My Cat Ate String. How Long Will it Take to Pass?

Find out how to know if your cat has swallowed string and how to handle this stressful and, potentially dangerous, situation.

Kittens and cats are oftentimes depicted as being all tangled up in a ball of yarn or string. But what these adorable images don’t show us is the potential problems that could arise if your feline friend decides to swallow bits of it. This nightmare has happened to many pet parents with a feline at home.

Read on to find out how to know if your cat has swallowed string and how to handle this stressful and, potentially dangerous, situation.

Linear Foreign Body & Your Cat

The term linear foreign body is a fancy term for any string-like matter that enters your cat’s system. This can include yarn, fishing line, thread, eastern grass, tinsel…well, you get the idea.

The trouble with this type of “matter’ is your cat tends to consume it like a long piece of spaghetti. If the linear object doesn’t break or your cat doesn’t manage to chew the piece off from the existing source, it can build up in her stomach.

This is where the real trouble begins.

According to Catster Ask a Vet  linear matter can become snagged. One of the more common places for this to occur is under the tongue. Here it can wrap and anchor itself while the other portion is being swallowed, which can pose a choking hazard.

Another place for string-matter to become anchored is in the intestinal tract. Once there the digestion process will naturally try to push the matter toward the cat’s anus. However, if it is anchored, the intestines can’t go through their normal processes and will themselves become bunched up. Vet’s refer to this as gastrointestinal obstruction which can be potentially fatal if not caught in its early stages.

Not only is the “bunching” of the intestines bad enough, but the string can also perforate or even cut right through the intestinal wall. Once this occurs, bacteria and whatever else is already in the intestinal tract, can leak out. This can lead to a condition known as septus, which usually ends in death.

Signs to Keep an Eye Out For

If you suspect your feline may have eaten some string, there are symptoms to keep an eye out for. These include;

  • Dry heaves and/or vomiting
  • Decreased appetite
  • Anorexia
  • Straining to poop or diarrhea
  • Painful abdomen
  • Fever
  • Depression
  • Dehydration (due to vomiting and/or diarrhea)

Call your veterinarian if your cat is exhibiting any of these signs or if you know she has consumed a large quantity of linear foreign matter.

What NOT to Do

Oftentimes if your cat simply chews off a short piece of string, it will pass naturally. However, there are some things you will want to avoid doing when it’s time for the matter to exit you cat’s body.

Although, it may be your first instinct, never pull on the string that is protruding from your cat’s anus. Depending on the length of the linear matter, the pulling-action could cause lacerations and other serious damage to your cat’s intestines.

If this situation happens, vet’s recommend just snipping the linear object off (as close to the anus as possible) and continue to do so until the whole piece passes. But again, if your cat is having difficulty, call your pet’s doctor ASAP.

Is It Pica or Play?

When cats (or any mammal) has an insatiable urge to eat foreign objects, this can be caused by a condition known as Pica. This is very prevalent in the Siamese, Tonkinese, Burmese and other Oriental breeds. Why these specific felines is still not scientifically proven, but pica is not, by any means, limited to these types of cats.

Unfortunately, science isn’t one hundred percent certain why pica happens, but they do theorize that it could be a genetic predisposition, stress, attention-seeking action, boredom or just because it tickles your cat’s fancy to eat something none food-related.

So How Long Will It Take to Pass?

Although, there is no set time for how long it will take for a linear body to pass, it will usually make its way through your cat’s system anywhere from 10 to 24 hours after being consumed. If there is a blockage, however, depending on where it is located, this time-frame could be altered.

If your cat is exhibiting any signs of a linear blockage, be sure to call your veterinarian immediately. The sooner this issue is dealt with, the better the chances your cat will have for a full recovery.

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