Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
I was lifting my baby Toby (a year old now) up and his head accidentally hit the lower edge of the table. I heard the sound. I FELT SO HORRIBLE I WANTED TO HURT MYSELF. He was shocked and immediately began to viciously bite my arm. I took him to the room to calm him down and see if everything was okay; he was pretty aggressive and bitey and angry with me for about ten minutes but then he calmed down and curled up next to me as usual. Now I’ve seen him bump his head here and there pretty often. I’ve also seen him fall while entertaining himself at home (from a maximum height of about 1.5 ft) and I freak out, but Granny says cats are “tough ol’ things.” But I need to know, exactly how much physical trauma is a cat body equipped to handle? Will the head bump incident lead to anything serious? Do they ever get cracked bones from household bumps and falls? If anything happens to Toby I’ll never forgive myself.
Thomas: Maya, the good news is that your granny is right — we cats are pretty tough.
Bella: That doesn’t mean we’re invincible, of course, but it does take quite a bit to seriously injure a cat, and regular household play usually won’t cause injury in a healthy, young cat like your Toby.
Thomas: Cats have extra-flexible spines and soft paw pads that act as shock absorbers when they jump to the ground from distances.
Bella: Even an odd fall from a distance like 1.5 feet shouldn’t cause harm. Our poor Siouxsie *sniffle* sometimes fell when she jumped up to the counter, and even though her dignity was bruised and she may have been a tiny bit bruised herself, it didn’t cause major damage, even for a very old cat.
Thomas: Cats can get hurt from serious trauma like being hit by a car, jumping or falling from a couple of stories high, or acts of deliberate abuse.
Bella: We know of one cat that got a broken leg after his horrible human threw him across the room in a fit of rage, and he got tangled up in the spokes of a bicycle tire and his leg bet the wrong way.
Thomas: So, Maya, we’re sure Toby got a good knock on the head but we doubt he fractured his skull.
Bella: Have you ever moved wrong and knocked your head on something? If you have, you know it hurt like heck and you might even have gotten a lump (bruise) on your head, but it probably didn’t cause any long-term symptoms.
Thomas: Toby’s temporary aggression toward you was probably more because h was scared and hurt than because he was seriously injured.
Bella: That said, if he’s been having odd symptoms like staggering or his pupils (the black parts of his eyes) are of different sizes, or if he has random behavior changes or sudden fits of serious aggression, or seizures, that could indicate he got a concussion. So if Toby has been acting weird since the accident, we’d recommend a visit to the vet just to be on the safe side. Your vet could probably do a lot to reassure you about what does and doesn’t cause serious injury to cats.
Thomas: Now, Maya, we do want to address something else that concerns us. You said that when you picked up Toby and accidentally knocked his head on the table, you felt so bad you wanted to hurt yourself.
Bella: Self-injury is a very serious thing, Maya. Mama’s struggled with it in the past, and she knows lots of teenagers and young adults who have, too. Because she used to self-injure, Mama understands the motivation and reasons for doing it, and she asked us to tell you that if you self-harm, it’s really important to ask for help.
Thomas: It can be hard to talk about, especially if your family isn’t really good about discussing feelings. School counselors and even hotlines could be a place to start. Here’s a website that will help you understand self-injury and provide some resources to get started in healing.
Bella: Give your Toby some love for us, and give yourself a break too. You didn’t mean to hurt Toby, and from your email it looks like he forgave you very quickly. Now the next step is to forgive yourself.
Thomas: We’re sure your vet will be delighted to help you learn everything you want to know about how to take care of Toby. Mama’s talked to several vets who told her it totally makes their day when a person asks lots of questions and really wants to learn about keeping their furry friend healthy and happy.
Bella: So, how about you other readers? Could you talk about experiences you’ve had with your cats , doing crazy things and not getting hurt? Let’s try to reassure Maya, shall we?