What do I do if my cat has a broken tail?

A cat's tail may be more flexible, but it's just like an arm or a leg in that it is made up of bones. And just like an arm or a leg, a cat can break its tail. This can happen in any number of ways. Pulling on it too hard (children sometimes do this), car accidents, slamming a door on it, dropping something on it, even rough cat fights - all these things can break a cat's tail.


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Because of the way the tail is constructed, the symptoms of a broken tail in a cat aren't going to be the same as what you think. In most cases, it won't look like a broken arm or leg where it is bent at a funny angle. A cat's tail is made up of a bunch of little vertebrae, kind of like your spine. It's very flexible, and breaking one of the bones may not make it look abnormal. However, you will see some symptoms, most of which will be associated with nerve damage.

First, the cat may drag the tail or not hold it high anymore. Second, it may not be able to walk correctly with its rear legs - you may notice a lack of coordination (the tail is used by the cat to balance itself). Third, the cat may have problems with urinating or excreting. It may dribble little drops of urine at random times. Fourth, part of the tail may be very sensitive to the touch - if the cat freaks out when you touch just one part of the tail, there may be a break.

Your vet will give your cat a radiograph or x-ray, which will show any breaks. The most important thing is looking for any nerve damage. Recovery can take up to six months for a full, complete recovery, but there is usually improvement within the first few weeks. However, if the cat has been damaged badly enough, there can be permanent problems with urination or excretion and they may be incontinent. Even if they aren't, sometimes cats will lose ability to control and move their tails freely. In this case, complete amputation of the cat's tail is sometimes recommended because the cat will soil itself and may cause further nerve damage by dragging the tail behind it.

Caring for your cat may just require you to watch it closely for any other problems. In most cases, there really isn't much to do - you can't "set" the tail like you would an arm. But you can watch the cat to make sure it doesn't aggravate things by biting its tail, and you can keep it indoors and away from any hazards that might injure it further.

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