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Clueless When It Comes to Cat Tail Injuries? Here’s What to Do

a cat with a fluffy tail

There are a number of possible causes anytime your cat seems to be experiencing discomfort with their tail. The various tail afflictions are easy to identify if you know what to look for. Once you identify what the problem is with your cat’s tail you can treat it accordingly. This post will help you do that by covering: 

  • How to recognize a cat tail injury
  • Bites and cuts
  • Dislocation and fracture/break
An orange cat with a healthy tail lays outside.
It’s important to treat a cat tail injury quickly because cats use their tails for balance (and sometimes letting you know they’re mad). 

How to Recognize a Cat Tail Injury

Symptoms of a Cat Tail Injury

If your cat is dealing with a cat tail injury there are some things you can look for.

  • Tail position. If your cat’s tail looks more limp than usual that could be a sign of a cat tail injury. Cat’s rely on their tails for balance, so it probably isn’t normal for you to see your cat leaving their tail hanging limp all the time. 
  • Tail movement. Similar to tail position, it is generally unusual for a cat to keep their tail stiff. If your cat’s tail is holding still and you’re used to seeing your cat’s tail curl, flick, and sway all over the place you might want to check for a tail injury. 
  • Hair loss. Shedding hair is normal for a cat, but if you’re noticing unexpected hair loss on your cat’s tail that could be a sign of an injury or infection. 
  • Bleeding. If you can see blood on or around your cat’s tail that’s a definite sign your cat has an injury. Try to locate the source of the blood and figure out how severe the wound is. 
  • Swelling. Swelling on your cat’s tail might be hard to recognize (depending on how fluffy your cat’s tail is) but it’s a good thing to look for if you already suspect a cat tail injury. 
  • Bowel control issues. Lots of accidents outside the litter box could point to a cat tail injury because of the complicated system of muscles and nerves in and around the tail. 
  • Pain. When cats are in pain they often cry out, hide, or act aggressively. Your cat may be paying extra attention to the spot that hurts with pawing or licking. You know your cat’s normal behavior, so if your seems out of sorts to you it could be because they are in pain. 

Bites and Cuts on Your Cat’s Tail

Bites on a Cat Tail

Bites from other animals are common cat tail injuries. These bites could be from fights with other cats or from your cat running away after an encounter with another toothy animal. 

Bite wounds, even small ones, are at a high risk for infection so it’s extremely important to keep the wound cleaned. It’s a good idea to bring your cat to the veterinarian after a bite so they can get the wound thoroughly cleaned and determine whether or not your cat needs antibiotics to prevent infection. You’ll also need to continue to clean the wound at home. 

Make sure your cat is up to date with rabies vaccinations, especially if your cat spends a lot of time outside. You don’t want to worry about rabies as well as wound care and infection risk every time your outside cat gets bitten. 

Self Inflicted Bites on a Cat Tail

Your cat might be biting its own tail as a result of fleas, allergies, or stress. Itchy, irritated skin is a common cause of a cat biting itself. The solution to this type of tail injury is to solve the source of the biting. 

Comb through your cat’s hair carefully to look for fleas and start flea medication if you find them. If your cat has itchy and irritated skin but no fleas you might have identified an allergic reaction. Things like a change in food, cleaning products, and plants can all cause allergies in cats. 

If stress is causing your cat to chew on its tail try to figure out what change in your cat’s life might be causing increased stress. Something as small as a moved piece of furniture could trigger a stress response from your cat.

While you figure out why your cat has self inflicted tail wounds, take care of the bites as you would a bite from another animal. A visit to the veterinarian is a good idea and you should always keep the bites clean. If your cat won’t stop biting its tail, you may need to get a cone from the veterinarian. 

Abrasions on a Cat Tail

Minor cuts are easy to take care of at home as long as you can keep the injury clean to avoid infections. Clean the wound gently using cloth or gauze. Hydrogen peroxide is a good disinfectant for keeping the wounds clean. You can help your cat’s tail heal faster with a first aid spray

A fluffy cat with a healthy tail walks on a stone ledge.
An especially fluffy tail can make it harder to spot a cat tail injury, but with a little examination you’ll be able to identify and treat a cat tail injury. 

Dislocation and Fracture/Break

Cat Tail Dislocation

Another possible cat tail injury is a dislocated tail. When a cat’s tail is pulled, caught in something, stepped on, or run over it’s possible for the tail to be dislocated. This means the vertebrae that connects the tail to the rest of the spine at the lower back slips out. When this happens it stretches the connective tissue supporting the tail. 

If you think your cat’s tail is dislocated you should take your cat to the veterinarian. A dislocated tail can heal on its own, but severe dislocations can result in nerve damage.

Your veterinarian will treat the tail and might give your cat anti-inflammatory and pain medication. Cats cannot take the same pain medications as you, so talk to your veterinarian about what to give your cat for pain.  

Cat Tail Fractures and Breaks

A cat’s tail can break because of any of the things that cause dislocation. Falling is also a common cause of a broken cat tail. 

Since one or more of the vertebrae in the tail fractures or breaks a broken cat tail can look kinked or limp. If you think your cat’s tail is broken you should take your cat to the veterinarian. Your veterinarian can see a break or fracture using an x-ray and treat the break in the same way they treat a dislocated tail. 

Nerve Damage from Tail Dislocations and Breaks

The risk of nerve damage from a broken tail is higher than from a dislocated tail. Nerve damage at the end of the tail causes pain and nerve damage at the base of the tail causes paralysis. If your cat’s nerves are simply stretched they can heal on their own in about 6 months. 

More severe nerve damage can cause incontinence and lameness in the hind legs. If this is the case your veterinarian may decide to amputate the tail in order to solve the problem. 

A black cat with a healthy tail stretches outside.
Paying attention to your cat’s wellbeing and providing treatment for cat tail injuries will help them heal quickly. 

If you think your cat has a tail injury examine the tail for signs of a wound, dislocation, or fracture. Keeping injuries clean and contacting your vet will allow your cat to heal without complications. 

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