No Strings Attached! Linear Foreign Body Surgery In Cats

No letting your cat play unsupervised with string!
No letting your cat play unsupervised with string!

Cats are famous for their love of string – yes, it can be so cute to dangle yarn, thread, ribbons, even rubber bands in front of our kitties’ faces and watch them swat playfully at them. But alas, we need to warn you: DANGER DANGER DANGER.

Strings are very dangerous when eaten. Toys with strings of any kind should never be left alone with your pet (this goes for dogs as well, but cats are more commonly ingesting strings because strings are so often part of their toys).

Our surgeon Dr. Suehiro recently had to rush a cat into emergency “linear foreign body” surgery – this is what it’s called when some form of string-like object has been tangled up in the digestive system. This condition is difficult to diagnose because the foreign body often does not show up on x-rays. Linear foreign bodies can result in death if there is a perforation in the intestinal tract.

Unfortunately, not all linear foreign body stories have a happy ending.

Fatal Attraction: the cat's affinity to string has been known since antiquity
Fatal Attraction: the cat’s affinity to string has been known since antiquity

What happens is this: the cat eats a string, or piece of yarn, or part of a cat toy that has fishing wire attached to it, and one end gets anchored somewhere in the mouth or throat – this can happen if an end gets looped around or under the tongue, stuck on the teeth, or even stuck with saliva around the larynx – then the rest of the string continues to try to work its way through the intestinal tract. When this happens, the string, anchored on one end, causes the intestines to bunch up like an accordion. When this occurs, the string can cut into the walls of the intestines, and fluid and material that are inside the intestinal tract can leak into the body cavity, causing peritonitis, a severe and often fatal infection of the abdominal cavity.

Sometimes you can see an end of string hanging out of your cat’s mouth or anus. girl_cat_stringDr. Suehiro could actually see an end of the string in the throat of our aforementioned cat before surgery. If you see a string, DO NOT PULL IT OUT! If the string is already anchored inside the intestinal tract and you try to yank it out, it can cause irreparable damage to the intestines of your pet. Take your cat to be looked at by a vet before trying to remove the foreign body.

DOGS: This same information goes for dogs as well. Dogs are more inclined to eat pantyhose, rope toys, towels with frayed ends, etc. These types of long, thin materials can cause major damage to your pup’s intestines the same way string can be dangerous for your kitty.

String toys are stimulating and fun, of course! Just make sure to always play with these toys SUPERVISED, and to put them safely away when you leave the room. Or better yet, find toys with no strings attached 🙂

To DRIVE THIS POINT HOME, here is a PSA flyer from the folks at PetFinder about the dangers of leaving your cat alone with string. Please feel free to share:

String Can Kill