A Cautionary Tail

A Cautionary Tail

(Warning, this post is graphic with a single image below. Please be prepared.)

Last week, we had an appointment that had come straight from the emergency clinic.   The cat presented to the emergency clinic because the owner had accidentally closed a door on the cat’s tail.  The cat got scared when the tail got closed in the door and the cat fled the scene.   Well, about 99% of the cat fled the scene.  The portion of the tail that got caught in the door remained on the other side of the door!

We call these “degloving” injuries, and they are not a pretty sight.   

As you can see below.


Fortunately, these are easy to fix.  As we know from Manx, Japanese bobtails, and Pixie-bobs, cats do not need all of their tail, or any tail at all, for that matter.  It’s nice to have a cat with a tail, though, because cats often express their feelings with their tail, and having a cat with a tail allows us to read our cats a little better.  (My cat Crispy has no tail, and no ears.  She’s very vocal, though, so she’s pretty easy to read. )  Anyway, I admitted the cat to our hospital and took it to surgery right away.

Amputating a tail isn’t difficult, but there’s a little art involved.  You have to make sure that when taking off the damaged piece of tail, you leave enough skin so that there’s no tension at the tip.  Too much pressure on the tip can cause the skin on the end to not heal properly, and the bone will poke through, necessitating a second surgery and removal of an additional tail vertebra.  So, I made sure I had plenty of skin to cover the tail tip. 

Another thing I learned from experience, is that the tail tip seems to heal better if you use suture material that is one degree thinner than you might initially consider using.  Several years ago, while working at another hospital, I was amputating a cat’s tail, and we had run out of the size of suture material I had initially wanted.  I ended up using a thinner suture material, and the tail came out beautiful.  So that’s how I've done them ever since. 

After the surgery, you have to prevent the cat from chewing out the sutures.  This can be accomplished in two ways.  We can fit the cat with an Elizabethan collar, which cats hate. Or we can bandage the tip of the tail, which cats also hate.  I leave the choice up to the owner.  For this cat, we used an Elizabethan collar. 

A few days ago, the cat came in for suture removal.  As you can see below, the tail is lookin’ pretty good.

So, before closing any doors, make sure your kitty isn’t hovering around your feet.