(I meant to write this up closer to when it actually happened, but then other things happened, so… Anyway, now I’m backdating it to approximately when I would have posted it had things not gone so sideways.)
It was the last Thursday of September. I had taken the day off work to recharge and was intending to sleep in. Kiba and Tadashi were doing their usual dawn romp, chasing one another, tackling, yowling, and climbing up and down the big cat tree in the bedroom. As daily rituals go, it is one of their louder habits, and it’s not how I want to greet the dawn most days, but at least they have fun.
Since I’m a light sleeper, I often open my eyes to see what exactly they’re doing, just in case. I’m always worried about them jumping on my dresser and causing more destructive chaos. Which is how I happened to be watching at the critical moment.
I will never be able to say for sure if Kiba hip-checked Tadashi or if he straight up yeeted him, but either way, Tadashi went violently off the top of the cat tower in an uncontrolled fashion. And he landed awkwardly, crashing into a nearby chair.
And I knew instantly that something was wrong, even before I saw the blood.
Tadashi got up and limped towards me as I got out of bed. His paw was already red with blood.
For a wiggly puppy-wannabe, he was calm as I picked him up to examine his foot. It only took seconds to identify that the blood was coming from one of his middle toes where his claw had been nearly ripped from his foot. It was actually sticking up like a bloody flagpole.
Our vet opens early so I only had to wait 10 minutes to call them for an emergency appointment. Then I threw on clothes and packed Tadashi into his carrier backpack.
(As an aside, it is SO MUCH EASIER to carry a squirmy cat in a backpack than a box. The backpack is a little more enclosed and there’s no tipping back and forth like a see-saw. And with Kiba who weighed an epic 17 pounds at last vet visit, it is a relief to put that weight on my shoulders instead of one arm. If you have cats, I cannot recommend the pet backpack enough. There are kinds. All of them are better than a box.)
At the vet, the diagnosis was clear — Tadashi had indeed ripped his claw nearly off his foot, nearly declawing himself on that toe. The vet finished extracting it (and showed it to me, but I did not want to keep it, thanks though) and cleaned him up as best she could. Tadashi was much praised for being chill, not fighting the vet or the tech and giving head bumps.
He’s a very good boy.
However, given the way he ripped the claw off, he had a very open and very vulnerable wound which the vet did not want to stitch for…I dunno, vet reasons. Probably because it would heal better on its own. But anyway, that means Tadashi was subjected to a hefty bandage on his foot….
And the dreaded cone of shame.
He did not appreciate either.
This was taken after I got him home. If you look, you can see that the bandage on his foot was already coming off at this point — it’s like he’s wearing a sock that’s been partly tugged off.
All in all, it took Tadashi under 30 minutes to shake that bandage off completely.
So I called the vet and asked what to do about it.
“Well, you can bring him back and we can bandage it again,” they offered.
And he will get it off again in less time than it takes me to drive home, I thought.
“Or you can just cover it with something like a sock and try to keep it dry and clean of litter.”
“Okay,” I said. “What about the cone?”
“Oh, he needs to keep the cone on. Ideally he’d have the cone and the bandage for fully two weeks to recover completely.”
Fucking no chance of that, but okay.
The sock thing took a couple of tries. Obviously you can’t just put a sock on a cat and expect it to stay more than 15 seconds. So I sewed/pinned an ankle sock to a long piece of fleece and tied it around his chest like a weird scarf. It was…function. That’s the best I can say about it.
I should also note that Kiba was NOT AT ALL chill about what was happening to his adopted little brother. He spent that whole afternoon kind of looking at Tadashi and then me like “What did you do to him and what is that thing on his neck?”
I thought we were in okay shape, though. The sock thing didn’t seem to bother Tadashi too much and between it and the cone he couldn’t really lick his foot. And he was eating and drinking water and cuddling as normal, in spite of it all, so everything seemed like it would be fine. Awkward for two weeks, but fine.
At 6am, I woke up to the usual cat fighting noises again and I thought to myself how nice that things are returning to normal. I opened my eyes to watch.
And therefore was witness to Tadashi figuring out how to get out of his cone with Kiba’s assistance.
I wish I had video of it.
We’ve always known they’re both smart as hell. Cats are supposed to be about as smart as human toddlers, I’ve read, and these two are bright even for that (and in comparison to a few previous cats I could name…). Opening doors, getting at things put in places I reasonably assumed they couldn’t reach, communicating their wants to us as clear as day — these cats are smart.
But Tadashi is on a whole other level.
He figured out — SOMEHOW — that when he stood upright on his back legs to bat at Kiba, his neck stretched out and thinned more than when he was walking normally. And combine that with leaning on a low table so he could stand up and balance without his front legs…
And he hooked his non-socked front foot in the strip of material tying the cone on him and pulled it over his head like yanking off a bow-tie.
What. The Fuck. Am I supposed to do. With THAT?
Honestly, I was too impressed to judge.
It being 6am and me not being in a place to do more than the most basic of fixes, I made sure his sock was tied on firmly and went back to bed to solve it at a better hour.
We decided that there was no putting Tadashi back in the cone. He HATED it. And we hated it. He kept hitting me in the face with it when he came in for cuddles. He bounced off walls and doorways. Honestly, I don’t blame the guy for wanting it gone. So we resolved to make do with what we had.
The final fix I’m still quite proud of. I took a larger piece of fleece and cut two holes, one for each of his front legs. Then I cut a new sock which I lined with many layers of both material and gauze. The fleece went on him like a vest tied in the back, and the sock was thick enough that even some grooming wouldn’t get through to his wound.
It also made him look vaguely like a butterfly.
Tadashi was actually not that bothered by this solution. The thing he hated the most wasn’t the sock at all, but the vest because he likes to groom himself fastidiously multiple times a day and apparently does not like being unable to get his chest and back clean. So we made sure to take it off at least once every day so he could bathe and we could inspect his healing toe.
Did we make it all the way to 2 weeks? No, no we did not. We made it to 8 days and we were all sick of it. But by then it was mostly healed, hadn’t bled in days, and all the swelling had gone down. So we took the whole apparatus off him and just checked his foot every time we had him in our laps or up in our arms.
Even then, he never really worried at it or licked it much. Really, he just wanted to be able to take his bath.
The claw may never grow back, or if it does, it may be weird. But we’ve learned so many useful things from this experience:
Tadashi is smart enough to get out of anything if he is motivated enough to do so.
Homemade sock casts do work in a pinch.
Cones of shame are ANNOYING AS FUCK for all involved.
Tadashi is very cute in costumes and may be tolerant enough to wear them. This…may be relevant information for another day.
Here’s Tadashi looking all better after his ordeal, in case you need any more cute for the day: