Prior to adopting my kitten, Luna, I had some iconic cat images in my head..a cute, pink-tongued ball of fuzz downing food from a dish, a warm purr machine sleeping in a basket. The other image was a cuddly kitty playing with a ball of yarn. They are tender representations of the wild, clownish rascals that all kitten owners know and love. Not so comforting? The fact that string can be a deadly toy to cats.
If you take anything away from this post, let it be this: string and ribbon can kill cats.
I learned this the hard way last year. With the holidays coming up, I thought this would be a helpful cautionary tale to share with other pet owners.
On my fiancé’s 30th birthday I thought it would be nice to hang a little banner while he was out running errands. We had already gone on a relaxing vacation as his gift, but I wanted to do a little something. I got a little cake and some candles and this chic banner off of Amazon.
Luna, 6 months old at the time, wanted to be involved. She kept pawing at my legs and meowing. I’d lean down and pet her. I’d go back to hanging the banner. Meoooooow! She’s always been like a literal baby. I’m still working on Furburizng her (get it?)… I had a long piece of string I wasn’t using, so I decided to give it to her as a very temporary distraction. I thought because it was so long there was no way it’d be a problem. She was overjoyed. I turned my back for a second. I turned back to Luna.
She licked her lips. The string was gone.
Although I was not (and still am not) a cat expert, I remembered reading somewhere that cats couldn’t have string. This was some common myth, along with the fact that they can’t consume dairy and unfortunately don’t have nine lives. I immediately put her in the carrier, called the vet and got in the car.
I made sure I brought a sample of the string she ate with me. It was about a foot and a half and it was able to give them an idea of how it would, or in this case, wouldn’t break down in her stomach. I was happy I brought her in. The vet said most people let the cat process the string and then pull it out of their rear-end.
Never pull a string out of a cat’s behind.
(The string is likely wrapped around their intestines and this can potentially rip out their insides or seriously screw them up. Please don’t do it. Get to a vet.)
They tried to give her something to throw it up, which of course, she didn’t. They looked down her throat and didn’t see anything. At this point, they started questioning if she even ate the string. I started questioning it. I had my fiancé search the whole house for it. No sign of the string. We proceeded forward.
They were able to perform a successful endoscopy and pull the string out safely! The fact that they pulled a five foot string out of a 4lb kitten without doing any damage is amazing. How they were even able to safely put her under anesthesia is amazing. Their bodies can’t break down string and passing it can be deadly.
When a cat swallows string it is not a “wait and see” situation.
After 30 hours of anxiety, fear, self-blame and $1,200 our fur baby returned home.
I know treat string with the same caution applied to rubber bands, plastic bags and food in the sink.
Please don’t make the same mistake I did! With the holidays coming up it’s up to you to protect your pet.
Here’s are some things you can do this year to keep your feline safe:
- Wrap gifts in room away from your cat. This way you don’t have to wonder.
- Keep veterinarian information on hand. Ours is 24-hour. If yours isn’t, make sure you find the nearest one, just in case.
- Inform your guests, children, etc. of the dangers of cats and string.
- If something does happen, trust your gut. When I had two vets and a tech asking me if I was sure, really sure that Luna swallowed the string, I had to trust my cat-mom instincts and not second guess myself.
- God forbid something happens, forgive. Accidents happen, even to the most experienced pet owners. One vet was oddly able to comfort me by telling me all the weird items she’s pulled out of pets – underwear, parts of vacuum cleaners, pens.
These things do happen, but by sharing this information I hope to help break down the myth that giving your cute, cuddly fuzz muffin a ball of yarn is a good idea.