If you own a cat, it’s safe to say you’ve mastered your feline’s language. They communicate with their tail the same way they do with their voice and the remainder of their body. However, whether or not removing their tail is an option remains debatable.
Tail docking, or bobbing, has long been a source of contention, particularly in dogs, but it is also a problem in cats, though the Mekong bobtail cat is among the exceptions with its already short tail. Here’s everything you need to know about bobbing a cat’s tail.
What Is Tail Docking?
Tail docking is the surgical excision of a tail portion, also known as caudectomy. Caudectomy surgery may be performed for medical reasons such as ensuring complete tumor removal or alleviating excessive skin folds across the base of the tail.
Tail docking evolved into a common trend for breeders to conform cats born without tails to the rest of the litter for certain breeds. Dating a tail is sometimes essential, which results in an amputation. Amputation is sometimes necessary after an injury or to avoid spreading a disease that has impacted the tail.
Tail docking can be painful for any animal. Many groups argue that the animal suffers minimal pain if properly done and within days of birth.
The discourse is over whether or not the animals feel the pain. Cats’ nervous systems are completely developed, and it has been demonstrated that they can feel pain.
In most cases, bobbing is a cosmetic procedure with no discernible medical benefit; thus, it remains contentious. Cat tails are frequently docked for aesthetic reasons by breeders. Most veterinarians, however, do not participate in tail docking unless there is a valid medical reason.
Why Is Tail Docking Done?
Tail docking is not used when a caudectomy is conducted for medical reasons. If a cat or dog breaks its tail in a way that sufficient healing is unlikely, removing a portion of the tail may be medically beneficial to the pet.
Similarly, caudectomy may benefit the pet’s health if your pet sustains an infection on the tail or severe injury. Caudectomy is also occasionally performed to ensure proper removal of tumors on the tail or to help relieve skin infection caused by excessive skin folds under the tail.
Caudectomy is called tail docking when it is not done for medical reasons. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) defines tail docking as a cosmetic procedure that alters a dog’s physical appearance under certain breeding practices. Still, it has no established medical benefit for the pet. Tail docking is thus still a contentious procedure.
Historically, owners of certain hunting and working dogs (like German short-haired pointers) had their dogs’ tails docked to reduce the possibility of injury or trauma to the tail while the canine performed its duties. Tail docking was also thought to help prevent a long tail from soiling while the dog tried to work. However, there’s almost no scientific evidence to back up these claims.
Cat Caudectomy Procedure
The exact procedure will differ depending on how much of the cat’s tail has to be removed. The general steps are outlined below.
- The vet will sedate the cat first.
- If an injury is present, the vet will take an x-ray to determine the extent of the damage.
- Before surgery, they will shave the tail.
- The feline will be draped and prepared for the procedure.
- The surgeon will decide where to make the initial incision, typically between two intact vertebrae.
- The skin and tailbone will be separated.
- The surgeon then will cut through the bone, removing the tail completely.
- Cauterization may be employed to stop bleeding.
- Sutures will be utilized to close the wound.
Caudectomy’s Efficacy in Cats
Caudectomy is typically very effective at treating tail conditions and injuries that would not heal on their own or don’t respond to other kinds of treatment. Although cats will need to adjust to the loss of their tails after the procedure, caudectomy has no long-term impact on their behavior.
The removal of a cat’s tail may initially disrupt its balance. However, this usually has no negative consequences for a cat’s health.
Cat Caudectomy Recovery
Owners should carefully follow their veterinarian’s specific recovery instructions. On an as-needed basis, the veterinarian may prescribe a combination of anti-inflammatories, analgesics, and antibiotics.
Cats usually wear an Elizabethan collar to avoid irritating the surgery site. If drainage, swelling, or bleeding develops at the surgery site, owners should contact their veterinarian immediately.
Cats who have had a caudectomy will have difficulty getting into and out of their litter trays during the first few days after surgery. Owners should think about leaving the lid off their litter tray if one exists or assisting their cat into the tray when necessary. Litter trays must be kept clean throughout the recovery process to avoid contamination.
During recovery, owners should ensure their cat gets ample rest and doesn’t engage in excessive activity or go outside. The vet will arrange a follow-up appointment two weeks after surgery to remove the sutures.
Cost of Caudectomy in Cats
The average cost of a caudectomy will vary depending on your standard of living and any additional costs you incur, such as laboratory tests and medications. Caudectomy costs typically range between $300 and $1,200. The average national cost of a caudectomy is $600.
Considerations for Cat Caudectomy
Because caudectomy is a common medical procedure, complications are usually minor. Any surgical procedure, however, has the potential for complications. Feline caudectomy complications may include, but aren’t limited to:
- Infection after surgery
- Anesthesia-induced death
- The soft tissue in the tail heals slowly
The most common complications of caudectomy are infection and delayed healing. This is due to the tail’s susceptibility to contamination following the surgery. Most surgical procedures result in anesthetic death, especially in cats examined and approved for anesthesia before surgery.
Cat Caudectomy Prevention
Owners must keep their cats away from activities that could cause major trauma to the tail, like slamming its tail in a door, among the most common causes of caudectomy. Pulling cats by their tails can cause trauma, even if the pull is slight.
If the feline is sexually intact, the owners should consider spaying or neutering it. Sexually intact cats are more aggressive and more likely to fight, resulting in tail trauma.