My Cat Ate String: What Should I Do Now?

My Cat Ate String: What Should I Do Now?

Cats may be too much playful when it comes to yarn balls or strings, but they are not the safest toy for them to play with. Ingesting a string while playing can be seriously fatal for your little kitty. Even anything attached to the string, like a needle or a roll, can also be swallowed by the cat, making the situation even worse.

So, to keep your cat safe from any string trouble, continue reading this article.

Dangers That A String Can Cause To Your Cat

Mouth Can Get Obstructed

The long length of the string can pose a threat to the cat while playing.

There are chances that the string can get wrapped around the tongue base due to the movement of the tongue and the barbs.

In addition, the movement can reel the string in and roll it at the back of the tongue, obstructing the mouth.

The barbs’ movement will also get hampered, and the string can even get stuck in the throat leading to distress and choking.

Irritation In The Stomach Due To The Presence Of A Foreign Body

The string can roll up and can lodge inside the stomach like a ball. Most of the strings or threads, or ribbons are usually difficult to digest. This means that it will stay in the stomach, unchanged.

It can result in irritation as well as damage to the inner lining of the stomach. Your cat can even suffer from vomiting and also feel nauseous.

Linear Foreign Body

If the string somehow reaches the intestinal area, then it can result in forming a “liner foreign body.” It can be understood as a foreign body (like a toy or a stone in the stomach) that can block the intestine and create gastrointestinal obstruction.

Linear bodies do not create an obstruction all by themselves. But, they make the intestine fold around them, forming an extremely dangerous bowel obstruction.

Let’s understand the whole process:

In this, one end of the long string becomes the anchor, either by reeling around the tongue’s base or lodging in the pylorus.

Pylorus is the part of the stomach that connects to the small intestine.

The free end of the string is then pushed down to the intestinal tract through peristaltic waves.

You can understand peristalsis as the process of involuntary contraction and relaxation of the intestinal muscles.

For more simpler understanding, you can imagine the movement of an earthworm.

But, as one end of the string is already struck in the tongue or stomach, the free end can’t be pulled along.

In an attempt to carry on the normal movement, the gut tries to move the stuck string.

But while attempting so, the movement causes the intestine to fold up or ‘concertina’ around the foreign body (string) tightly.

The technical term which is used for this folding up is known as “plication.” For clear understanding, you can imagine the bent part of a drinking straw.

A healthy intestine is just like the bendy bit of the straw, which is fully expanded.

But, the foreign body causes it to fold up soo tightly that it becomes a closely bunched up, bendy bit.

The intestine folds up too tightly that it creates a block resulting in bowel obstruction.

The gut can tighten even more and increase the risk of intestinal perforations. Such a situation makes it extremely hard for the veterinarian to remove the string as it can get even worse.    

The bunched-up gut obstructs the blood flow, which leads to the death of an intestinal segment.

The dying intestinal part can get affected by bacteria and rupture completely. This can put your cat in a fatal situation via conditions such as peritonitis, malnutrition, or dehydration.

In order to move the foreign object, the bowel segment will make efforts and contract vigorously. Even after doing so, if the object doesn’t pass through, then the bowel may collapse into a nearby part which can cause partial or complete gastrointestinal obstruction.

Not only this but the blood flow to the affected segment will also be compromised and may lead to tissue death. Such a condition is known as “intussusception.”

Swallowing Dangerous Objects

It is highly probable that cats can swallow the objects attached to the string or thread, too, like a needle or the reel.

If swallowed, a needle can poke through the internal organs causing severe internal damage.

Even the reel that got ingested with the thread can become a foreign body leading to bowel obstruction.

Symptoms That Your Cat Has Eaten A String

The symptoms are not always the same for this problem. They will vary depending on what your cat has eaten, the object is in which part of the body, and when the string was consumed.

  • Your cat will feel like choking if the string wraps around the tongue or gets stuck in the mouth. You will notice your cat retching and pawing trying to spit something out of its mouth. You may even see a part of the string hanging out of its mouth.
  • If your cat swallows the string down to the stomach, then it will feel lethargic and less interested in eating anything. Also, It may completely lose its diet and even vomit.
  • If the string starts causing trouble in the intestinal area, then the cat will be flat as well as lethargic. It will even lose its appetite and can suffer from vomiting and diarrhea. If you try to touch your little kitty’s stomach, it will feel a bit tender and can also cause pain to your kitty. Your furry pal may also try to resist your touch and guard its stomach.
  • If the situation continues, it can be really problematic as your cat will become dehydrated, develop septic, and even die quickly due to the development of peritonitis.
  • If your cat is lucky, then there are chances that the string will pass through its system in 2 to 5 days without any obstruction.
  • But, do remember, swallowing string should not be taken for granted. Early intervention can save your cat from any complications. So, do not wait for the string to pass naturally and visit a vet immediately.

What Should I Do If My Cat Ate String?

Whenever you suspect that your cat has eaten string, the first thing you must do is remove all the objects around your cat that can worsen things. For example, any other strings, ribbons, or something like that.

If you see a string hanging out of your cat’s mouth, then do not hurry and try to pull it out. There are chances that the other end may have reached the gut. Pulling it, may cause plication or intestinal damage to your cat, making the situation more complicated.

If your cat is not showing any signs of immediate distress, try to figure out what it has eaten and when it happened.

Don’t try to control the situation all by yourself. The best way to deal with this problem is to take professional help by contacting a vet. The veterinarian will advise you on the most prominent solution to get a successful outcome.

Try to visit the vet’s clinic as early as possible for immediate examination and diagnosis of the problem. The quick professional intervention will increase your cat’s chances to be saved.

Treatment To Resolve The Problem

On visiting the vet’s office, the vet will ask all the details regarding your cat’s situation at the initial stage. Then, he will try to examine your cat externally.

It is a crucial step to perform as it will give an idea regarding your cat’s overall health. It will also help in assessing any symptoms which we discussed above.

Further treatment will depend on the outcome of the external examination and symptoms. For example, if your cat is in serious distress, pain, and dehydrated, too, then intensive treatment will be needed.

When it comes to character, cats have a strong character in comparison to dogs.

Dogs may allow you to examine them, but cats do not tolerate any of that, even if it is for their own good. In such a case, to perform a full examination, cats need sedation or an anesthetic.

So, you don’t need to fret if your vet advises such a thing. String swallowing can be really troublesome, painful, and complicated, so giving your pet anesthesia is a kindness.

If The String Gets Stuck In The Mouth Of Your Cat

  • In this situation, the vet will try to treat your cat once it is under anesthetic.
  • He will attempt to unwind the string carefully and take it out of the cat’s mouth.
  • He will also check for any damages caused by the string.
  • If the string was only in the mouth and hasn’t gone down any further, then it is good news.
  • Your cat will be able to recover very quickly with minimal assistance.

If Your Has Cat Has Swallowed The String

  • If the string has gone down the throat, then a more thorough examination will be required to find out the exact position of the string inside the kitty’s tummy.
  • For this, the vet may advise X-rays or ultrasound of the tummy while the cat is under anesthetic.
  • Note that thin objects like a string may not show up on X-ray pictures. But, if there is any obstruction or plication, the tissue will form unusual patterns.
  • Such patterns may take time to develop. So, in such a case, the vet may advise continuous monitoring of the cat in the hospital. Later on, the X-ray or ultrasound will be repeated to detect any patterns.
  • If you think you can leave the string in your cat’s tummy and wait for it to digest and pass through the system, you are wrong. It is because strings do not digest and can create a severe problem in your cat’s digestive tract.
  • To take out the string from the abdominal area, the vet can perform an endoscope, or the other option left is surgery. It may sound scary, but surgery is the quickest way to resolve this issue.

Surgery To Cure Bowel Obstruction Caused Due To String

If, after examination, it comes out that the string is in the stomach, then a simple surgical incision will do the work. This is actually good for your cat as this surgery gives the most promising outcomes. The recovery is also quick (it takes up only a few days).

If the string has reached the intestine, this is where things can become trickier.

As discussed earlier, the Linear foreign body is one of the most treacherous foreign objects, and dealing with it is even more complicated.

The complex thing is that usual foreign bodies in the intestine can be treated with only one incision, but that’s not the case with linear foreign bodies.

So to treat it, there is the need for multiple incisions. If the surgeon tries to take it out through one incision, it can cause further damage and plication.

Unfortunately, multiple incisions escalate the chances of post-surgery complications. This means that your cat will take more time to recover (around 10 to 14 days).

The worst-case scenario is when the string has already plicated, ruptured, or damaged the intestine.

In some cases, the intestine gets damaged so severely that the damaged area needs to be removed. In this, two healthy intestine segments are joined together in place of the damaged one.

Such surgery is the hardest one to perform for a vet and has a higher rate of complications.

There are chances that the cat may or may not survive the surgery or can even die during the post-surgery period.

The post-surgery recovery time is around 2 to 4 weeks, and the cat will need the most supportive care. But, the mortality rate is extremely high.

Can Cats Recover Fully After Eating String?

You don’t have to worry as most of the time; cats are able to recover fully after eating strings.

They don’t even show any signs of long-term complications. However, this is only possible if you identify the issue at an early stage and immediately seek professional help.

The longer you take to identify the problem, the worse the situation will get. Your cat can face severe complications, including a damaged intestine.

The more severe the problem, the more time it will take for recovery, and the higher the chances of complication in your cat. In addition to this, complex surgeries along with post-operative care cost a lot.

So, it is more cost-effective if you seek a vet’s consultation at the initial stage of the issue.

Unfortunately, those cats who are suffering from linear foreign bodies, peritonitis, and plication have an increased risk of both short as well as long-term complications.

If any of these complications occur due to eating string, then your cat can die, and it’s heartrending to say that most of them do.

How To Prevent The Cat From Eating String?

The key to preventing your cat from eating string is proper management and prevention:

  • The first step is to keep all the string and yarn-related things up and away from your little kitty.
  • If you are wrapping a gift, then keep an eye on your cat, too, so that it does snatch a ribbon to play. Also, keep the gifts away from your cat after wrapping.
  • When you are unwrapping the string from the meat, make sure that you throw the string in a sealed bin.
  • Even cats ingest dental floss. So, use a wastebasket in the bathroom with a lid on the top to prevent your cat from ingesting the floss.
  • Train and supervise your cat to avoid playing with toys with strings attached to them.
  • Get feeding toys for your kitty. They help in encouraging the habit of slower eating and keep your pet’s mind engaged.
  • Some of the safe toy options for your cat include a catnip mouse, feather wands, plastic milk jug tabs, crinkle balls, or some other toys that your cat can bat around. 
  • Most importantly, you should take care of your cat and feed it an enriched diet. In addition, it would help if you will be mindful of its physical as well as mental needs to prevent it from doing any stress-related chewing.

Final Words

Whether it’s a kitten or an adult cat, they both have a curiosity and liking for strings. But, it is necessary that you prevent your cat from eating string as it can result in some severe complications, as we have already discussed.

You should always use vet-approved toys for your cat and keep anything string-related away from it.

Even if your cat has eaten a string, keep in mind the symptoms mentioned above and take it to the vet at the earliest.

Getting late to tend to the problem will make things worse for your cat.

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