What Should I Do If My Cat Ate String?

Kitten playing with string
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Cats love to hunt and catch prey, even if they never set foot outside. String, yarn, and "fishing pole" type of cat toys are popular ways to interact with and exercise your cat. If left unsupervised, however, your cat may ingest the string and cause potentially serious damage to the intestinal tract. Find out what to do if you suspect that your cat has eaten a string.

This is a companion to My Kitten Swallowed A String - When Will Clinical Signs Appear?

Cats and String Do Not Mix

Despite the popular image of cats playing happily with string, cats and string to not mix. Same goes for other "string-like" items — rubber bands, tinsel, Easter grass decorations, needle and thread, and window blind pulls. The "fishing pole" type of toys are also very popular and may be tempting for cats to consume the feathers or the enticing "bait" part of the toy.

Why Do Cats Eat Odd Things?

Eating odd things is also a condition called pica, and the reasons vary, but it can be related to stress, boredom, attention-seeking behavior, play behavior, or to the simple fact that the item tastes/smells good to the cat. If an animal eats a string or similar object, it is termed a "linear foreign body." What happens if a cat ingests a linear foreign body? The intestines can become blocked or stressed/pulled/torn as the string bunches up and binds during intestinal peristalsis (wavelike muscular contractions).

The Signs and Symptoms to Look For:

  • Vomiting or dry heaves
  • Anorexia or decreased appetite
  • Straining to defecate or diarrhea
  • Painful abdomen
  • Fever
  • Depression
  • Dehydration (due to vomiting)

Ultimately, the answer to this question is call your vet as soon as you notice your cat ate the string to find out the best course of action for your pet and the circumstances.