The signs your cat may have a broken tail

Is a broken tail serious?

Keeping our cats safe is without a shadow of a doubt pet parent priority number one.

Unfortunately, we can’t be with them every second of the day. And given their penchant for seeking out adventure, the occasional accident never seems too far away.

Cat injuries come in all shapes and sizes, but the one part of their body that is probably most susceptible to harm is their tail. 

Fractured tails can be caused by a wide variety of accidents, from getting hit by a car, to falling off a piece of furniture, to getting it trapped in a door.

Cats’ tails comprise a number of different bones, decreasing in size as they move from the base to the tip. 

The further down the fracture – i.e. the nearer to the base – the more serious the injury as this increases the risk of damage to the nerves or blood vessels. 

What are the signs of a broken tail?

  • The tail has gone limp. Cats are incredibly expressive animals. They can let us know how they are feeling through their ears, eyes, verbalisations, even their tails. You will often see your cat’s tail whipping back and forth, or held in an upright, firm position. If that hasn’t been the case for a while, and instead they seem to be dragging it around behind them, this could be a sign it’s broken.
  • Your cat reacts in pain upon touching their tail. A cat’s tail is already highly sensitive, due to the many ligaments, tendons and muscles found there. Injury only heightens this sensitivity, meaning further inspection will most likely result in flinching or an irritated meow. Try to avoid moving the tail, as it may cause further pain or damage. If you do need to touch it, do so very carefully.
  • You can see your cat is having issues with their back legs. Has your feline suddenly started walking differently? If your cat has picked up an injury towards the base of their tail, they may have trouble moving their back legs. You may see them limping, walking unevenly or losing balance. A broken tail often also prevents cats from jumping or relaxing in their favourite high spots.
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control. Cats with a broken tail can sometimes lose control of their bladder or bowel, so be on the lookout for accidents around the house. These types of physical signs tend to be easier to spot, but be aware of any sudden behavioural changes as well. Cat’s in pain or discomfort often tend to be more aggressive, and may also spend a large portion of their time hiding. 

Is an operation required to fix a broken tail?

Fractured tails can heal without any treatment, but this all depends on the location and the severity of the break.  

A fracture located towards the tip of the tail is less likely to require medical attention. However, if the bones have been crushed, then part of the tail may need to be amputated, and you should contact a vet immediately. 

Likewise if the fracture has occurred near to the base of the tail. These injuries are often more serious as they can involve nerve or blood vessel damage.

How long does a broken tail take to heal?

The length of time it takes for a fractured tail to heal will depend on the severity of the break. Some can heal without need for treatment in a matter of weeks, whereas others can take up to six months following surgery.

If you’re unsure about the recovery time, speak to your vet. While your cat is healing, make sure they are comfortable and give them as long as they need to return to full health. If your cat’s tail needs to be amputated, it may take them time to adjust, but their ability to enjoy a full active life will not suffer long term.

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