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Eddie's broke-tail amputation saga ;-> 
27th-Mar-2011 07:47 am
It was way back in mid-February when Eddie the former stray cat broke his tail, leading to a tail amputation, a little setback with a seroma/abscess putting him back about a week, drainage, antibiotics, and a new set of stitches. He'll finally have his last (we hope, we hope!) vet visit the 1st week of April, so it's been a ways to this point, and he's still recovering.

But we are finally at the point where I'm feeling good about his recovery! Throughout the break and amputation, it was a lot like taking care of a very sick baby. There were things that needed to be done that he did not want being done, there was pain and discomfort, and there was a big old language barrier when it came to the ability to explain any of that to him.

Now? It's more like taking care of a mildly sniffly, cranky two year old: "I'm boooooored! Entertain me, or I'll get into all kinds of trouble!" =:o

It makes me happy, though. He bounces off the walls and drives me up them, but if we can just make it through this week without me or the cat losing our minds, then we'll be out of the woods. It hasn't been that long since I was afraid we'd lose him, and now I can see his always-BIG personality springing back to the fore, and it's awesome! :D

Early days were tough, though. A feline tail amputation is something without a lot of details given, when you Google it. It's apparently a routine type of veterinary surgery...but it doesn't seem to be all that common. There's info about broken tails in cats, much of it contradictory, all of it fairly sparse. The recommendations for aftercare seem to change from vet to vet; website to website (although there are some basics, applicable to pretty much any animal who's had any type of surgery).

Some of the best info I got was from folks' blogs, just regular old people who've been through tail amps with their own felines, but those who went into any detail were few and far between.

I figured it might provide a service if I went ahead and wrote up, with as much detail as I'm able to provide, the whole saga of Eddie's broken tail, amputation, and recovery, for someone in my position; namely, a lifelong dog-lover who's only recently discovered the wonders of cats, who doesn't know a whole hellovalot about them, but loves one particular stupid cat and worries about him...and who's spent a gazillion dollars on vet visits for the former stray already, and who'd like to avoid dragging him back in every few days unless it's necessary. Ya know?

And I will definitely do that. But not today! LOL, the lack of detail in folks' recountings may have as much to do with sleep deprivation and constant running as anything else. ;->

I looked at a lot of U.S.-based sites searching info on cats with broken tails -- naturally enough, since that's where I live. But something has happened among U.S. veterinarians over the past years/decade or so: their professional org decided that it was better for all cats to be inside cats, and they've all fallen into line with that position.

When trying to explain our personal sitch, that this was a former feral who spent his entire life outside, till bending enough to let us befriend him, that he goes flat NUTS trying to get out when we confine him, that in his unique case I just don't see any chance at real happiness for him in such a small, boring place, people actually get mad.

"Cats are adaptable. Just keep a squirt bottle of water next to the door and squirt him in the face when he gets too close to it. He'll learn!" The justification, natch, is that they're "safer" if they never go outside.

Ya know what? You and I would also be "safer" if we never went outside. Your kids would be "safer" if they were confined to small rooms without any dangerous items till they made it out of childhood. But...that's not a life. We need to leave the safety of our rooms, we need to let our kids go. And yeah, I know critters aren't human, and our pets are not our babies. But the analogy suffices, for me. It's frustrating not being able to find anyone who even understands the dilemma I feel about letting him back out when he's through recovering; everyone simply says "Keep him in, or else you're an irresponsible owner who does not deserve to have a cat."

There are lots of pet cats in the U.K., and most of them are indoor/outdoor. The "You MUST keep them in!" tude doesn't seem to have travelled as far across the pond as it's spread here in the States. Sometimes there's a disconnect between what the "experts" say and what I see with my own two eyes, and in those cases I've learned through experience to trust my own personal observations over and above what anyone else says. But still, when it seems like "You Vs. The World," it's wise to do a little check on yourself.

Sometimes it turns out you're really not the only one. I stumbled across an excellent article written by a British vet, on the In/Out Dilemma. It acknowledges the things I instinctively felt about cats, and how they roll, and gave some great tips and suggestions for how to give an inside-only cat some quality of life, should that be your goal. Highly recommended: http://www.fabcats.org/behaviour/understanding/safe_dilemma.html

Finally, I couldn't not post a pic of Conehead Ed, just because, so here's the poor dude with his lampshade -- I'd have spared him the indignity, but after he got it off twice on his own and chewed his stitches, thus causing the problems that delayed his recovery, we figured it was best to keep him locked up, to the degree that we are able. ;->

29th-Mar-2011 02:39 pm (UTC)
Hey Rose,

I'm betting you've been watching Crazy Cat Cuckoo Flame Wars again on the internet. Let me summarize, with sanity and without heat, the major points - because despite the absurd, judgmental, and vitriolic tenor of these debates, there are a few valid points to be had:

The reason that the UK people let their cats out is that they lack many natural predators over there. They don't have coyotes, rattlesnakes, major problems with heartworms, etc. We do here, and you do, especially, in the SW. It *is* a whole lot riskier for cats to be outdoor cats here than it is in the UK.

Another (good) reason for keeping cats indoors is that they are predators and, at surprisingly small numbers, a population of outdoor cats wreaks absolute havoc on local songbird population. So it is better for the environment not to have too many of these very successful predators in the area. This is a problem that humans made, not one that occurred before we overpopulated, destroyed territory, imported excessive numbers of predators, disrupted the food chain, etc. So it wasn't as much of a problem before we made it one.

Cats do, demonstrably, have longer life expectancies when they are kept indoors. They get better health care, they get a more reliable (and frequently better) diet, they are protected from predation, they do not get hit by cars and bikes and such, etc.

All of those are facts. These are not points that are really up for debate...the heat and fire of the discussion comes from some fundamental philosophical differences. And these differences are pretty much just like the ones in the parenting community (where vitriolic online flame wars are also common) and in the political sphere (same).

The basic philosophical debate seems to be - one one side - that it is better to let things sort themselves out, and that too much deliberate interference in a process creates unpredictable and possibly undesirable effects, and that kids/cats/politicans/corporations should be minimally guided and then set free to do what they will, and on the other side, that kids/cats/politicans/corporations cannot be relied upon to behave in ways that will not damage other people/the environment/society, and that providing checks on behavior leads to be a better outcome than just letting them all roam freely.

There are good cases to be made for both sides, and people typically feel very strongly about these issues. Which is why, I think, the debate gets so fierce and heated. I think the problem is that people, in general, are pretty lame and incompetent thinkers, and so they don't focus on the fact that this is a philosophical debate; and they don't like ambiguity, which is where we get this notion that there is only ONE right way to think about these issues. Lots of messy thinking there.

I'm so happy that your boy is on the uptick!
2nd-Apr-2011 11:54 am (UTC)
I'm actually a bigger supporter of the above-referenced article for folks who do plan to keep their cats inside, than for the indoor/outdoor set, just because of the tips the guy gives for actually providing them with some Quality of Life while they're locked behind doors!

We're back to the vet for what I hope and believe will be our last visit viz the tail, so the time for decisions is fast approaching. I know he'll be glad to lose that cone permanently! :-)

I think my decision is made, actually. In spite of the valid safety points, in spite of my worries, having been with him as he's felt better and just watching and hanging with him...there's no way Eddieboy the Former Feral is ever going to be happy as in indoors-only cat. Pretty much all he does now that he's healed to this extent is try to escape, and give himself new, (thankfully) minor injuries. I've been Bad Copping him for over a week now, and I'm flat sick of being his jailer.

We figure to keep him in another few days once the stitches are out, and to go out in the back yard with him the first time, to watch and observe (after already having reconned the block, to make sure no dogs are out loose and whatnot), see how he jumps and climbs outside the house, and just generally observe and run interference in the early days.

Dogs are definitely easier. ;->
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