My Cat Ate Elastic String: Should I Worry? (Solved!)

If you own a cat, it’s probably just a matter of time before your feline friend gobbles down some string. Elastic string or string, the result is the same—you panicking, thinking that your cat’s bowels are going to suddenly implode.

 The reality is, that your cat will probably pass it without a problem. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case and you should be on the lookout for potential problems, such as a bowel obstruction or perforation. If the string was particularly large or long, a trip to the vet is probably in order. 

 Most of the time, your cat swallowing some string will probably result in you grabbing the tail end of it, while your cat is pooping in the litter box, and extracting it as quickly as possible. It’s not the cleanest and most rewarding task in the world, but it can be pretty funny. 

Symptoms of Bowel Obstruction

This is when you need to be concerned and it’s why you should look after your cat pretty carefully if you suspect that it has swallowed some string, even if it’s a minor amount. The potential problems are exacerbated by age. The older your cat, the more likely the string may have a detrimental effect inside of its gut. 

  • A substantial decrease in your cat’s usual appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Dry heaving without anything coming up
  • Swollen abdomen that is painful to the cat when you touch it
  • Your cat becomes very restless and never lays down for long
  • Your cat starts hiding from everyone
  • Your cat becomes very lethargic
  • Dehydration due to refusing to drink water and vomiting

That’s a lot of symptoms and, believe it or not, that’s also a good thing, mostly because they are obvious behavioral changes and things that you are not likely to miss. If your cat suffered in silence, without much of a change in behavior, you might not know that something is wrong. 

The fact that the symptoms are pretty obvious, especially if you know that your feline friend swallowed some string, will help you out immensely. You will know what’s up and can get your cat the help it needs quickly. 

Preventing Your Cat from Eating String

Cats love string. There’s no getting around that. Your cat can create an entire day’s worth of self-entertainment with a single piece of string. They love to bat it with their paws and because of the way the string reacts, they only get more interested. 

The string makes your cat’s predatory instincts kick in because when your cat strikes it, the string moves like prey in flight. If you allow your cat to lay around, playing with string all day, the odds are good that the string will eventually end up in your cat’s tummy. 

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  • Don’t leave any string lying around
  • Be extra careful during the Christmas holiday, especially with ribbon and tinsel
  • Always put yarn and other string in a drawer when not in use
  • A string that is disposable needs to go in a trash can with a lid
  • When your cat does play with string, supervise it and remove the string when you’re done
  • Find other, safer toys that exercise and mentally stimulate your cat

The most important thing that you need to do is pay attention. When you have an indoor animal, regardless of what it is, you have to consider the things that it might get into. Most people already know how cats are when it comes to string. 

If you really need to find out, dangle a string from your hand and move it around. If you are in the same room with your cat, she’ll see it and be on her way in a hurry. Cat’s just love string so it’s paramount that they only ever play with it when they are properly supervised. 

What Can the Vet Do to Help?

If your cat is dealing with an intestinal obstruction, your vet will have to perform surgery to remove it in most circumstances. There are three types of internal blockages that you might be dealing with—complete, partial, and linear.

Complete blockage usually occurs in the most narrow passages of the cat’s gut, or near their sphincter. A complete blockage will cause many or all of the above-listed symptoms, so it’s not something you’re going to easily miss unless your cat is an outside cat. 

Linear blockage mostly occurs when your cat eats a protracted strand of string, such as a fishing line, tinsel, or a long stretch of yarn. There may be no symptoms at first but, eventually, the stuff will bunch up as the cat’s gut keeps trying to move it. That’s when the above symptoms will start. 

A partial blockage is just what it sounds like. Some food and water will still pass through your cat’s gut but the partial blockage will continue collecting additional fecal matter, ultimately resulting in a complete blockage. 

Fortunately, if you catch the symptoms quickly enough, your vet can take care of the problem. The bad news is, that a partial block is easily the most dangerous because it causes a lack of oxygen, which will cause lasting or even permanent damage.

Your vet will begin by performing an ultrasound on your cat’s stomach and intestinal areas. This will tell the vet if the object has passed through, is causing a blockage, or is still on the move. Unless there is a complete or partial observed blockage, your vet may send your cat home with you, with careful instructions to keep your eye out.

If there is a complete or partial blockage, however, your vet will likely perform emergency surgery to remove the obstacle. Your vet will then have to monitor your cat closely over the following days to ensure that your cat doesn’t develop Peritonitis, which is very dangerous. 

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All Things Considered

For the most part, the string isn’t going to end up hurting your cat but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t watch it carefully if you know that your cat has ingested some. At the first sign of any distress, get your cat up to the vet as soon as you can.