Maggie, a three year old cat who had something sticking out of her paw.

Eva’s family rescued Maggie from the Wicklow SPCA Sharpes Hill animal sanctuary when she was just a kitten. Eva was only two at the time, so as far as she’s concerned, Maggie has been around for ever. Maggie is a gentle, tolerant animal, and she’s the perfect children’s pet. Eva loves playing with her, and even Eva’s younger sister, Robyn, who’s just 15 months old, enjoys petting the cat (obviously under close supervision).

The little girl and her cat are the best of buddies, but like all friendships, there are a couple of challenging areas. For Eva, the most annoying thing about Maggie is that she keeps stealing Eva’s toys. In particular, Eva enjoys making pompom pets – small colourful fluffy toys, made from bits of wool. They resemble the pompom on top of a woollen hat. Eva keeps these in her bedroom, but Maggie sneaks in, picks them up in her mouth, and runs off with them. Perhaps she sees them as small mouse-like prey: a cat has strong chasing and hunting instincts. As a result of this behaviour, Eva keeps finding half-chewed pompom pets scattered around the house. For a five year old girl, this is very irritating, but she still loves Maggie, and the two of them spend a lot of time snuggled up together, enjoying each other’s company.

Last Saturday afternoon, Maggie came indoors after an excursion into the back garden. She jumped up onto Eva’s lap, and as Eva petted her, she noticed that something odd was sticking out of Maggie’s foot. She called her Dad, and he took a closer look. At first he thought that it was an odd-shaped toe or a damaged nail, but when he looked carefully, he could see that it was like a giant splinter. It was a long, narrow piece of wood. Maggie must have stood on something sharp in the bushes in the garden, and it had been pushed right into her foot, and out the other side.

Eva’s Dad realised that the stick had to be removed, so he held one end firmly, and tugged gently. Unfortunately, the stick was firmly stuck in place, and it didn’t budge at all. Maggie didn’t appreciate his efforts to help her, wriggling and trying to run away. She didn’t seem to be bothered by the piece of wood as long as she was left alone. She could walk normally, and she didn’t try to pull it out herself. All the same, it was obvious that the wood had to be removed, so Maggie was brought down to our vet clinic.

When I checked her, the piece of wood was still firmly in place. I gave Maggie a sedative injection, and ten minutes later, she was sleeping peacefully. I was then able to grasp the wood firmly with tightly-gripping forceps. I held her leg with one hand, and pulled the wood steadily using the forceps. At first, it seemed to be stuck, but after a short tugging match, it came out smoothly enough. It turned out to be the stem of a bramble: it had sharp barbs that had stopped it from being easily removed.

The stick had created two small wounds in Maggie’s leg, at the entry and exit points of the injury. I clipped the fur away from these areas, and advised that they should be cleaned twice daily with mildly salty water.

Maggie made a rapid and full recovery from the incident. She’s back to her normal routine already. Eva and her sister continue to enjoy petting their fluffy friend, and Eva is as irritated as ever when the mischievous cat steals toys from her bedroom.

Tips

  • Cats and young children often become great friends
  • Close supervision is needed when cats spend time with very young children
  • Back gardens may seem safe, but all sorts of unexpected accidents can happen

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