Cats love to play with string. Many toys and games involve string or thread. This appeals to a cat’s hunting instincts using play, without putting human fingers at risk.
Swallowing string has health consequences. There are many variables, depending on what string your cat ate and how much. This guide will discuss how to help your cat to recover.
What Should I Do if My Cat Has Swallowed String?
There is nothing to gain by hoping for the best. Your cat may end up fine and passing the string without incident. This will be down to good fortune, so never take any chances.
As soon as you have noticed that your cat has swallowed string, make a veterinary appointment. This should be same-day. If your cat is visibly struggling for breath, don’t wait.
Hop in the car and get them to the surgery immediately. The more information that you can gather beforehand, the better for your vet. Things that you can bear in mind include:
- What kind of string did your cat swallow?
- When did the incident take place?
- Is your cat showing any signs of physical distress?
- Have they eliminated since the incident?
If you can answer these questions, your vet will quickly find the best course of action. Remember, time is of the essence. The sooner you get your cat seen, the more likely they are to recover.
Do not induce vomiting unless you are told to do so by your vet. If it’s been less than two hours, the string may not have been digested yet. However, enforced vomiting could cause more problems if not handled delicately.
You could provide your cat with Laxatone. Most reputable pet stores will stock retail items that contain Laxatone. This will ease your cat’s digestive tract, and should ease any physical discomfort.
Why Do Cats Swallow String?
Next time your cat licks you, pay attention to the sensation. You will notice that it feels very rough. This is because cat tongues contain countless tiny barbs. This is how they groom themselves. Hair and dirt get stuck to the tongue, and thus leaves the body. It’s very easy to wool and string to get stuck on a cat’s tongue too, however. It is impossible to spit this out, and your cat may swallow through lack of options.
Also, cats love to play with string. It’s a famous and favored visual image to see a feline curled up with a ball of wool. Sometimes, however, the game goes a little too far. Picture the scene. Your cat is contently playing with a ball of wool, chasing it around the floor. Sooner or later they’ll pounce, and capture their ‘prey.’ How a cat reacts at this point depends on their personality. If this were a mouse, some cats would bat it around, and others would eat it. If your cat falls into the latter category, they may eat the wool.
Even a basic toy that utilizes string can excite and confuse a cat. They may not differentiate between the string and the cloth toy attached to it. Any play that involves string should always be supervised, for your cat’s safety. Another explanation for eating string, as International Cat Care explains, is Pica.
This is a medical condition where cats feel compelled to eat non-food items. Siamese cats, and other oriental breeds, are particularly susceptible to Pica. This is how they have ended up with the nickname of ‘wool eaters.’ If your cat is not such a, they may have a nutrient deficiency in their diet.
Why is Eating String So Dangerous for Cats?
When a cat swallows string, the risk is that it will lodge somewhere inside their body. The digestive tract will attempt to process the string like normal food. As we know, however, string is not food. This means that it will gradually unravel inside your cat’s intestines. Also, this is very likely that the string will wrap around a major organ. This can cause health concerns.
This issue is so common among veterinarians that it has an official terminology – linear foreign body. DVM360 hosts many case studies of felines struggling with this problem.
The longer a cat retains the string in their digestive tract, the more it will unravel. This, in turn, opens the potential for more and more damage. The pressure that is placed on the organs can prevent your cat’s body from functioning. If the string squeezes too hard, it could even kill off tissue in the organs and cause fluid to leak. This will often lead to peritonitis, which is a fatal condition. This is why it is so important to get a cat that has swallowed string to a vet quickly.
On top of this, string may even wrap around a cat’s tongue. This could prevent a cat from breathing, or eating. This will obviously have a hugely detrimental impact on your cat’s health. If you spot wool or cotton around your cat’s tongue, unravel it quickly.
How Long Does it Take for String to Be Passed by a Cat?
Anything that your cat consumes should be eliminated within 24 hours. Sometimes, it’s as soon as 10 hours after eating. However, where string is concerned, you should not wait this long.
If a complication arises in your cat’s digestive tract, the string will not be passed. If you wait a day to acknowledge this, your cat will be in huge intestinal pain. Also, the risks associated with eating string will be magnified.
If you find string in your cat’s waste, you should still speak to a vet. If they ate the string without your knowledge, you would not know how much. If they pass it naturally, your cat may have had a lucky escape. There is no way of knowing if more string remains inside their body without tests, though.
What are the Warning Signs of a Cat Eating String?
If your cat has eaten string, it may be visibly noticeable. You may see a piece of string hanging from the corner of their mouth. Alternatively, it may even be protruding from their bottom.
Other, medical symptoms of a cat swallowing string include:
- Vomiting, retching, and diarrhea. These symptoms can also lead to dehydration, which is very dangerous.
- Abdominal pain. This may involve your cat becoming very vocal.
- Refusal to eat, leading weight loss.
- Visible discomfort while eliminating, or appearing incapable of doing so.
- Blood in the stool or urine.
- High fever.
- Lethargy and depression.
Any of these symptoms by themselves could have their roots in other medical concerns. However, whatever the reason, they are all worthy of an urgent veterinary appointment.
I Can See String Inside My Cat’s Mouth
If you see string protruding from a cat’s mouth or anus, never tug it out. This will do more harm than good. The chances are the string has wrapped around something in the gut. This means that by yanking the string, you could cause significant health concerns.
Instead of tugging on the string, gently cut it off with scissors. Keep the string as a sample for your vet to take a look at. This will prevent your cat from eating any more, at least. The act of physically removing the string, however, needs to be completed by a trained professional.
What Type of String Has My Cat Swallowed?
There are many different types of string that a cat can swallow. Each of these is dangerous in their own way. Some of the common string items that cats swallow include:
- Small Pieces of Ribbon. A short, thin piece ribbon is the least dangerous string that a cat can swallow. This does not make it safe. It’s still quite possible for ribbon to get trapped in a cat’s intestines. They may be passed quickly.
- Shoelaces. These tend to be very long, meaning they can cause real problems for your cat. Your cat may be able to pass a thin shoelace if they’re lucky. A typical lace, however, will be thick enough to cause a problem. If your cat enjoys playing with your shoes, supervise them.
- Yarn or Wool. Cats love They will often knead it, as that releases pleasure sensors in their paws. They may also suck wool, as this simulates the experience of feeding on their mother. It will be easy for wool to wrap around a cat’s intestine.
- Cotton Thread. On paper, thread is not a problem for a cat to swallow. It’s thin, and thus should be passed easily. Where the problem lies is that thread often has a needle attached. This can be hugely dangerous, and painful.
- Dental Floss. Dental floss may look comparatively innocuous, but it can unravel in your cat’s stomach. This will be very dangerous. Keep floss well out of a cat’s reach, ideally in a bathroom cabinet.
- Tinsel. This is something of a stalwart in most homes during the festive season. It’s colorful and noisy, making it irresistible to many felines! Even a small amount of tinsel can be dangerous.
- Fishing Line. A cat will have to work very hard to eat fishing line as it’s very tough. If they manage to do so, however, this means that it’s very likely to cause internal damage. If you keep fishing equipment in the home, ensure that it’s behind closed doors.
- Elastic Bands. Rubber bands or elastic hair ties are common objects in the home. They are also very common hazards that a cat may swallow. Your pet may get one of those items trapped in their throat, or digestive tract. If this is the case, the band is likely to wrap around a pivotal internal organ. This is likely to require surgery to repair.
Every single one of these items is dangerous, and require veterinary attention. Some, however, may be easier to deal with than others.
My Cat is Acting Normal
If your cat ate a short piece of string and showed no ill effects, don’t ignore it. You should at least arrange a telephone consultancy with your vet. They will provide insight into what changes in behavior you should look out for. Your cat may start to manifest symptoms later than you realize.
As we have mentioned before, your cat should pass string within 24 hours. If your cat is perfectly normal in that timeframe, you may be in the clear. Never assume, though. Always seek the advice of a professional, however, if only for your peace of mind.
My Cat is Not Pooping
Eating string by itself should not be reason enough to stop your cat from pooping. However, it may happen if they end up with a ball of string in their colon. This could occur if the swallowed string keeps unraveling. If it’s too large to pass in a single elimination, your cat will struggle. Laxatone may help, but it’s no substitute for professional healthcare.
If your cat has not eliminated in 24 hours, take them to a vet. Even if you did not see them eat string, it’s a very likely explanation. Either way, your pet will be in substantial discomfort. A vet will be able to run tests to diagnose the issue, and advice on treatment.
My Cat is Vomiting and Has Diarrhea
A cat that starts vomiting and has diarrhea after eating string will have an intestinal blockage. As a result, your cat will require immediate medical attention. Surgery is quite likely.
Never ignore a potential intestinal blockage in your cat. It will be excruciating for your pet, and will become fatal before very long. The symptoms themselves are dangerous; vomiting and diarrhea can lead to dehydration.
If your cat vomits more than once in quick succession, this is considered chronic. They will need to see a vet straight away. Diarrhea will also be dangerous, and upsetting for your cat. As naturally clean animals, no feline will enjoy having such an upset stomach.
My Cat Ate the String Tail of a Toy Mouse
It’s important that you purchase high-quality toys for your cat. They don’t need to be gold-plated, but cheap toys may fall apart. This can end badly for your cat. Always pick up your toys from a pet store, or somewhere equally reputable.
The string found on a toy mouse will usually be small, and thin. This means that your cat should be able to pass it safely. Offer your cat some Laxatone to aid the process, and keep an eye on them.
What is an Intestinal Blockage?
When your cat eats something that prevents them from digesting food, they have an intestinal blockage. This means that something is preventing food from making its way through your cat’s digestive tract. In the case of string, it usually means that it’s wrapped around a pivotal organ. Think of swallowed string as a giant, inflexible hairball.
According to Wag Walking, the symptoms of an internal blockage in cats include:
- Vomiting and diarrhea.
- Lethargy and depression.
- Sudden weight loss.
- Swelling and pain in the abdomen. This may involve crying or whimpering.
- Loss of interest in eating and drinking.
- Inability to stay calm or relax.
- Body temperature that drops below 90O
If your cat is displaying any of these symptoms, have them looked at urgently. The longer your cat’s intestines are blocked, the longer they will be unable to eat. Anything longer than 24 hours without food is very dangerous for a cat. Your cat may also need to replace lost fluids through an IV to avoid dehydration.
What Will a Vet Do for a Cat That Has Swallowed String?
The priority will be to assess the extent of the damage. This may take the shape of a physical examination. If these results are inconclusive, however, your cat may require blood tests, x-rays, or even an endoscopy.
This involves a camera being attached to a hollow tube, and inserted in your cat’s throat. Don’t worry, this is painless. The vet will view the results of the endoscopy on a monitor in real-time.
When it comes to treating the problem, there will typically be one of three outcomes:
- The string has not attached to any organs, and your cat has had a lucky escape. They will pass it naturally. Your vet may prescribe medication to speed this process along.
- The string has wrapped around an internal organ, and is causing a blockage. Your vet will use the endoscope to unpick this and remove it. They may approach the problem from behind, gaining access to the string through the anus.
- The string has very tightly wound itself around an internal organ, and surgery is required. This will involve your cat being placed under anesthesia, while the string is unspooled by hand.
Each of these treatments has different implications. Surgery will typically be avoided unless necessary, especially in older cats. If you vet informs you that it’s necessary, however, the rewards outweigh the risks of anesthesia. If left untreated, a cat can pass away from digesting string.
A further complication may arise if the string has causes tissue to die. If this has a major impact upon your cat’s organs, the damage may be irreparable. This is why it’s so important to act quickly if your cat swallows string.
How Long Does it Take to Recover?
This depends on the outcome of your cat’s unconventional snack. If they swallowed string and passed it naturally, with no medical attention required, they were fortunate. They will be back to their old selves as soon as they have eliminated the evidence. Consider it a lesson learned, and keep any string away from your pet in future.
If your vet needs to unpick the string without surgery, your cat will still come home same-day. They may be a little perturbed at being prodded and poked, but will suffer no ill effects. Your vet may prescribe a painkiller or sedative to ease any temporary discomfort.
If your cat required surgery, they would likely be kept in overnight for observation. This is not something to worry about – it’s perfectly standard. Your vet will want to confirm that your pet suffers no delayed reaction to the anesthesia. Your cat will also likely be sent home in an Elizabethan Collar to protect any stitches. Beyond this, ensure that your pet is eating and drinking normally and getting plenty of rest.
You may notice that your cat has an upset stomach for a day or two. This is a common side effect of anesthesia on animals. Their tiny bodies are still in a small amount of shock. Just monitor this, and feed a diet of bland food for a day or two. If the problem persists, check in with your vet again.
Can I Prevent My Cat from Swallowing String?
Prevention is always better than cure. If you can stop your cat from swallowing string in the first place, you will have one less thing to worry about.
Simple, everyday ways of avoiding a string-swallowing incident include:
- Never allow your cat to play with string-based toys unsupervised.
- Don’t use household items, such as yarn, to play with your cat. This way, they are less likely to consider them a source of entertainment.
- Keep all string, ribbon, wool or thread items in a secure box.
- If you feed your cat raw, ensure string has been removed from the meat.
- Monitor your cat when they think they’re unsupervised, ensuring they do not demonstrate any Pica symptoms.
This may seem like hard work, but it can be the difference between life and death. Cats that swallow string can find their health declining very quickly. If you are not on-hand to respond immediately, the results could be heartbreaking.
Remember, if your cat has swallowed string you should treat it as an emergency. Don’t delay – react in the same way as you would if your cat ate chocolate or Xylitol. A common piece of wool or thread can be every bit as dangerous as these toxic substances.