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What To Do If My Cat Swallows String?

kitten looking at red yarn ball with lose piece of string

Cats and string have a centuries-old love affair that can end up being dangerous. An innocent play session with string can result in a cat ingesting the string, and it's something that should be taken very seriously.

Whether the string's been wholly or partially swallowed, the last thing you should do is to try to pull it out. You might think it's the only solution by instinct, but you'd be wrong. Because the string is a linear foreign body, pulling it out could cause serious internal damage to your cat. For example, your feline's esophageal lining could get lacerated as the string is pulled.

Take Your Cat To The Vet

Ingesting a string could indeed prove harmful to your cat, but it's less likely they'll choke or cause an obstruction in their digestive system. It means you may have more time to take your furry friend to the vet so they can look at it.

Your veterinarian will assess the situation and determine if good old-fashioned fluids and laxatives can help your cat pass the string or if surgery is needed. While some strings might pass without serious issues, it's always better to err on the side of caution and have your cat examined by a vet.

Common Symptoms of String Ingestion

If your cat has unintentionally swallowed a string, then you must watch out for any signs or symptoms that could indicate an emergency. While most string cases are treated without surgery, you should pay close attention if any of the following symptoms occur:

Frequent vomiting

Vomiting frequently, more so if mixed with blood, is a clear sign that something serious is happening in your cat's body. If you're sure they swallowed the string before the vomiting began, you should rush them to the vet. The fact that the cat vomits is indicative of an obstruction.

Swelling of the abdomen

If your pet's abdomen looks swollen or is tender to touch, it could mean that there's either a large amount of string in their system or something else is going on internally. If swelling and tenderness are noted, the only solution is to take your pet to the vet as soon as possible. 

Straining in the litter box

If your cat is straining when they pee or poop, it's a sign that the string has caused an obstruction in the digestive system. If this is the case, your cat needs immediate medical attention from a specialist.

Lack of appetite

Not being interested in food or drinking water often occurs when cats feel weak due to medical conditions. It could also be a side effect of pain and inflammation caused by the string. It may be difficult to tell whether the lack of appetite is because of an obstruction or a different medical problem. If you notice a change in your cat’s appetite, please take them to the vet immediately. 

Difficulty swallowing/breathing

If your cat has difficulty swallowing or breathing, it could mean the string is already causing serious complications, or an infection has occurred due to the ingested object. So, if you observe any strange behaviour in your feline, and feel it could be due to string ingestion, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Pawing at the mouth

Pawing at the mouth is something that cats do when they feel like there's an object stuck in their throat. If this happens, it could be due to an obstruction lodged inside your pet's stomach or intestines. Again, the best thing to do is immediately contact your veterinarian. 

Diarrhea (with blood)

If you suspect your kitty has swallowed a string and has diarrhea with blood, they’re probably connected. Medical attention is imperative since the string has likely caused an infection or internal damage.

Preventing String Ingestion

Now that you know how dangerous string ingestion can be for cats, we should talk about prevention. While your cat may always find ways to have fun with string, you can do a few things to minimize the likelihood of a difficult medical incident.

The most obvious measure is to keep strings out of your cat's reach. Whether they're sewing threads or pieces of yarn, store them in areas cats can't access so they won't be tempted to play with it and end up ingesting it inadvertently. 

Second, if you do notice a piece of string on the floor or somewhere else accessible to your pet, take it out of harm’s way. Don't think twice about it or leave it for later because just one string is enough to send your cat on a trip to the vet's clinic. 

And third, don't give your cat string as a toy. While you may think playing with it is harmless fun, it can quickly become an accident waiting to happen.

cat playing with scratching post with toy mouse on top of post

Last Thoughts 

If your cat swallows string, it is crucial to take immediate action to ensure their safety and well-being. Contacting your veterinarian and providing them with all the necessary information about the incident will enable them to provide the best course of action. 

Remember, the ingestion of string can pose serious risks to your cat's health, so it's always better to err on the side of caution and seek professional advice. By being proactive and attentive to your feline companion's needs, you can help prevent potential complications and promote a swift recovery.