It’s no secret that cats love to play with strings. Whether it’s shoelaces, sewing thread, ribbons, or a ball of yarn, cats will attack, chew on, and even eat strings. However, it can be dangerous if the string is swallowed.
It can be problematic if your cat has eaten a string or twine. Never pull on a loose string hanging out of a cat’s bottom or mouth. You could do much damage if the string is wrapped around an internal organ. Ideally, the cat will get rid of the cord naturally, but this is not guaranteed.
We discuss in this article the warning signs of a cat that has swallowed a string or thread. You will also learn how to remove the string or cord from the cat in the worst-case scenario.
Knowing some basic first aid procedures can save your cat’s life.
Do Cats Eat String?
Many cats love to play with strings. This play is fine as long as the owner supervises the activity.
Unfortunately, cats often take their play too far and try eating and swallowing strings. There are many reasons why cats may eat strings. These include:
- Mistaking the string for a prey item.
- Cats sometimes eat their prey instinctively after hunting.
- She chews on the string for pleasure and accidentally swallows it.
- The cat suffers from pica syndrome, a medical problem that causes cats to consume non-edible items.
If your cat is chewing on strings out of habit, find out why. Pica syndrome is often a symptom of an underlying health problem.
String eating may also be genetic. Researchers have found that Oriental breeds may be predisposed to this habit. However, they should stop this behavior in any case.
Is It Bad for Cats to Eat Cords?
As mentioned earlier, one of your most important jobs is to keep cats from eating strings.
Cats can tend to eat all sorts of things they shouldn’t, but string is at the top of the list. Can cats die if they eat string? Unfortunately, yes.
In most cases, the problem is not the string itself. Unless it is made of an unusual material, the string is not poisonous and will not put your cat in immediate danger.
What happens to the string in the cat’s body is of concern.
What Happens When Cats Eat String?
The best solution is for the string to pass through your cat’s digestive tract.
It will then show up in your cat’s feces, usually after a short time. If the whole piece of string does this, there is nothing wrong with it.
Unfortunately, this outcome is comparatively unlikely. Ingestion of string poses one of three risks to the cat, any one of which can be fatal.
Intestinal blockages are the main problem that results from swallowing cords. As the name suggests, in that case, the cat cannot digest the food as usual.
The biggest problem would be when the string wraps around the digestive tract. The tighter the cord wraps around it, the more discomfort the cat will have. Paralyzing stomach cramps are likely.
In addition, such a foreign body prevents the digestive tract from performing its usual tasks. When the cat eats, it is unable to process the food.
As a result, some cats refuse to eat in such cases. Those that do eat are likely to regurgitate their meal.
Another problem that can result from swallowing cords is intestinal entanglement. This occurs when one piece of the intestine wraps around another.
Often, this happens when a tight string ties off the intestine. This obstructs blood flow and limits the ability to process food.
Your cat is in pain and unable to absorb the nutrients it needs to thrive. According to one study, 37% of all cases involving such foreign bodies are fatal for cats.
The sooner you respond to an intestinal blockage, the more likely your cat will fully recover.
To be safe, assume that any swallowing of a thread will result in such an outcome. Early intervention can prevent worse.
String can also lead to choking hazards. Imagine a piece of string wrapped around your tongue. You would not be able to swallow until it is removed.
Since cats do not have fingers, they cannot remove the string themselves. Swallowed string, therefore, remains a constant problem.
Over time, the cord curls up and contracts. This causes pain and discomfort and eventually leads to the cat being unable to breathe.
The cat may then even swallow its tongue or simply notice at some point that its airway is closing.
The string does not necessarily have to wrap around the tongue to be a choking hazard. Strings can also get caught on the cat’s teeth.
From here, they can prevent food from entering the throat and digestive tract as usual. Alternatively, the string may come loose, and the cat could swallow it.
Another risk of string swallowing in cats is internal bleeding.
If the string is pulled tight, it can be surprisingly sharp and injurious.
If a string rubs against the skin long enough, it will cause cuts and bleeding. Internal organs are softer and, therefore, at even greater risk.
Pulling the string out of a cat’s butt significantly increases the risk of internal bleeding.
You may think you are doing the cat a favor. But the opposite is true, as we’ll explain in more detail. You are inflicting potentially irreparable damage.
Internal bleeding is often difficult to detect. A CT scan may be required for an official diagnosis.
If you think your cat has swallowed a thread, keep a close eye on her stool and urine.
You should consider the matter an emergency at the first sign of blood in your cat’s feces. The blood will likely be dark, almost black, rather than bright, shiny red.
How Do You Know When Cats Have Swallowed Strings?
Have you ever walked into a room and wondered why your cat has a string on its butt? The answer may be something innocuous like she was sitting on a string.
However, it is just as possible that the cat swallowed a string. The string may not have been removed by going to the toilet.
If you notice this, do not pull the string out. Only pull gently to check if the string is actually in the digestive tract. If the string does not come out, call a veterinarian immediately.
Attempting to pull the string from your cat’s butt by hand can be dangerous. If the cord is wrapped around an internal organ, you can cause irreparable damage.
The string must be removed carefully from the inside; do not force it out from the outside.
Similarly, you must not pull on this string if a cord is hanging out of a cat’s mouth.
The string can run down the cat’s throat and hang from internal organs. It may also be connected to the tongue or a tooth. Any solid pulling will cause problems.
Please don’t assume that no visible signs of cords mean your cat hasn’t swallowed them. It may be that your cat has eaten the string entirely.
This is especially likely with a small, silky piece of string, like a gift ribbon. Harder strings, such as yarn or wool, are more challenging to swallow.
If you let your cat play with a piece of string and find it missing, assume it was swallowed until you find evidence to the contrary.
It is better to be safe than sorry. If symptoms of string swallowing become apparent, your cat may already be in serious trouble.
Can Cats Digest Cords?
You may be wondering what the problem is with cats eating string.
After all, if the string doesn’t get stuck in the stomach, it will surely go through the digestive tract. Can cats simply eliminate a piece of string?
Unfortunately, strings are not digestible and will be broken down by the natural acids in your cat’s body.
In the best-case scenario, your cat will eliminate a small piece of string entirely. However, it is not advisable to hope for such a result.
How Long Does It Take for a String to Travel Through a Cat?
If your cat naturally excretes the string with its feces, this will occur within 24 hours.
If the string has not reappeared after this time, then it is unlikely to happen yet.
If you want to encourage faster elimination, you can use the following techniques:
- Rub your cat’s anus with a warm washcloth. This brings back memories of being a kitten when the cat’s mother encouraged elimination in this way.
- Offer your cat a natural laxative. Canned pumpkin is the safest and most effective remedy.
- Use an official cat-friendly laxative. Lactulose, for example, works well for this purpose.
- Apply vegetable oil or K-Y gel to your cats’ paws to soften stool.
- Make sure they are well hydrated. If you have a cat fountain, turn it on.
Visiting the litter box can help your cat defecate, but it is not an all-purpose solution. You will need to continue to monitor your cat.
What to Do if Your Cat Has Swallowed String
If your cat has swallowed string, you need to take appropriate action. Outside help may be required. In the meantime, however, you can administer first aid yourself.
Before doing anything else, call your veterinarian and explain the situation. Before you pick up the phone, gather as much information as possible. Questions a veterinarian can ask include:
- What type of string did your cat swallow (ribbons, shoelaces, wool, yarn, etc.)?
- How much string was swallowed?
- When did your cat swallow the string?
If you don’t know the answers to these questions, say so. Not having an answer is much safer than making assumptions that could be wrong and, therefore, harmful.
After an initial consultation, your veterinarian will advise on the next steps, which may include surgery.
Cut Off Any String Hanging Out
The first thing you should do is examine your cat, especially around the mouth and buttocks. Can you see a string hanging out? If so, this problem needs to be fixed.
This is not a matter of tugging on the string until it is completely removed. Doing so will put your cat’s health at immediate risk.
The cord may have wrapped itself around an internal organ. It could also be stuck to the tongue or a tooth.
Instead of tearing at the cord, pull it tight enough to cut with scissors and do so. Leave just enough to see the string.
This way, you will know when the string has been excreted, and you will help your veterinarian assess the problem.
Monitor Your Cat
While you wait for further instructions from your veterinarian, keep a close eye on your cat.
Look for the following signs of complications that may result from swallowing string and sutures.
- Difficulty breathing
- Refusal to eat or drink
- Problems using the litter box
- Swelling of the abdomen
- Blood in the stool or urine
If you notice any of these symptoms, you should classify your cat’s condition as an emergency. Inform your veterinarian of these developments and quickly get your cat to professional care.
Make the Cat Vomit
If your veterinarian recommends it, and only then, you can induce your cat to vomit. Such a measure may be helpful if the cat has recently swallowed the string.
Vomiting will expel anything the cat has swallowed within the last 60 minutes.
However, never push your fingers down the cat’s throat to get it to vomit. You risk injuring your cat’s esophagus.
Instead, have your veterinarian explain how to induce your cat to vomit.
Threads swallowed by a cat may need to be surgically removed in some cases.
This is especially the case if the thread is causing an obstruction, wrapped around an internal organ, or the animal’s life is otherwise in danger.
First, the veterinarian will perform an x-ray or endoscopy on your cat. These exams will confirm the presence of the cord or suture and provide information about the extent of the problem.
If possible, the cord will be pulled out and removed without surgery. However, this is unlikely.
In many cases, the cat is placed under anesthesia and operated on. If access to the cord is warranted, it can be pulled out and untangled by hand.
This can be expensive and not without risk, but it may be the only option.
My Cat Has Swallowed a String But is Behaving Normally
Don’t assume that everything is fine just because your cat isn’t acting a certain way. Your cat may have eaten string and didn’t feel the effects until a week later.
String can be insidious and slowly but surely cause damage to your pet’s body.
This is not to frighten you. Seventy-two hours without a problem can be enough to get you back on track, especially if you have noticed signs of lacing in your cat’s feces.
Don’t be too sure, though. Cats are adept at hiding pain. So, don’t wait for your cat to approach you and express discomfort.
Summary: What to Do When Cats Eat Strings?
If your cat has swallowed a string or thread, stay calm. However, treat the situation as an emergency to be safe.
Seek veterinary advice and provide appropriate first aid. If you act quickly, your cat has every chance of getting better.
However, don’t just wait it out. Time is of the essence.