We knew the first thing my daughter would want to do upon return from a long weekend trip to Chicago was see her cats. I had plenty of time to think of the right way to break the news to her. State the positive first, then tell her what happened. That’s it, right? “Johnny’s OK. He’s still at the emergency pet hospital. The surgery went well. (This is just sounding worse with each sentence). He swallowed a ribbon.”
Our $1800 Ribbon
We were left with the simple task of kitty sitting my daughter’s two cats for two days. Both my wife and I have had cats pretty much all our lives. Cats are relatively easy to care for, I thought. We keep our cats in the house. We heat the house to a comfortable temperature. Feed them quality cat food. Give them plenty of fresh water twice a day. Keep their litter clean each day, and, of course, give them lots attention and toys to play with. Easy, right?
These things always happen at the worst time. It’s never the middle of day when the vet has office hours. At our house, it happens on the weekend, and either very late at night or very early in the morning. Johnny is a friendly, young black cat. He is very sweet, calm, and not mischievous like some cats. Like most cats, he can’t resist strings and ribbons. We were just turning everything off for the night, when Johnny trots in the room to visit us before bedtime. My wife yells, “He’s swallowed a ribbon!” The cat has about four inches of ¼” ribbon hanging out of his mouth. He does not seem to think this is a problem at all, but we do. We jumped up to grab the ribbon before he completely swallowed it. This wild “people” behavior panicked the cat, so he took off to hide under the furniture. Within seconds, we have the cat, but it’s too late – he has swallowed about ten inches of ribbon. It’s near midnight. We headed off to the pet hospital.
Most pet emergency clinics are well equipped to handle this dangerous situation. The vet on duty even told us that her dog has done this twice. Maybe she said it to make us feel better, but on researching this topic after the fact, I found that pets swallowing foreign objects that require hospitalization are a more common problem then you would think.
Since a long object, like a ribbon or string, can get stuck in a cat’s intestines and is life-threatening, it is important to remove the foreign obstruction. The vet will probably first try to get the cat to vomit out the object. If that does not work, the object may also be removed through endoscopy, in which a long tube is inserted through the mouth of the cat and then used to pull the object from the stomach. In Johnny’s case, the first two approaches did not work, requiring surgery to remove the ribbon from his stomach and a few days at the clinic. We were fortunate; we saw our cat ingest the object and reacted immediately. Though, within two hours, things progressed to the point of needing expensive surgery.
Foreign Object Obstruction Signs
If you know your cat has ingested something they shouldn’t have, call your vet immediately.
If you suspect your cat has eaten something they shouldn’t have, here are some symptoms of foreign object obstruction:
- Tummy tenderness or pain
- Lack of appetite
- Straining to eliminate or constipation
- Behavioral changes, such as biting or hissing when picked up
The best solution is making sure your house and cat toys are as kitty proof as possible. Remove enticing items, like ribbon and string, and provide toys that are the right size and made of materials that won’t easily break down into smaller, potentially dangerous pieces.
Johnny’s Happy Ending
My daughter took the news of Johnny’s hospitalization well, thankfully. Johnny recovered from his adventure nicely, with just a bump on his stomach from the surgery. Currently, he is healthy and living with his orange tabby brother, Ulysses.