If your cat’s tail is hanging down, it might sign that it’s broken or injured. Find out how long a broken tail takes to heal and what’s involved with treating it.

By Kristi Valentini
August 24, 2020
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Is your kitty’s tail drooping down? If so, your cat may have a broken tail or another type of tail injury. 

A cat’s tail is usually erect and moving. It can clue you into your cat’s mood, like when she's irritated and it angrily swooshes back or forth. It also helps your cat with balance. 

So when your cat’s tail is pointing down, it’s a red flag that something serious is going on. Read on to learn more about cat tail injuries, their treatment, and how long they take to heal. 

What Happens When a Cat Breaks Their Tail? 

A cat’s tail is an extension of its spine, made up of vertebrae bones, blood vessels, and muscle. Although the spinal cord stops before reaching the tail, numerous nerves branch off from it and continue traveling through the tail. 

What looks like a broken tail can be the result of a few different types of injuries. Your cat may have a bone fracture, a dislocated vertebrae, or an injury from its tail being pulled. In all cases, the nerves and blood vessels in the area are often damaged, Aimee Simpson, DVM, medical director of VCA Cat Hospital of Philadelphia, says. 

How Do You Know if Your Cat Has a Broken Tail? 

The most common sign of injury is a limp tail. But there may be additional signs since some of the nerves at the base of the tail also control the hind legs, bladder, and bowel, explain the experts at Mar Vista Animal Medical Center in Los Angeles, California. 

If your cat is injured at the tail base, they may have trouble moving their back legs. They could also lose some control over their bladder or bowel movements. If your cat has a limp tail or any of these signs, seek immediate veterinary care.

What Are the Treatment Options for Broken Tails in Cats? 

“In many cases, a cat’s tail will heal on its own,” Simpson says. The best treatment for less complex injuries is rest. Your veterinarian may also prescribe a pain reliever. 

If nerves that control the function of the bladder or bowel have been injured, your kitty may require more help. Urine that sits in the bladder too long can lead to infection and a full bladder can over stretch bladder muscles. 

If your cat can’t urinate on its own, you can express it by hand three to four times a day. This involves gently squeezing the bladder to push urine out—your veterinarian can demonstrate how to safely do this and may also prescribe medication to help. Some cats also need stool softeners and enemas, Simpson says. 

Amputation is an option for more severe cases, Simpson adds. Your vet may recommend surgery if: 

  • Blood supply to the tail is cut off.
  • Urine and feces are collecting on the tail, increasing the risk of infection.
  • A cat is chewing on its tail, causing further injury.
  • Weight of the hanging tail is continuing to cause nerve damage.

How Long Does It Take for a Broken Cat Tail to Heal? 

It takes time for a broken tail to mend, especially for nerves to repair. A full recovery can take up to six months.

It’s important to see your veterinarian if something seems wrong with your cat’s tail. Only a vet can determine how extensive the injury is with an exam and x-rays. A vet can also prescribe pain relievers and other medications your kitty may need to ease discomfort while they heal. For most kitties, care and rest is all they need to be able to swoosh their tails again.