When you think of kitties at play, your mind probably conjures images of precocious felines batting around balls of yarn or stalking toy mice. Cats take their play time very seriously. Sometimes friskiness and curiosity get the better of them and an item of interest like string, a toy, or a bit of plastic may be accidentally swallowed.
While cats are often able to pass swallowed objects through the digestive tract without any problem, sometimes they can become lodged in the intestines creating a life threatening emergency. A cat suffering from a foreign body obstruction may vomit, strain to have a bowel movement, refuse to eat, become lethargic, act painful or tender in the abdomen, or even show behavioral changes like aggression towards you or family members and pets.
If you suspect your kitty may have swallowed something he shouldn’t, seek veterinary care immediately. A physical exam and X-rays can help determine if surgical intervention is needed to remove the obstruction. If a cat with a foreign body does not get prompt treatment, they become weak, dehydrated, and can even suffer an intestinal perforation and internal infection. At this point, even emergency care may fail to save the kitty’s life.
Although you cannot stop your cat from playing and investigating, there are several steps you can take to help prevent a devastating foreign body emergency:
- Sweep and vacuum floors often. Our cats are at a much lower vantage point, so every dropped elastic, bobby pin, or plastic tag poses a potential threat. Even strands of hair on the bathroom floor can clump together in the GI tract to create a blockage. Clean floors and carpets are key in preventing foreign bodies.
- Keep especially desirable items out of reach. Some cats are crazy for string and yarn, others adore the pull tabs from jugs of milk or orange juice. I had a cat that was obsessed with my makeup brushes and would steal them off the bathroom counter. The same cat also loved to chew on plastic grocery bags. Learn what objects pose the biggest risk to your cat and be sure to keep them well out of reach.
- Scan for potential hazards before leaving the home and going to bed. Cats are at their most active when the sun goes down. Before light out, be sure to check for items that may draw your cat’s attention. Is the sewing kit on the coffee table? Are there children’s toys left within reach? Although cats mostly spend their days sleeping, it’s a good idea to do a quick check before leaving for the day as well.
- When in doubt, seek veterinary care immediately. The best way to prevent a swallowed item from turning into a life threatening emergency is to seek help at the first signs of trouble. If you suspect your cat swallowed something, or you have noticed signs of illness, visit your veterinarian right away.
Check out some of the crazy X-rays veterinarians have shared of items swallowed by their mischievous cat patients!
Featured Image via Instagram/HarryPottertheGingerCat