My Cat Ate Styrofoam: Is That OK? (Solved & Explained!)

When you get a package in from Amazon or another online warehouse, you get a box with your goodies and a few extras that your cat will surely notice in the form of Styrofoam packing peanuts. What should you do if your cat ate Styrofoam while playing?

While they Styrofoam might well pass through your kitties system and end up in the litter box within 48 hours, there is no guarantee of this and so you should get them to the vet immediately. Styrofoam can cause a suffocating blockage quickly, and it also puts a strain on the liver from its plastic content. Styrofoam is bad news.

Try telling that to your kitty, though, and you can see the problem. To them, those peanuts are a godsend and one of the best toys ever, so today we’re going to explain in detail why it’s best to take precautions so that your cat doesn’t eat Styrofoam. It’s a lot more dangerous than you think!

What happens when a cat eats Styrofoam?

When your cat eats Styrofoam, if the pieces are small enough and your cat is young and healthy, then there is a decent chance that they will simply poop it out later and you are ‘out of the woods’ as far as health concerns. The problem is with the consistency and the size of small pieces, especially those ‘peanuts’.

While cats tend to ignore the large blocks of styrofoam, aside from a half hearted swipe or getting on top of it to enjoy the weird textures and lightweight properties, with peanuts most cats will instantly go into attack mode.

They love batting these shaped-Styrofoam bits around and since they are treating them like prey already, your cat is going to bite at least one peanut and quite possibly several of them. With their spongy consistency, every time your cat swallows a piece there is a chance of it getting caught in their throat.

This could block their airway with a bit of bad luck and that could be fatal, but even if they manage to swallow it without this happening, it goes to their stomach next and whatever chemicals are inside get in your kitty, while their livers work overtime to process this chemical plastic filler and this could damage them.

Will Styrofoam pass through my cat’s body safely?

The good news is that the Styrofoam will generally pass and if your cat doesn’t have any existing liver stress or other issues then they might well be okay, but it’s going to take around 48 hours before it will pass out of their body. You can wait, but you’d better be confident, because it’s still straining their liver.

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Plus, there is the matter of chemical treatments that might be involved. Without calling a company, you won’t know where they get their peanuts from, and this presents a danger that we can’t really quantify due to the enormous variability in providers.

In 2011, there was a study by the U.S. Department of Health on the toxicity of ingested Styrofoam and they found that it releases a chemical called polystyrene, which is packed with carcinogens. This is important to know because carcinogens are proven to increase risk for multiple types of cancers.

With that in mind, even if your cat is only eating the occasional Styrofoam peanut an depositing it in their litterbox, they are getting dangerous carcinogens which are slowly building up and increasing their risk of Cancer down the line. Your cat might be mad, but those peanuts are going to need to go.

Why do cats eat Styrofoam?

The cat attraction to Styrofoam is understandable in all of its forms. With the big blocks of it, your cat is fascinated that these ‘big things’ are easy to move around or even to bite into and carry off for play later.

With the peanuts, they have a cute, little shape and respond in interesting ways when your cat whacks them. This gives them a chance to give their predator skills a workout and the sheer volume of peanuts in a single box probably doesn’t help – it’s kind of like the kitty version of the ‘ball pit’ at many children’s venues.

To sum it up, Styrofoam looks weird and responds in interesting ways when your cat interacts with it, so it’s packing material for you, but it’s a ‘cat magnet’ for them. If anyone manages to somehow make a kitty-safe variety, they’re probably retire rich for their efforts!

Older cats and kittens need to see the vet immediately

We would be amiss if we didn’t recommend that older cats be brought to the vet immediately if they’ve eaten Styrofoam. Older cats are not going to have the kind of robust protection from their livers that younger cats enjoy, and while they might love those peanuts, this is definitely a health concern.

Kittens, on the other hand, are more at risk from choking on Styrofoam. They don’t have the experience at dislodging items that get trapped in their teeth but more importantly, they also have smaller airways.

So, if your older cat or if one or more kittens get into a batch of Styrofoam, it’s best to get the vet involved right away. While young adult cats can usually get themselves out of trouble, the inexperience and vulnerability of kittens and the increased fragility of older cats require a little extra due-diligence on your part.

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It’s always best to err on the side of safety, especially with your beloved cat’s health.

In conclusion

While the stuff is endlessly amusing for felines, if your cat ate Styrofoam then it’s best to get them to the vet post-haste. Styrofoam presents a choking hazard and the chemicals inside it are simply not meant for kitty consumption and could strain the liver or even contribute to cancer.

As a last-minute recommendation, you can feed your kitty spongey foods such as tuna with oil to help it to bind to Styrofoam, wrapping around it to get it to pass more easily, but as it can take 48 hours to work its way out and do a lot of damage on the way, it’s really best to get your cat to the vet NOW.

Now that you know about the dangers, we’d recommend opening those new packages in a separate room with the door closed. With as much as kitties love packing peanuts, that’s probably the only way to keep them away!