Cats ‘n’ Cars Don’t Mix

‘Dilbert’ has always had a problem with his lower jaw. As a well-bred Persian, his lower jaw stuck out beyond his nose by a little bit. This gave him a rather endearing pugnacious look. However, this together with his long, dense coat meant that he was a ‘high maintenance’ cat – very regular and thorough grooming was needed to keep him happy and looking his best.

Dilbert was, therefore, a regular to the grooming section of the Cat Clinic, but otherwise we didn’t see him.

Dilbert finally made a break for it through the front door one day. Presumably he thought the big, wide world would be kind. Fortunately, the car that hit him was going slowly, and the driver stopped and took Dilbert straight back to his house. Contact with the car was inevitable – if you watch cats crossing a road, they play ‘chicken’ with every car, seemingly waiting until the last second before they run out onto the road.

Dilbert’s mum brought him to us, and she was in a state of panic and guilt. His face was covered in blood and he was breathing heavily. After deep painkilling drugs and anti-shock medication, we got a good look at him. The only damage was to his lower jaw, but he hadn’t split it down the middle (a common injury in cats, called a mandibular symphyseal fracture), he’d broken the jaw straight across behind the canine teeth. This was not good news, as there isn’t much bone there to be able to wire it back into position, plus he’d broken the canine teeth as well.

However, there is a saying that as long as the cat gets food, and is given time to heal, nearly every bone in the cat can mend, so we patched him up, wired bits of jaw and tooth together and sent him home for TLC and feeding with specially mushy food, and crossed fingers.

Well, Dilbert has demonstrated that under that fluffy coat beats the heart of a real cat. After a couple of days, he started gingerly licking up food for himself, and two weeks down the track was even picking up dried food balls. He was on the road to recovery. After removing the wire holding the bits of his face in place, we could send Dilbert home with a slightly less pugnacious look, but really, a run-in with a car is not the best way to get a jaw realignment!

He was lucky, and this little story demonstrates several things. One is that cats are still wonderful at fixing themselves if trauma is their only problem. That eternal vigilance is required to keep cats out of contact with cars. And that even highly bred, decorative cats, are still cats when the chips are down!

About the Author

Dr. Kim Kendall BVSc MACVSc (Cat Medicine and Animal Behaviour) is one of Australia’s and the worlds best known Cat Vets. 

Since 1994 her dedicated cat-only veterinary, boarding and grooming centre, The Chatswood Cat Palace has been based on Sydney’s North Shore.  

Kim loves cats, and wants the best for them, using science to back up intuition and passion for feline health. She is also a pioneering expert in the field of Feline Friendly Care at home and at the vet clinic and has written extensively on the subject. Read more

By Dr Kim Kendall – Last updated 3 November 2014
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