AJ Debiasse, a technician in Stroudsburg, PA, contributed to this article.
Few things are as entertaining as a cat playing with a toy. Pet stores are filled with toys to cater to the most demanding kitty. Other cats, despite their guardians purchasing actual toys, prefer to play with bottle caps, balls of aluminum foil or yarn. Did you know that all of these items can pose risks for your cat?
According to lifewithcats.tv, Garry, a tuxedo cat in Hove (on the South coast of the U.K.) recently went in for an annual physical exam. During “routine” palpation of his stomach, Dr. Jess Maguire felt a large, firm mass. Dr. Maguire suspected a tumor and told Garry’s guardian, Ana Barbosa, to “prepare for the worst.” The veterinarian recommended surgery to see if the mass could be removed.
To Dr. Maguire’s surprise, the mass turned out to be not cancer, but a ball of shoe laces, hair ties and bits of plastic in the stomach. Barbosa had mysteriously lost some of her shoe laces, but had no idea Garry was eating them. Everybody was so relieved that Garry didn't have cancer. “When I first heard it may be a tumor, I was devastated.” Barbosa is quoted as saying on the Life With Cats website. “My Two boys and I all adore him. So although I was absolutely shocked to find out what the mass was, we were relieved to hear the good news that it was not a tumor.” Fortunately, there was no permanent damage done to Garry’s stomach.
Not all cats are as lucky as Garry
Unfortunately, not all cats have the happy outcome that Garry did. When a cat swallows a foreign object, there can be several outcomes:
- If a foreign body is small enough to pass through the intestine, and does not damage anything along the way, it may simply be expelled (a polite way to say pooped out). Sometimes we don't even know that something was ever swallowed until we find something unusual in the litter box.
- Other objects may be too large, or shaped in a way that does not allow them to pass through the stomach or intestine. They can get hung up anywhere, from the esophagus (the tube from the mouth to the stomach), to the stomach and small intestine, or even the colon. It's important to understand that just because an object was able to pass to a certain point does not mean it will continue to pass.
When there is a blockage, the object can be removed with surgery and with minimal negative effects to the area. However, in some cases the foreign object can cut off circulation to the intestines, which may require a more extensive surgery to remove the diseased part. Of course, none of this can happen unless a blockage is identified first. Keep in mind that Garry’s foreign body was discovered during a routine checkup and he showed no signs of the problem. Make sure you visit your veterinarian often to keep your cat protected.
Linear foreign bodies
Of all foreign objects, “linear foreign bodies” (string, yarn, ribbon, floss) can cause the most damage. It typically causes the intestines to bunch up like an accordion. Worse: a linear foreign body can cut into the intestine and cause a deadly leakage.
Cats are extremely stealthy and can get into areas you would have never expected. Do your best to keep potential items out of your cat’s paws. Keep in mind that just because your pet has not done something for years does not mean he is not going to do it, out of the blue. We have met many guardians throughout the years that have been shocked that their pet ate something because, “They had never done it before.”
Click here to learn more about linear foreign bodies.
Clearly, Garry was very lucky that his guardian was willing to help him with surgery, and even luckier that he came out of this ordeal unharmed.
If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian -- they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.