Whether it is wrapped comfortably around him at rest or flicking anxiously as he waits for food, a cat’s tail is frequently inseparable from his personality. Teri Skadron, a veterinarian at West St. Paul, Minnesota’s Skadron Animal Hospital, asserts that “a cat’s tail has several roles.” She points out that tails are employed for self-expression, communication, balance, and warmth.
These factors make it crucial for cat owners to prevent infections and injuries to their cats’ tails. Fortunately, tail injuries in cats are not very common, according to Heather DiGiacomo, a veterinarian and the proprietor of Newtown Square Veterinary Hospital in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania. According to her, “outdoor cats are more vulnerable, thus keeping cats indoors can significantly lower the occurrence of tail injuries.”
If you can’t stop Felix from going outside to explore, it will help to be aware of the risks. We’ve developed a list of frequent cat tail injuries with the assistance of our specialists so you can best avoid and treat them and maintain the healthiest possible condition for that expressive appendage.
Do cats’ tails fall off?
So is it possible for a cat’s tail to fall off? Although it’s possible for a cat’s tail to fall off if it gets infected and isn’t treated, it’s pretty unlikely. The more common reason for cats not having a tail is injury or amputation. Some cat breeds, like the American Bobtail Cat, naturally don’t have a tail at all. So just because a cat doesn’t have a tail doesn’t mean it fell off.
Common Cat Tail Injuries
Bite wounds are among the most frequent cat tail injuries seen in DiGiacomo’s practice, she notes. “This probably occurs when the cat is fleeing and the other animal hooks on to the tail,” says DiGiacomo. Skadron underlines that more serious issues can develop even if the bite wound is little and has a good chance of healing on its own. Making sure the wound doesn’t become infected is crucial, she asserts. “Redness, heat, pain, and inflammation are symptoms of infection.”
It’s best to have a cat with a sizable bite wound treated by a veterinarian in order to reduce the risk of infection. DiGiacomo explains that veterinarians may frequently sedate a cat with a significant wound in order to completely “flush” the area. The cat will next probably be given antibiotics and perhaps painkillers. Skadron adds that pet owners might need to clean the tail at home to avoid infection, depending on the circumstances. To avoid fly larvae developing in wounds, outdoor cats should be kept indoors while recovering. Keep your pet’s rabies vaccines up to date due to the significant risk of cat fights among outdoor cats.
It’s probably good to keep your cat at home and keep an eye on her recovery if she has a little abrasion, such as a scratch or small cut. Owners can use hydrogen peroxide to clean minor wounds or abrasions, advises Skadron. Use a clean cloth or piece of gauze while cleaning, and try to be as gentle as you can. The wound should heal in due course with little to no therapy if it isn’t too bad. Skadron cautions that it’s crucial to keep an eye out for any infections or unusual tail holding or movement. It is important to have a specialist examine you because this behavior may point to a more serious injury.
While some skin infections are caused by the trauma types discussed above, such as an untreated animal bite wound, the most frequent causes are flea bites or allergic reactions. Regardless of the cause, it is advisable to talk to your veterinarian about treatment options if the skin becomes inflamed, red, and itchy. According to DiGiacomo, treating the fleas is necessary to get rid of the condition’s main trigger in cats with flea dermatitis. Many of these cats may also require steroids to aid with their intense scratching, and perhaps antibiotics if they have a secondary skin infection. This issue in cats can be avoided by administering flea preventive medicine year-round to pets.
Additionally, DiGiacomo warns against using over-the-counter ointments to treat your cat’s skin ailment at home. Because most cats would lick and absorb the topical drug, she advises against using antibiotic creams and ointments on felines.
Fracture or dislocation
According to Skadron, trauma such as being struck by a car or accidentally having the tail locked in a door frequently results in tail fractures and dislocations. Sometimes signs of this kind of injury, like a drooping tail, make it simple to detect. To find a fracture or dislocation, a veterinarian may need to take an x-ray because these wounds are not as evident as bite wounds.
Minor tail fractures frequently heal on their own, but more severe wounds may necessitate an amputation, according to Skadron. Although it may sound frightening, she says most cats “do just fine” following surgery and are surprisingly adaptable and functional without a tail.
Your cat may suffer from a degloving injury if he or she is hit or dragged by a car, despite the fact that it is less often than other injuries. According to Skadron, degloving occurs when “a significant portion of skin is pulled away from the underlying tissue on the tail.” These wounds may be very dangerous, and a veterinarian should treat them right away. Skin, tissue, muscle, and even bone can be ripped away by friction, and debris and bacteria can become entrenched in the wound, leading to infection, according to an article on treating degloving injuries from the peer-reviewed journal Clinician’s Brief.
These causes make degloving wounds in cats frequently necessitate surgery. According to Skadron, the treatment for a degloving injury typically involves amputating the tail up to the point of normal tissue.
“Fan Belt” injuries
DiGiacomo adds, “I’ve also seen a lot of cats with what we refer to as “fan belt” injuries.” This occurs when a cat seeks for the warmth of a newly parked car engine in cold weather. “The tail can become stuck and pushed into the running car engine when the motor is restarted.” Damage to the nerves and tail paralysis are possible outcomes of this kind of injury. What’s more alarming is that “this can occasionally harm the nerves that supply the bladder, so the cat may be unable to urinate,” according to DiGiacomo.
Tail amputation is the standard treatment for fan belt accidents. Seeking immediate veterinary care is essential, particularly if your cat is unable to pee. Fan belt injuries may cause permanent harm and may even result in death, in contrast to tail amputations, which are sometimes successful in restoring a cat’s bladder function.
Self-Mutilation of the Tail
Self-mutilation can also lead to cat tail injuries. DiGiacomo claims that stress, food allergies, and flea allergies can all be factors in this kind of injury. However, a disorder known as feline hyperesthesia syndrome may less frequently be to blame for self-mutilation of the tail, according to the expert.
According to DiGiacomo, feline hyperesthesia syndrome is a poorly known illness that causes cats to twitch or “roll” their skin and fur along their spines. The cat may get extremely uncomfortable as a result and “severely self-traumatize the skin.” She claims that gabapentin, a painkiller also used to treat seizures, is frequently utilized by veterinarians to treat this problem.
Similar to a skin infection, uncomplicated skin irritation-related self-mutilation can be treated with veterinarian-prescribed antibiotics and occasionally steroids. Additionally, you might need to use the tried-and-true “cone of shame” if you engage in any type of self-mutilation: “Sometimes an Elizabethan collar [is required] to prevent self-trauma until the skin heals,” DiGiacomo explains.