One of my first shoots with Wintermuse
Wintermuse likes to sneak into the hallway. The hallway is an indoor spiral stair that leads down to our landing and front door. She’s not ‘outside’ when she’s in the hallway, but she can more easily get outside if someone opens the front door, so she’s not allowed in there.
Of course, tell a cat she can’t be somewhere and she wants it more. Every time I come in with the groceries on Sunday, when my hands are full, she sneaks out behind me into the hall. I try to shoo her with my foot and scare her off, but she knows I can’t grab her and usually jumps over my foot just to show she can. Sadly, she doesn’t run towards the front door in most cases – she hangs out on the stairs or runs up to the apartment above us. The girls that used to live there had a cat she would play with sometimes. I think she misses him.
And so we do this every Sunday.
Until a few weeks ago.
I came in as always, my arms full, and I tried to nudge her from the door, but she evaded me. I walked forward, thinking, “Fine.” I would normally turn to check the door behind me, this time, I did not. I regret that. A voice told me to, and I ignored it.
I dropped the bags on the floor, and then a godawful shaking noise begins behind me. Something is rattling the door into the hallway, poltergeist style. I spin around.
It takes me a minute to understand what has happened. The door closed on Wintermuse’s tail. She is not crying or mewing, only trying to drag it out. She is pulling so hard the DOOR is RATTLING. I run over and open it in a hurry.
Giant clumps of fur fall to the floor. This is not okay. I wonder if maybe I am looking at her tail itself on the hallway floor. I see now that she never really ran into the hallway. She paused outside the door when I came in with the groceries, not because she wanted to run upstairs, but because she wanted to see that I would turn and look for her.
I didn’t. And now she’s meowing in the sad way she does when she thinks we’re mad at her. With her tail free, she runs into the apartment and hides under the couch.
Some of the fur she lost
I am beside myself with shock and panic, so I run to the bedroom to get my husband Lou. I tell him the cat’s tail got closed in the door and she’s not okay. He bolts awake and races to the couch to try to get her to come out.
She won’t. We get treats to lure her out. She cries a little more, but she comes out to Lou. He looks at her and says, “We need to call the vet.”
I start to cry and ask how bad it is. “Her tail is drooping.”
I ring up the animal hospital and explain as best I can without crying again. They put me on hold before I even fully explain that I think her tail is broken, and I suspect they just have a protocol for ‘caller sounds teary, let them come in right away’. We drive to the vet, and Wintermuse is surprisingly fine now. She’s not crying. She’s alert. I am petting her. She doesn’t seem mad at me at all.
When we arrive at the vet and are ushered into the examination room, she does her usual. She rolls around the floor, sniffing everything, marking the room. Her tail is vibrating and erect. She seems fine. There’s no way her tail is broken, which is excellent news because you may remember the time they tried to xray her, she hid INSIDE their X-ray machine. However, now that her tail is sticking straight up and some time has passed, I can see the long strip of blood on it. We’re not out of the woods yet.
The veterinarian arrives, wraps her in a towel, and confirms that she has two long, 3-inch abrasions on her tail where she was trying to yank it out of the door. But that’s all. The tail is not broken, nor will she needs stitches or a bandage. The vet says, “I thought we’d have to do a tail amputation today, but she’ll be fine.” I feel very lucky.
We go home with some amoxicillin, which we try in vain to dispense into a chicken meatball. They ordered 75ml twice a day, which is an ungodly amount of pink goo. It’s not even in pill form! We didn’t get much in her. She was fine without, though – the tail scabbed up, then she ripped off the scab (sigh), and then for a few weeks, she had a reverse mohawk on her tail where the fur was ripped out.
For a few days, she had trouble sitting down. She would try, then stop halfway when she bent her tail wrong. It was very sad. She would sit and curl her tail around her body, realize it hurt, stand back up, curl to the other side, realize it hurt, stand back up, and somehow manage after a few tries.
I felt very bad and spoiled her with treats and cat grass for the next few days. I should have turned around to check that she was away from the door, but this might have been inevitable. She was always sneaking out. Of course, she hasn’t gone near the door since.