Wellness

13 min

What To Do If Your Cat Ate String

If you are concerned because your cat ate string, here’s what you need to do to help your cat. Number 1: Don't pull the string out yourself.

Bridget Reed

Updated November 10, 2022 • Published December 08, 2021

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What To Do If Your Cat Ate String

As a cat owner, there are few things as anxiety-inducing as figuring out that your feline friend accidentally consumed a product that they were not supposed to. If your pet ate string or thread, you have reason to be particularly concerned about their stomach, potential obstructions, and the fact that they might even need to get surgery to get it removed. 

It is understandable why you would be panicked if you found out that your cat consumed something they were not supposed to, namely, string. However, it’s wise if you do not engage in panic or worry and instead attempt to remain calm. At the same time, it is essential that you act quickly to give your pet the best chance of making a complete recovery.

If your cat ate string, you might have several questions. Today, you are going to get all of them answered by Pawp and their dedicated veterinarians. You’ll learn more about if string is ever safe for cats to play with and what could happen to your pet if they ingested string.

Then, you will learn more about certain types of string that are more dangerous than others and how you can tell if your cat consumed string. Lastly, you will get answers regarding what you should do if you think your cat ate string and how you can get your pet to stop. 

Is string safe for cats to play with?

Unfortunately, it is not safe for your cat to play with string — no matter how much they might enjoy doing so. There are a myriad of other safe, fun activities that your pet can engage in, but sadly, playing with string is simply not one of them. This is especially relevant if your pet has consumed string in the past. But, even if they have not, it is better not to take a chance that they potentially will.

Instead, you should remove the string from your cat’s access and replace this with a safe toy that you can purchase for your pet in your local pet shop. As always, if you have any questions about if a toy is safe for your cat to use, you can reach out to your veterinarian. 

What happens if my cat eats a piece of string?

According to Pawp veterinarian Dr. Olsen, string, unfortunately, can be dangerous to cats when it gets ingested.

Dr. Olsen shares, “String has the potential to cause serious issues for cats if ingested, specifically if it gets stuck someplace. If you saw your cat recently ingest string (i.e., within the past 1-2 hours), contact your veterinarian with the size and type of string and see if they would recommend inducing vomiting.” 

She goes on to explain that “shorter pieces of string are most likely to pass without complication, so inducing vomiting is not always indicated.  Your vet may recommend coming in for an exam as well as x-rays to see what your kitty’s stomach and intestines look like and if any issues appear to be developing.” 

Foreign body obstruction

The first reason why your cat is eating string is concerning is because it could potentially lead to an obstruction in your pet’s body.

Dr. Olsen says, “String has the potential to cause a linear foreign body if part of it becomes lodged below the tongue or in the stomach, which can subsequently cause a bunching effect of the intestines. As the intestines become bunched, the string essentially saws through the intestines and can cause a perforation, secondary septic peritonitis, and even death.”

Choking hazard

Unfortunately, eating string can actually lead to a significant choking hazard for your pet. This is yet another reason why it is essential that you keep your cat away from any stray string that they can get their paws on and eat as a snack.

If you notice that your cat is having labored or difficulty breathing, you should immediately seek medical attention from your veterinarian. 

GI blockage

Sadly, it can actually be extremely hazardous for your cat’s health if they experience a gastrointestinal blockage like a hairball resulting from a piece of string that was ingested. This is yet another reason why reaching out to a vet and getting their insight sooner than later is invaluable. In addition, this could also prove painful for your pet to experience.

Are some types of string more dangerous than others?

While all types of string have the potential to cause problems for your pet and should therefore be avoided, yes, there are some types of string that are more hazardous than others. 

Many pieces of media and art depict cats happily playing with a ball of yarn. However, this is not an accurate depiction of quality cat care. Even though we often see cats playing with string or drinking bovine milk in pop culture, these two things are best avoided.

Not only does the classic string represent a problem, but human hair or thread does as well. The thinner the string, the more dangerous it is. Thinner strings can act as a saw faster than their thicker counterparts.

That isn’t to say that a thicker piece of string is not hazardous, however. If your pet consumed a thick piece of string, they still are not out of the woods. The string could still turn into a linear foreign body and create problems.

That’s why you should monitor their symptoms and reach out to a trusted veterinarian to learn more about the appropriate next steps. 

How can I tell if my cat ate string?

According to Pawp veterinarian Dr. Jenna Olsen, if you are unsure if your cat consumed string, you should look for signs that your pet might have engaged in this behavior. For instance, perhaps you will notice that some ribbon appears to be chewed up on the floor.

In other cases, you’ll have to take note of subliminal clues your pet is exhibiting with their behavior to decipher that this is what’s going on. 

Dr. Olsen says, “If you come home and find something string-like that has been chewed (ribbon, part of a cat toy, the tie from a bathing suit, etc.), but you don’t know when it was potentially eaten, it’s important to assess how your cat is doing clinically. If they are their normal self, i.e., eating appropriately and not vomiting, you can take a watch-and-wait approach. 

However, if they seem quieter/duller than normal, warm to the touch, not eating/eating less, or most importantly, if they are vomiting, you need to take a trip to your vet ASAP.  If your primary provider can’t get you in, an ER or urgent care clinic would be your next stop.” 

What should I do if my cat ate string?

The first thing that you should do if your cat ate string is try to remain calm. If you get to a vet soon, you likely will be able to help your pet make a full recovery. In addition, if your pet consumes string, it is extremely wise for you to act quickly. In situations where your pet is injured or ill, having time on your side is best. 

Monitor for symptoms

First, keep an eye out for any symptoms. For instance, if you are noticing that your cat is having trouble defecating (check their litter box), this could indicate that there’s a blockage. They also might be vomiting or acting lethargic. If your pet’s behavior is abnormal in any way, see a vet as soon as possible. 

Call your vet

Reach out to a trusted vet and follow their advice. In some situations, they might advise that you continue to monitor for symptoms. In other cases, they might advise that you bring the pet right in. 

Never try to pull it out yourself

No matter what you do, it is essential that you do not attempt to yank out the string yourself. This could significantly hurt your pet, and without a trained veterinarian helping them, you could make an already bad situation worse. 

How do I get my cat to stop eating string?

The best way to get your cat to stop eating string is to ensure that it is not accessible for them. If you are a knitter, be sure that you put all of your supplies away and never leave anything unoccupied. If your pet is eating ribbon from clothing, put it away so that they are unable to reach it. 

When it comes to making sure that your cat stops eating this product, an ounce of prevention truly is worth a pound of cure. Being more diligent about where you are housing your string is an excellent way to increase the odds you won’t have a repeat situation occur. 

String theory

For any or all questions about your cat who has eaten string, you should reach out to a Pawp telehealth veterinarian. Pawp’s trained vets are experienced in dealing with all types of medical emergencies and are available to help 24/7. In addition, there is never a wait or appointment needed, so your pet can get prompt help. 

CAT ATE STRING SOURCES: 

Endoscopy Removes Pet's Foreign Body | Veterinary Medicine at Illinois  

Feline Behavior Problems: Destructive Behavior | Cornell

Dyspnea (Difficulty Breathing) | Cornell 

The Danger of Hairballs | Cornell

Diagnosis and management of food allergy and intolerance in dogs and cats | NCBI

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