I do not like the cone of shame.
August 7, 2012 4:04 PM   Subscribe

I am cat sitting for a professor; the cat has a sore on her tail and won't stop worrying it. After a vet trip (antibiotics, 5 days of pain medicine, and the addition of a cone), it keeps scabbing over ... until she catches it and bites the scab off. How do I keep her from totally destroying her tail in the next week?

Mouse is an eleven-year-old female kitty who is wonderfully adorable (unfortunately, I have no pictures because she's not mine). A week ago, I thought she was having a seizure - she was attacking her tail, writhing around, lower back muscles all ripply, and then stopped and panted for 10 minutes - so we took her to the emergency vet. Blood work was normal, no signs of a seizure, but they found the little sore on the tip of her tail. Overnight, she gnawed on this enough for it to bleed.

We took her to her regular vet the next day, who confirmed the issue with her tail. They gave her an antibiotic shot, gave me pain meds for her, and put her in a cone for 5-7 days to prevent her from getting at her tail. She's usually an indoor/outdoor kitty, but she's been totally indoors since then. The tail heals nicely for a day or two and scabs over until she manages to snag it between her teeth and pull all the scab off. Then she runs all over the house spraying blood as she lashes her tail in anger.

I'm out of pain medicine to give her (I can call the vet tomorrow but I don't know that they'll give me another round). She just bit her scabs off again and is bleeding again. She's clearly uncomfortable and unhappy and really dislikes the cone. When she's not just bitten her tail, she's in good spirits and sits and purrs on my lap.

My professor comes home in a week - what can I do until then to make sure his cat doesn't self-cannibalize herself into not having a tail? I have to leave her during the day - we hang out for two hours in the morning and then 5-6 hours in the evening. I'm able to spend every other night here (I have two of my own kitties that have to be taken care of). I was thinking about a bandaid or something to cover the tip, but I suspect that would just draw her attention even more than it currently is drawn. Please help me help Mouse!
posted by ChuraChura to Pets & Animals (26 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Can you cut the toe off a sock or a thumb from a glove and secure it over her tail with some medical tape? That would stop her being able to gnaw at it at least.
posted by fight or flight at 4:07 PM on August 7, 2012

A friend of mine had a dog with a hematoma in his ear, and her father duct-taped the ear to the dog's head until it had a chance to subside. So you might try duct tape. She'll probably worry the duct tape, but maybe that will at least keep her from worrying the wound and you can replace the duct tape whenever it gets ripped or comes off.
posted by orange swan at 4:09 PM on August 7, 2012

Wait, is she getting at her tail with the cone on? Or are you taking the cone off despite the vet's advice?
posted by Specklet at 4:13 PM on August 7, 2012

Put the cone back on; vet again tomorrow. I know they hate it, but it's what I'd want my cat sitter to do. 
posted by cromagnon at 4:13 PM on August 7, 2012

A cone is not so likely to work on a tail, which is long and mobile. I'd also try to cover her tail up with something. A sock might work, if she cannot bite it off through the sock. You could try to cover the whole sock with duct tape.
posted by jeather at 4:14 PM on August 7, 2012

Response by poster: The cone is on. The cone has been on the whole time. She's still getting her tail.
posted by ChuraChura at 4:15 PM on August 7, 2012

Oh, okay, gotcha. I'd wrap the tail in elastic adhesive bandage, which you should be able to get at a drug store. Poor kitty.
posted by Specklet at 4:20 PM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'd also ask the vet for a bigger cone so she cant get at her tail.
posted by cgg at 4:21 PM on August 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: (Sorry that came off snappish. I'm frustrated and kind of stressed about the situation!)

I just called the vet for additional pain medication. They'll let me know tomorrow if they'll refill the prescription or not. I don't want to put duct tape directly on it because it's currently raw skin and I don't want to peel off any scabbing that might occur. Athletic tape might work, or maybe athletic tape wrapped in duct tape.
posted by ChuraChura at 4:23 PM on August 7, 2012

Perhaps a different cone? It's tricky because the cat still has to eat and drink, but you might be able to use a longer cone if you put her food and water dishes on a pedestal (so that she can get closer to them without bumping into the floor with the cone). You could even try lengthening the cone she has by taping cardboard or something around the sides. You might not need to lengthen the whole 360 degrees, but rather just the angles from which she gets her tail. (Sides? Under the chin?)

If you wind up getting her a cone upgrade rather than DIY-ing it, note that they make e-collars (the official name for the cone) that are less heavy than the standard rigid plastic one; here's one example.
posted by dendrochronologizer at 4:24 PM on August 7, 2012

Gauze over raw bit, elastic adhesive bandage over all. Will not stick to fur like athletic tape and duct tape.

I didn't think you were snappish. Hang in there.
posted by Specklet at 4:30 PM on August 7, 2012

bandage over tail, some kind of tape over the bandage. You've just got to get her to leave it alone long enough for the scab to fall off on it's own. Are you sure she's getting the scab off with her teeth? Could she be scratching at it with her claws? Will she tolerate a nail trim?
posted by dchrssyr at 4:46 PM on August 7, 2012

extend the cone. Posterboard is probably your best bet. Trace the cone and add an extra, hmmm 5 of 6 inches. tape onto the plastic cone, including tape circles near the top of the cone (for stability). Expect to have to replace the paper extension. Repeatedly. (thankfully, back to school sales are in full swing, and posterboard might be on sale too!)

This means you'll have to feed the cat, or take off the cone while she eats.

Also, ask the vet if you can get some of the stretchy vet wrap.

(today's fun fact: e-collar is short for elizabethan. after that queen from long ago.)
posted by bilabial at 4:46 PM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I've been feeding her by hand already, so when I talk to the vet tomorrow, I'll see if he'll get me a longer cone. I'll stop by a drug store on my way home tonight to get something to wrap her tail in.

She's definitely getting the scabs with her teeth - this just happened while she was sitting on my lap, saw something twitching, and did crazy cat spine contortion in order to get the tail in tooth. Her claws could use some clipping, but I don't know where they keep their clippers and don't want to heap indignity upon indignity (extra sad: she is a domestic longhair and they shaved most of her at the beginning of the summer. This is one awkward looking kitty cat right now).
posted by ChuraChura at 4:56 PM on August 7, 2012

A drug or medical-supply store can sell you an aluminum finger cot which I bet would stay on the end of a cat's tail pretty well.
posted by nicwolff at 4:57 PM on August 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

(With enough tape...)
posted by nicwolff at 4:58 PM on August 7, 2012

Best answer: I am wondering how effective the pain medication is. I take care of people, not kitties, but I wonder if there is an alternative pain medication that may work better for cutaneous pain or if a short-term anti-anxiety could be added to get her through this hump and let the wound achieve better healing unmolested. I know in people that some classes of pain control work better for some people, or that benzos can work synergistically with pain that is aggravated by anxiety. Maybe the vet would be willing to consider better control with you? Even just for the few days until the kitty's person comes back?

If she is able to remove extra wrappings and dressings from the site, will she discard it and not eat it? Is it a wound that can be dressed or does it need to be open to air?

Also, as far as questions for the vet, could the wound itself benefit from a different approach, like a cauterization or silver nitrate (so that it could seal over)?

This is all just speculation. Mainly, I am thinking that anxiety has complicated the kitty's pain response and that if you can treat such a thing in a kitty it may improve the behavior and suffering so that the wound, itself, can heal.

I hope the evening goes better! We're thinking about you! Petsitting can be so stressful.
posted by rumposinc at 5:09 PM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree with asking the vet about anti-anxiety medication of some kind. Missing her people + dealing with strangers = probably increasing the cat's distress about being injured.

Her claws could use some clipping, but I don't know where they keep their clippers

If the cat is docile and/or you have two people (one to hold and one to clip), you can trim the cat's nails with ordinary human fingernail clippers, pressing the paw like so.

FYI, if Mouse does not take kindly to your tail-bandaging process as per suggestions above, try wrapping her gently but thoroughly in a towel/blanket to immobilize her legs: a cat burrito with a tail emerging from one end and a head from the other. Very undignified but effective.
posted by nicebookrack at 5:16 PM on August 7, 2012

Best answer: Cones are pretty standard, unfortunately. A taller cone is going to have a larger neck circumference. While it miiiiiight work for your kitty, they generally size the cones by neck. She's probably got the best one for her, unless she's up in the very upper reaches of the neckband on what they gave her.
posted by bilabial at 5:41 PM on August 7, 2012

We have a Bite Note collar, which works much better for us than a cone, although the cats do not like it any better. They have less trouble eating/drinking in it, though. We got it when one of my cats had an abcess right next to the base of her tail and she wasn't able to get to her wound.
posted by upatree at 6:10 PM on August 7, 2012

When you call the vet tomorrow, ask if they can day board the kitty while you're gone.
posted by azpenguin at 6:52 PM on August 7, 2012

My dog had a similar issue when I got her from a shelter. I used elastic gauze and it kept coming off. Whenever it would scab over she would chew on it until it was an open sore again. Somehow I managed to catch it when it was scabbed over, before she got to it, and I sprayed it with Bitter Apple, which is a nasty tasting spray. She went for it once and never tried again and it healed right up. I imagine it would be a taste cats would like to avoid, too.
posted by parkerposey at 7:03 PM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Can you use anbesol or another topical anesthetic on the tail? Definitely check with the vet 1st. And if you can get a topical antibiotic that is non-greasy, and maybe tastes not so good, that would speed healing. I've put 1/4 of an antibiotic tablet in 1 tsp. warm water, and dabbed that on a pet, with some effectiveness.
posted by theora55 at 7:36 PM on August 7, 2012

My dog is also a crazy spine contortionist and she was able to worry her tail while in the largest possible cone that would fit her neck. So, I made an extension to the cone with some lightweight cardboard (it was a phonebook cover) and packing tape. It looked ridiculous and I'm sure only made the Cone of Shame experience more soul-killing, but it worked like a charm.

Here is my poor tortured dog wearing it.
posted by annaramma at 9:42 PM on August 7, 2012 [7 favorites]

If you haven't been to the vet yet, they will clip her claws for you.
posted by desjardins at 8:21 AM on August 8, 2012

Try vitamin E oil. Cheapest way is to get some Vitamin E gelcaps and cut them open. It is a better deterrent for our Kitty than bitter apple-and promotes heeling too.
posted by Kalatraz at 11:18 PM on August 9, 2012

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