Pumpkin came into in Ciaran’s life as a kitten two years ago: it was the day before Halloween, which explains her seasonal name. She’s been a healthy cat up until now, enjoying the freedom of living in the Wicklow countryside. She has a set routine: breakfast with Ciaran first thing in the morning before heading off for the day on her own, then returning for supper in the evening. She is a gentle, friendly cat, enjoying attention from humans and purring almost continually.
On the Sunday before Halloween, she had her breakfast as normal, but this time, she didn’t come back in the evening. When she still hadn’t returned the following morning, Ciaran was seriously worried: he spent the whole day searching the local area, looking for her. He knocked on neighbours’ doors, asking if anyone had seen her, but she seemed to have completely vanished. As darkness fell in the evening, Ciaran had just come home when he heard a noise at the back door: Pumpkin had returned.
Ciaran could see straight away that she had been injured: she was dragging her back legs behind her rather than walking on them normally. She wasn’t crying as if in pain and she seemed comfortable, so Ciaran got her settled in a warm bed. She slept deeply that night, as if she had been utterly exhausted after her adventure.
The next morning, she was still unable to get up on her back legs, and she had refused to eat or drink anything, so Ciaran brought her in to see me. She was quiet, almost dull, as I examined her and when I felt along her lower back, I could sense her body tensing up: I had found the painful area. I admitted her to our clinic, and we took a series of xray pictures which showed what was wrong: she had badly injured her lower back.
As in humans, a cat’s spine is joined firmly to the pelvis: this is how the back legs are able to support the body. Pumpkin must have been hit by a car, and her pelvis had become completely dislocated from her spine. It’s like a fracture of the lower back, and it must be immensely painful. It was no wonder that she was having difficulty walking. In humans, this is a major injury requiring dramatic surgery, but cats have the advantage of a small body with minimal body weight. Surgery is sometimes needed, but a conservative approach of simple rest and good pain relief is often sufficient.
Pumpkin went home with Ciaran that evening, and for the next few days, she needed intensive home nursing. Ciaran had to hand-feed her, tempting her with fresh prawns and pieces of mince. Pelvic injuries often cause difficulties with the bladder and bowels, so Ciaran had to observe her carefully in the litter tray to ensure that everything was working properly. He gave her pain relief in the form of special palatable drops that I’d prescribed.
Pumpkin made slow progress, but when I checked her again a few days later, she was already tentatively walking around the room on all four legs. When she came in for her one-week check up, she was walking comfortably, although with a slinky, swaying gait, her back legs held lower than normal.
Ciaran was delighted with her progress: apart from her ability to walk, there was one benchmark that reassured him that she was getting better. She had stopped purring completely after the accident, and the good news was that, one week on, she had started to purr loudly again. She was definitely on the mend.
- If cats go missing, it’s often because they’ve had an accident
- It’s worth spending time checking in all their favourite places
- Any injured cat needs to see the vet as soon as possible