A Kitten’s Tale

D. E. Larsen, DVM

I noticed her sitting in the far corner of the reception area, patiently waiting for the crowd to clear. She was an older lady with white hair. She was short and petite, and well dressed for Sweet Home. She was tanned to a rough brown, and her face and hands showed the wrinkles that came from years of outside work.

My curiosity was getting to me. I stayed up front to see what she was going to want.

“Ma’am, is there something that I can help you with?” I asked.

She approached the counter with slow, measured steps.

“Are you Dr. Larsen?” she asked. “I have heard a lot about you from my friends. I am June. I have a small place up on 43rd. My husband has been gone for several years now. It is just my cats and me now.”

“Yes, I am Dr. Larsen,” I said. “I hope that your friends said good things about me.”

“Oh yes, Doctor, you are well thought of by most people in town,” she said.

“So, what is it that brings you to see us today?” I asked.

“If I had a kitten that needed its tail removed, is that something you could do?” she asked.

“Yes, we do just about anything here,” I said. “What happened to the kittens tail?”

Ignoring my last question, she continued. “And how much would such a procedure cost?”

That depends on how large the kitten is and if the tail problem needs any additional treatment,” I said. “If it is infected, there might be charges to take care of that infection. That is something I could give you a close estimate for when I look at the tail.”

“I mean, if there is nothing wrong with the tail, how much would it cost for a 3 day-old kitten?” she asked.

“You’re asking about docking a kitten’s tail?” I said. “That is not something that is done in most cases.”

“You dock puppies tails,” she said in a matter of fact voice. “There can’t be much difference, most of those pups have no real reason to have their tails docked.”

“You make a good point,” I said. “Some breeds need their tails docked, others it is purely cosmetic, or for some breed standard. If you have ever lived with a Cocker Spaniel in a Western Oregon winter, you would understand why we dock some tails.”

“I don’t see a difference,” June said. “I have a litter of kittens, five of them, that I would like to have their tails docked.”

“I would have to think about that one,” I said. “You are asking me to stretch my ethics a little.”

“Now listen, young man,” June said in a stern voice. I wondered if she had been a school teacher in her day. “There are not many options for these kittens. Placing kittens in homes is difficult these days. All my cats are fixed, but this little mamma cat shows up and has this litter of kittens in my woodshed. I can leave them there and let them grow up wild. They will probably die from distemper next year that way. Or I can find them homes. If a kitten doesn’t have a tail, it is easy to find them a home. I never call them Manx, I just say they don’t tails. My husband used to cut off the tails with his pocket knife. Now I need you to help these poor little kittens find homes.”

“What do you tell folks when they try to breed these kittens, expecting to get kittens without tails?” I ask.

“That only happened once,” June said. “Most people have them fixed like I recommend. That one time, I just said, what do you think I am, some sort of a geneticist. That word shuts up most folks around these parts.”

“You win the argument about the ethics of tail docking,” I said. “I am not comfortable with you deceiving people about what kind of cat they are getting.”

“So you would rather I got the neighbor boy to put them in a gunny sack and drop them in the river?” June said.

“Okay, I will dock the tails for you if you get it scheduled before they are 5 days old,” I said. “But, if any of these kittens end up here for their shots or to be fixed, I will not be a part of your deception. If asked, I will tell the truth.”

“I see, you would rather have them search for a real Manx kitten,” June said. “Half of which will have bowel and rectal problems for their entire life. Many of those will not reach adulthood. My kittens save a lot of little girls a lot of heartaches.”

“Your husband must not have won many arguments,” I said.

June had the kittens in the next morning. The procedure was brief, I prepped the tail, snipped the tails with scissors and closed the wound with a drop of Nexiban surgical adhesive. The kittens were asleep before they left the office.

I didn’t charge June. I felt her intentions were sincere. In those years, I donated a lot of services to the humane society. June was serving in the same capacity. I only hoped that the humane society didn’t get wind of her philosophies. 

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

Published by d.e.larsen.dvm

Country vet for over 40 years in Sweet Home Oregon. I graduated from Colorado State University in 1975. I practiced in Enumclaw Washington for a year and a half before moving to Sweet Home to start a practice.

4 thoughts on “A Kitten’s Tale

  1. I wonder what would have happened if you had insisted that she bring the mother cat in for surgery as part of the “deal”? Even people who are great debaters often like a good counter-offer.

    Thanks for a nice story.

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  2. Pardon my ignorance, but why is it easier to find a home for a kitten without a tail? I think the tails are a glorious part of a cat, raised high when they are very happy. We used to have a cat named Bennie, his tail was so beautiful, like a feather duster! And our Nicholas always walks so proud with his tail straight up. I love the tails. 🙂

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    1. I am sure most people would agree with you Maryanne. That is why there has always been those who argue against docking puppies tails. Manx kittens are popular because they are somewhat rare and this old lady perceived her deception it to be helpful in placing kittens. This was the only time in 40 years the it happened. Most kittens are adopted because their personalities pull on the heart strings.

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    2. I do not know why, but some people prefer their cat to be a special breed. For example I only have cats from the breed Rescued Mongrel …

      The snobs among cat owners want a Persian or a Ragdoll or a Sphynx-cat – or even a Manx – cats from the island Man, who by genetical mutation developed the form of no tail. Now they are bred for that mutation (like any other breed is specifying in some mutation). And there are some weird people out there who like it.

      Like some like munchkin cats … (why? Why would someone have a cat suffering from shorter legs?)

      No, there is no explanation to this, just that some people are weird and others just have different tastes.

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