Cats are one of the most common household pets in America. They’re beloved, sweet, playful and affectionate. There aren’t many people who don’t smile when they see a cat playing with a ball of yarn, or chasing a string, but there’s something wrong with that picture. String, such as sewing thread, yarn, and floss, is incredibly dangerous to cats and can cost their owners thousands of dollars, and may even cost the poor kitty his or her life.
String or string-like objects are a “no-no” for cats.
As much as your cat may love chasing a ball of yarn, or ripping threads off of your sewing projects, it’s incredibly dangerous for your cat to do so, and should be discouraged and avoided if possible. If you catch your cat messing with any kind of string or string-like objects, be sure to get her attention and make sure she knows she shouldn’t be playing with the object by shooing her away, raising your voice, or whatever disciplinary methods you use with your pet. Although they may still try to get to string and string-like objects, enforcing consistent discipline may help teach them not to play with these items.
Linear Foreign Body
The problem with cats playing with string or string-like objects is that many times they chew, and even swallow, the string. The cat is not able to cough the string back up, so the cat continues to swallow the string. The string makes it’s way through the cat’s stomach, and if it’s not dissolved in the stomach (most strings aren’t), then they are passed further on into the intestines. This is where the string becomes a problem. Once the string has made its way into the intestines, it begins to have a “scrunchie” effect. The string continues to travel, however, the intestines begin to gather around the string, much like the fabric around a scrunchie. As the string continues to move and the intestines continue to bunch up, the string becomes more taut and can cut and injure the intestines. These strings may also cause a bowel obstruction, which can be just as serious as the “scrunchie” effect.
Symptoms of a linear foreign body in the intestines are very pronounced and usually easily recognized.
Once a string has made it into the intestines of a cat, and the “scrunchie” effect starts to set in, then a cat will typically need surgery to correct the problem. Usually, before the linear foreign body is suspected, the cat with suddenly become lethargic, move much more slowly, as if they are in pain, and may puke, clear or colored liquids that appear frothy. The cat will most likely refuse to eat or drink and this can lead to malnutrition, and even more quickly, dehydration. The cat will not be acting themselves, and may stop grooming themselves, leaving their fur matted, wet and dirty. The cat may whimper or cry as though they are in pain. The cat may not show any pleasure or enjoyment to things they once enjoyed, such as petting or scratching and may be less responsive to noises such as tongue clicking and kissing noises.
Surgery is usually required to preserve your cat’s life.
If your cat is suffering from a string that has already begun to take on the “scrunchie” effect, it is very likely the cat will need surgery. The vet is usually able to determine if a linear foreign body is to blame by taking an x-ray and determining if there is any intestinal gathering on the films. This surgery can cost as low as $500 and as high as $5,000, depending on how extensive the surgery is and if any other complications arise from the surgery. Your cat will also require pain medications and antibiotics, and special prescription food that is milder on their healing intestinal track after the surgery, which may increase the cost even more. If the surgery isn’t performed, your cat may die. This surgery is considered exploratory surgery, in which the veterinarian goes into the cat’s bowels, locates the string, and removes it. The veterinarian may also open the stomach to ensure there is no more additional string that may work through at a later date, causing the same problems and requiring further repeat surgeries.
If your cat has difficulties with string, consider purchasing pet insurance before your cat becomes injured.
There are several companies that offer pet insurance to help protect pet owners against the possible financial burdens associated with veterinary care of a cat who has swallowed a string or string-like item. The levels of coverage may vary, however, these insurance policies may make the difference between your cat’s life or death. For as low as $5-10 per month through some companies, pet insurance can help shoulder a great deal of the costs associated with veterinary care, ensuring that pet owners don’t have to put their pet down for something that could be treated, simply due to financial constraints. This insurance is generally inexpensive, and can save you lots of money should an emergency arise, and your pets life.
Keep your cat safe!
As much as cats and kittens alike love to play with string and other string-like objects, it’s best to keep these objects safely out of their reach, and ensure that any loose strings on furniture or clothing that you cat may be able to reach are trimmed and secured. It’s important to keep your cat healthy and safe, and the last thing you want for your beloved feline is for them to be in pain and needed very expensive surgery to correct the issue. Find appropriate, cat safe toys for your pet to play with that do not have strings or yarn attached to them. Remember, although your cat may love string, you’re doing your best to protect her by keeping it out of her reach.
Foreign Bodies in the Small Intestine of Cats
My Cat was Playing with a String and Ate it. Is that a problem?
Gastrointestinal Foreign Body in Cats