Cause of Injuries in Cat Fight

by Mary

I have a 16 year old male neutered cat. He is declawed on all 4 paws. He has always spent a lot of time outdoors, but that has decreased as he has gotten older. He has been in a lot of catfights over the years with the typical injuries to his face and head. He also had some leg injuries, but except for some arthritis, he is a pretty healthy cat today.

I was called yesterday by a woman in my neighborhood claiming that last summer, and again in the past week, my cat has come into her yard, up onto her deck and attacked her cat. She also says she sees him come up out of the sewer. We are having typical spring Kansas weather, and he has barely been outside in the past week. He shows no signs of being in a fight.

Beyond that, note that at home, he can only jump onto the couch, can no longer get on any furniture higher than that, and certainly cannot run as fast as he used to. She says she saw the last fight, and there was fur all over her yard. Her cat’s injuries are not to the face and head, but to the back and tail, so deep as to draw blood. Her brother suggested that this was because her cat was trying to escape mine.

My family has discussed this and don't think it was our cat. He is a typical dominant cat in our neighborhood and, as we have lived here 13 years, is well known. But at his age, we don't think he could get out of the sewer, catch a younger cat trying to escape, and he is not aggressive when not threatened. He has mellowed a lot with age. We have a second cat and all they do is typical household play fighting.

My questions are: 1) Could a declawed cat even inflict these injuries? 2) If he did inflict these injuries, wouldn't he come home with blood from the other cat on him? and 3) Even if it was him, how do we prevent it from happening again?

My cat is very much a grumpy old man, set in his ways, and going outside when the weather is nice is part of his life. At this point in his life, we are not going to invest in an outdoor cat enclosure. We recognized years ago the risks of a cat being an outdoor cat and our second cat is kept indoors, but we were also able to do that because of their different personalities. This lady seems to think I can control my cat’s behavior and keep him out of her yard and off of her deck.

I stopped putting collars on him as he was losing them so quickly, and he wasn't going very far from home anymore. I plan to get a really bright one so, if it happens again, that would be one way to know if it is our cat. I would appreciate any additional insight or ideas. She didn't ask that I pay for veterinary bills, and, honestly, I guess I feel that if you let your cat outside and he gets injured, that is your responsibility, I have had some veterinary bills over the years secondary to catfights and didn't go looking for the owner. I'm at a loss.

Dear Mary,

Your cat, even though he is declawed, certainly could have inflicted the wounds to the other cat with his teeth. Most likely, however, you would not have seen blood from the other cat on him when he came home.

In all honesty, there is no way to prevent this from happening again unless you keep him inside. I recommend looking into whatever rules and regulations there are in your township regarding cats going outside. Some townships have laws against outdoor cats, and being educated about whether you are in violation of any of those laws would be wise, especially with an upset neighbor.

Because he is older now, although may seem set in his ways, it would probably be easier to make the transition to him being an indoor only cat. Considering his age, it may be time to look at this as giving him an opportunity to enjoy his geriatric years in the safety of your home. I would also like to note that I believe cats should never have all four paws declawed, but furthermore, a cat who is declawed, especially on all four paws, should not be allowed outdoors.

I agree with you about veterinary expenses that result from having an outdoor cat. Letting your cat go outdoors brings many risks, as you know, and any expenses as a result of taking that risk should be the owner’s. Ultimately, if both you and your neighbor allow your cats to go outside, there is no way to stop them from fighting, if they have been, or control their behavior or wandering patterns.

Kindest regards,
Dr. Neely

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