will put them at ease. If it’s a cut you treating, the next step is to apply pressure with a sterile piece of gauze; this will help slow or stop any bleeding. Then clean the area with antibacterial soap and cover it with a bandage. A scratch is a scratch, but a cut should be brought to your veterinarian's attention. He or she can gauge the severity of the injury and whether or not antibiotics, pain medication, or stitches are needed.
As for bites, call your vet right away. Cat bites, due to bacteria in feline saliva, can often lead to a bigger health issue, such as viral infection. Before you head out the door for emergency care, gently clean the area with antibacterial soap, bandage the wound, and your vet will take it from there.
Burns also call for an immediate trip to the vet. If it’s a thermal burn, caused by heat or fire, apply a cold compress and keep it in place while en route. If it’s a chemical burn, flush the area with water first.
Abscesses are actually quite common when it comes to tail injuries, typically from a cat bite or scratch. Abscesses form when bacteria from under another cat’s nails or within their saliva festers under the skin at the site of a wound and swells into a pus-filled lump.
If the infection is left untreated it could become serious. So for initial at-home treatment, clip any hair around the abscess and apply a hot, moist compress; this will begin the draining process. You’ll need to apply the compress two to three times a day for 20 minutes until completely drained, as well as clean the area with antibacterial soap and hydrogen peroxide. If you do not see improvement within three days bring your cat to the vet -- the abscess may have already become more serious and antibiotics or additional treatment may be needed.
Common causes of tail dislocation include the tail being stepped on, pulled (often by small children), caught in a door, run over by a bike or car, or yanked during a scuffle with another animal. A dislocation occurs when the vertebrae connecting the tail to the lower back slip out of place and the connective tissue that supports the tail stretches.
Your vet will need to treat this injury and they are most likely to prescribe anti-inflammatory and pain medications. The injury may heal on its own, but if it is severe — involving nerve damage — there is a chance amputation may be suggested.
Fractures and Breaks
Common causes of fractures and breaks are similar to what can cause dislocations. However, falls are actually the leading cause of tail fractures and breaks in cats.
When one of the many vertebrae that comprise the tail is fractured or broken, a kinked or drooping tail may be the only sign to the untrained eye. But your vet will know, especially with the help of an x-ray. From there the treatment will be similar to that of dislocations. The likelihood of nerve damage occurring is higher with a fracture or break through, which could cause a variety of other health issues.
Nerve damage can be caused by any and all of the injuries listed above. Damage can occur in just the tip of the tail, resulting in constant pain, or to the base of the tail, resulting in paralysis. It all depends on whether or not the cauda equina nerves have been stretched or torn.
Stretched nerves can heal on their own, typically within six months. But if the nerve damage causes lameness in the hind legs and/or urinary and fecal incontinence, your vet will likely recommend amputation as the best treatment.
While the above can be found to be beneficial for your cats, if you want to delve a little deeper into this aspect the below information can be found to be really helpful for you.
Treating a Cat's tail Injury
Cat injuries range from superficial cuts to life-threatening severe wounds. The cat's tail is a vulnerable part of the cat, and it is important for you the owner- to know how to treat a tail injury. The tail is made of multiple small vertebrae, tendons, nerve bundles, and ligaments. The tail's first vertebra links to the sacrum. This is a special kind of backbone. The cat's spinal cord finishes a few inches above the sacrum. The nerve endings extend down and then through the animal's tail. The nerve endings transfer control and feeling in the feline's hind legs. It also sends impulses to the bladder, anal muscles, and large intestine.
The cat must be comfortable.
Your cat could be injured on its tail due to many reasons. The most common cause is a fight between two cats. Other reasons include the tail being caught and cut in any fence. The appendage could also suffer a burn due to proximity to a hot stove. Whatever the reason, it must be appropriately treated.
Take the cat to its familiar place to treat the injury. This will put the feline at ease. If the cat has a cut, the first step is to take a piece of sterile gauze and apply pressure on the wound. This will stop or slow any bleeding. The area should then be cleaned with quality antibacterial soap. Use a bandage to cover it. Even though it is a simple cut, take the cat to the veterinarian. Only a medical professional could understand the severity of that specific injury. The veterinarian will decide whether pain medication or antibiotics should be given to the cat.
Bites and abscesses
Take the cat to the veterinarian right then if your cat's tail has been bitten. Cat bites have bacteria present in feline saliva and could lead to serious medical issues. As noted above, take an antibacterial soap and clean the area. After the wound is clean, bandage the wound. Your veterinarian will do the rest. If the injury is caused by fire or heat, or in medical terms, a thermal burn, apply a cold compress and keep it there when you take your cat to the veterinarian. In the case of a chemical burn, flush the area with water. Abscesses are quite a typical kind of tail injury. These occur due to a cat scratching or biting another cat. An abscess occurs when the bacteria from the other cat's nail or the saliva festers below the skin at the wound site. It then bloats into a horrible-looking pus-filled lump. The infection could become a life-threatening one if left untreated. Take the cat to the veterinarian immediately. There could be a need for antibiotics and even additional treatment.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you treat an injured cat's tail?
If a cat's tail is injured, it is important to determine the extent of the injury and whether or not it is serious enough to require veterinary attention. If the injury is minor, such as a small cut or bruise, it can be treated at home with cleaning and bandaging. If the injury is more severe, such as a broken or dislocated tail, it is important to take the cat to a veterinarian as soon as possible for proper treatment. The veterinarian may need to splint or cast the tail or, in some cases, may even need to amputate the tail.
How do you know if a cat's tail is broken?
To determine if a cat's tail is broken, one should look for signs of sudden and severe pain when the tail is touched or moved, swelling and/or bruising around the tail, a visible deformity or misalignment in the tail, lack of movement or ability to control the tail, blood or discharge coming from the tail, or a "popping" sound at the time of injury. A broken tail can also be accompanied by other injuries, such as a spinal injury, so it's essential to consult with a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.
How long does a cat tail injury take to heal?
The length of time it takes for a cat's tail injury to heal can vary depending on the severity of the injury. For minor injuries, such as a small cut or bruise, healing can take just a few days to a week. For more severe injuries, such as a broken or dislocated tail, healing can take several weeks to a couple of months. In some cases, the tail may never fully regain its original function. The healing time may vary depending on the cat's overall health, age, and overall treatment. If your cat has any other health issues, it may take longer for the injury to heal. And also, proper care and follow-ups with the vet are crucial for the healing process to go smoothly. It is important to keep the cat confined and limit their movement during the healing process, and to follow the veterinarian's instructions for proper care, which may include bandaging, splinting, or medication.
Can a dislocated cat's tail heal on its own?
A dislocated cat's tail is a serious injury that typically requires veterinary attention. While some minor dislocations may be able to be treated at home, most dislocations will require reduction (putting the tail back into its proper place) and immobilization (usually with a splint or cast) to allow for proper healing. It is not recommended to try and reduce the dislocation on your own, as it can cause further injury. If left untreated, a dislocated tail can lead to permanent damage, including nerve damage, loss of muscle control, and even amputation.
Can a cat move its tail if it's broken?
If a cat's tail is broken, it may be difficult or impossible for the cat to move the tail. A broken tail is a serious injury that can cause pain, swelling, and loss of muscle control. Some cats may still have some movement in their tail, but it is usually limited and usually accompanied by pain. It is important to take a cat to a veterinarian as soon as possible if you suspect that its tail is broken, as the injury may also be accompanied by other injuries, such as a spinal injury, which can be serious and require immediate attention. The veterinarian will perform a physical examination, take X-rays, and recommend other diagnostic tests to confirm the diagnosis and determine the extent of the injury. They may also recommend treatment options such as splinting, casting, or even surgery, depending on the severity of the injury.
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This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis, or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.