Cat ate a string

    Your Cat Ate A String! Here's What You Should Do

    Cats can sometimes swallow thin string-like objects that become tangled in their digestive tract, causing a life-threatening emergency called a foreign body obstruction. Items like dental floss, sewing thread, yarn, ribbon, cords, and more can get lodged in the intestines or stick through intestinal lining when eaten. This guide covers first aid steps to take right away if your cat eats string and prevention methods to avoid future ingestion incidents.

    Types of Strings Cats May Eat

    Kittens and cats are drawn to play with and chew on a variety of string-like objects, including:

    • Dental floss or string floss picks
    • Sewing thread, embroidery floss, or yarn
    • Ribbons, twine, or rope
    • Tinsel, garland, or holiday decor
    • Wires, charging cords, thread, or cables
    • Elastic bands, rubber bands, hair ties
    • Pull cords for blinds or curtains
    • Parts of toys like string wands or feather teasers
    • Pieces of clothing, fabric, carpeting, etc

    Any thin, string-like item is a potential hazard if your curious cat ingests it.

    What Happens When Cats Swallow String?

    If a cat swallows string, it can cause choking or become anchored in the stomach. More dangerously, it may lodge somewhere in the gastrointestinal tract and trail down, causing blockages.

    One common area where swallowed string may become lodged is the base of the tongue. If part of the string then progresses into the GI tract, it can lead to complications such as blockages. The intestines attempt to push it along but it remains stuck. This causes the intestines to bunch up and narrow, creating an emergency obstruction.

    Even if not fully obstructed, the string can still irritate or puncture the GI tract. This leads to dangerous internal bleeding or sepsis. So eating foreign bodies like string often become urgent situations requiring swift veterinary treatment.

    Signs of a potential string ingestion requiring prompt vet care include:

    • Anorexia or decreased appetite
    • Vomiting or dry heaves
    • Straining to defecate
    • Abdominal pain
    • Hiding, restlessness, lethargy

    First Aid When String is Ingested

    If you see your cat swallow string or suspect theyโ€™ve eaten it, quick action is crucial:

    • Symptoms often arise within 1-2 days but can come on later. If you see string in the mouth or protruding from the anus, do not pull on itย - go to the vet immediately so it can be removed properly.
    • Do not make your cat vomit if the string was ingested more than 2 hours prior.
    • Monitor closely for symptoms like gagging, wheezing, choking, vomiting, diarrhoea, loss of appetite. These require urgent veterinary care.
    • Never give your cat food, treats, milk or other items to โ€œpushโ€ the string through, as this can make the situation much worse.

    Preventing String Ingestion Dangers

    Stop string eating dangers before they occur:

    • Keep all strings, wires, tinsel and other hazardous items out of reach and ideally out of the home. Cats can find and ingest string anywhere.
    • Provide safe string toys only under supervision then store away. Avoid feather teasers, yarn balls, pull toys, etc for independent play.
    • Put trash cans behind closed doors since string from package wrapping and tags can be tempting.
    • Trim loose strings from window blinds or curtain pulls. Bundle cords out of reach.
    • Replace classic blinds and cords with cat-safe alternatives like cordless shades.
    • Cover mattress coils, undersides of chairs, furniture legs and other tempting spots.
    • Consider cat-proofing cabinets and containers to reduce access to unsafe items.

    By cat-proofing thoroughly and limiting unsupervised string access, you can prevent scary foreign body situations. But if ingestion does occur, immediate first aid and vet care is critical. Stay vigilant and take quick action to keep your curious cat safe.

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    By Dr. M Chandrasekar


    Dr. Chandrasekar serves as the Professor and Head of the Emergency Critical Care Unit at Madras Veterinary College, Chennai. In this role, he brings a deep passion for animal welfare and advanced medical care to the Resident Veterinary and Services Section. Known for a warm, empathetic approach, Dr. Chandrasekar not only leads in critical care but also inspires future veterinarians with his dedication and expertise in this challenging yet rewarding field.

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