Monday, May 21, 2018

Cat Tales

This past winter we friended a stray cat that was hanging out on our back deck. It's a little brown tabby that seems very friendly. We felt bad since it was so cold outside and we started to feed her. She has come by every morning for several months, she even hangs out with us when we're working outside. She's friendly and talkative, so I named her "Mia Meow". I don't know who she belongs to or what her story is, but we do know she had kittens. We couldn't find them. We also know that there's something wrong with her tail. I think the end is broken since it just kind of flops around, she can't hold it upright. Something like that is bound to happen, if not worse for outdoor cats. (I wrote about the dangers of caring for an outdoor cat.) Her tail got me thinking about cat tails.


Mia Meow standing guard over our back deck.

(Yes, we use litter pails for our vegetable garden. 
They aren't pretty but they work and you can move them if you need to.)



Mia Meow.

So what exactly do cat tails do? For starters, cat tails have up to 23 vertebre surrounded by muscles and nerves. It's how they can make it move in so many different positions.

 It helps with balance. When you see a cat walking across a narrow beam, their tail acts a a counterweight. That's also a factor in how they land on their feet.

The tail ~ especially in house cats ~ helps them communicate. Depending on the shape or how they move it, they are communicating with you. 

~A straight up tail means they are happy, when it's shaped like a question mark it means they are extra happy. 

~When they get a "puff" tail it means the total opposite of happy. They are threatened and angry and trying to make themselves look as big as possible.

~When you pet a cat and it starts swishing it's tail it means, I don't want you to pet me anymore. You can expect them to swat at you if you keep petting them.

~ When they whip their tail back and forth is might be accompanied with a growl. It means they are agitated and hunting their prey, so stay out of the way.

Tail injuries can affect the hind legs, bladder, intestines and cause chronic pain. It can give them the inability to walk, hold their tail upright, and incontinence. NEVER YANK ON A CAT'S TAIL, you can cause permanent damage.

Manx cats are born without tails, so it's possible for them to live without one!

I'm going to end this blog with a short tale about a short tail. About 5 years ago ~ to the day ~ I was sitting reading in bed on a Saturday afternoon after work and my cat Vicktor jumped on the bed. He made a sound I had never heard come from him before and blood started spurting from the tip of his tail ~ it was like a sprinkler. I jumped up out of bed and threw him in the bathroom and closed the door, ran outside and grabbed Andrew, my husband, who was mowing the lawn, grabbed Vicktor's cat carrier with spraying Vicktor in it and off the the emergency vet we went. It was scary. You could see bone at the end of his tail and it was bleeding all over.

The vet asked us if we had a rocker, if it got caught in a door hinge, and all the questions accusing us of animal abuse. We got defensive and scared that they were not going to give Vicktor back to us. They ended up having to remove 2 inches from the tip of his tail and to this day we have no idea how it happened, but it was the scariest cat emergency visit we ever had. It makes me very upset just thinking about it.


Vicktor has always been a little chubby and a little off balance, but he ended up adjusting to having a shorter tail. He definitely used up one of his nine lives that day. I'm so happy that he was able to recover without a hitch.


He head butts me even when I don't have makeup on. I'm glad he's still with us. Moral of the story ~ tails are important for cats. You might not be able to completely cat proof your house, but if you know something is wrong be a good pet owner and take them to the vet.

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