Help - Kitty emergency!
January 18, 2009 5:41 PM   Subscribe

Our cat swallowed some yarn - is this always an emergency?

He puked up some, mostly chewed up into small sections. Do we need to find a Sunday night emergency vet or can it wait until the morning?
After three bouts of puking he is resting, not crying as he was before the puking incidents. He seems OK, just trying to get his bearings - not in any pain (that we can tell).
posted by readery to Pets & Animals (25 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm no expert, but I would guess that he'll probably be okay. You may not need a vet at all. My cat ate a 3ft long piece of string once and I didn't even know until he started passing it in his stool. It was still in one piece and I had to "help" him get it all the way out (not the greatest experience), but he was fine without seeing a vet.
posted by expletivization at 5:54 PM on January 18, 2009

He'll likely be just fine but you may find, like expletiv said, bits of string trailing out his butt later.
posted by InsanePenguin at 6:04 PM on January 18, 2009

Do not pull string hanging out of a cat's rear end. Not very hard, at any rate. You can do internal damage.
posted by amtho at 6:05 PM on January 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

If it was my cat I'd be speaking to the vet on the phone right now. Paying for professional advice now is going to be cheaper than paying for a colon resection later.

Sometimes cats will puke it all up, sometimes they don't, sometimes the whole lot of yarn/string will travel through the system and come out the other end without a problem. Sometimes it gets stuck and winds around the internal twists of the gut and cuts like cheese wire. Without an X ray you won't be able to tell which it is. If there is going to be a problem with yarn in the gut, generally the earlier it is caught the better the outcome.

If there's any yarn showing in your cat's mouth, don't be tempted to pull it - similarly pulling bits of yarn out of a cat's arse can cause damage if the yarn winds further back into the bowel. Spun yarns and string can cause a lot of damage.

One X ray can determine where the yarn is. One X ray is cheaper than surgery to mend a perforated bowel and hospitalised post op care and treatment for ensuing infections. Your call, but speaking to a real vet on this one is better than taking a chance with we random strangers on the internet.

Best of luck!
posted by Arqa at 6:09 PM on January 18, 2009 [3 favorites]

This should help you with the applicable concerns.
posted by batmonkey at 6:10 PM on January 18, 2009

The danger with cats swallowing yarn it that it can get tangled up with their internal organs and cause some pretty severe complications, such as blockages with loss of blood to parts of the intestines, resulting in the death of them and requiring a surgical intervention. If you cat was crying and puking it was already in some amount of discomfort, indication that things weren't in the all clear. I am not exaggerating when I say that this is at best a serious situation as you've described. I would recommend the trip to the emergency vet, but then, I can not imagine a situation where I would risk letting one of my pets die just because I wanted to save a few dollars or because it was inconvenient to me.
posted by internet!Hannah at 6:13 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Our cat did this a coupe of years ago with twine. No problem. YMMV.

P.S. You haven't lived 'til you've seen a cat trying to catch the twine hanging out another cat's butt.
posted by neuron at 6:14 PM on January 18, 2009 [3 favorites]

It'll probably pass fine as long as it's just regular pieces of string. However (story time), my cat once ate a string with a loop in it that got caught around his tongue. Of course, I didn't notice this at the time. Fast forward a couple days and the cat is displaying generally strange behavior (sluggishness) as well as vomiting. I took him to the vet and he had developed "pearling" of the intestines. Long story short, after major surgery, a week in the hospital and infection scare, I've got one healthy cat minus $3,800.

So I'd probably take him to the vet immediately, but only because I've been burned before.
posted by dead cousin ted at 6:17 PM on January 18, 2009

Call a vet now. My sister's cat died after eating the fringe off a rug. It got caught in his intestines and ruptured them causing septic shock. Initially he was listless and puking-- the puke turned green, this happened over Memorial Day and we finally got him to a emergency vet. He was completely dehydrated and better after they got him hydrated but there was nothing more that they could do for him. It was horrifying and I still get sick thinking about it.
posted by nikitabot at 6:21 PM on January 18, 2009

Impossible to say. The vomiting is a concern, but if it is not continuing, it may be all gone. The problem with things like yarn that are not radio-opaque is that they may not show up on x-ray, even if they are present. They can sometimes be detected by the effects they are having on internal organs, though. Considering that he was crying, vomiting and "getting his bearings" (does that mean disoriented?), I would go to an emergency vet in your area and see what they think. Better to be safe than sorry, right? This can be a fatal situation. It can also be completely harmless.

You can feed it some Laxatone (or just petroleum jelly like Vaseline) if you have it for the time being - it may or may not help get things moving along.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:44 PM on January 18, 2009

You should see some of the stuff cats ingest. He should be fine. Make sure he has plenty of water. If you have any hairball goop, give him a nice dollop of that.

If he seems in distress in the morning, call the vet and ask what they think.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:45 PM on January 18, 2009

It depends on whether or not it turns into a problem. If the cat's in discomfort and is any less active than normal, go immediately to the vet. If you can, check under the cat's tongue to make sure he doesn't have any looped under it -- probably not possible without help. As the cat poops the string out, you'll want to trim it almost immediately or the cat itself could pull it out as part of it's cleaning process and cause a snag inside it's intestines.

If you've ever tried to get a hoodie's draw string through the little pocket intended for it, you know what your cat's going through right now.
posted by SpecialK at 6:47 PM on January 18, 2009

This is my cat Bristol. A few years ago she ate some thread. It wasn't the first time she did it and I wasn't too concerned. She usually managed to puke it up. But the next morning, it was clear that she wasn't well. I took her to the emergency vet on a Sunday and they had to rehydrate her because she started vomiting repeatedly. First thing Monday morning I took her to her vet, who had to do emergency surgery. $2300 dollars later, she was barely alive. It was a surgery that she probably shouldn't have survived at all. She's fine now, but you bet that if she even eats a little bit of yarn or thread ever again, I'll be taking her to the vet immediately.

Keep an eye on the cat tonight, but with the vomiting and the cat not feeling well, I would definitely take him in as soon as the vet opens. If he starts retreating to secluded areas of your home, you may want to take more immediate action. Cats hide when they are sick and scared.
posted by bristolcat at 6:55 PM on January 18, 2009

For everyone claiming their cat ate string and was fine, yes, cats do eat string and pass it without complications fairly often. His cat has vomited multiple times and was crying in pain, and is still disoriented. That is not "without complications" and is already serious. This cat needs to, at the very least, go to the vet first thing tomorrow morning, and ideally go tonight, as if there are serious complications, which some of the signs point to, you really shouldn't be wasting time.

To be honest, waiting "until the morning" is playing with fire. At the vet clinic I work at (oh and none of this is veterinary advice, I am not a veterinarian, etc) we once had a woman at the door when we opened whose cat had licked some draino out of the bathtub the night before and didn't seem well. She decided it wasn't worth the trip to the emergency vet because "it was just a little bit of draino".

We considered it an emergency situation and made it our first priority of the morning, but within five minutes of being taken to the back, the cat had seized and stopped breathing and had no pulse. We resuscitated it and did what we could for it, but it spent the next three days in a coma (owners who feel guilty usually turn down euthanasia and try and spend every last penny they can on fixing their error). It finally regained consciousness, but was showing severe neurological symptoms. In the end, with around-the-clock care for a month, we managed to bring the cat about 95% back (it never really could walk in a straight line afterward and jumping onto objects was iffy) which was nothing sort of miraculous. The cat should have died (and did in a manner of speaking) and cost its owner thousands of dollars. Without any surgery.

If they had taken the cat into the emergency vet when they saw it drink draino in the first place, the cat could have been induced into vomiting and given a neutralizer much much earlier. Still wouldn't have been a fun week for the cat, but no where near as serious, or (even with the emergency vet bill) no where near as expensive.

Sure, your cat ate string. Some cats are fine when they do that. Do you really want to take that risk?
posted by internet!Hannah at 7:00 PM on January 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the info.
We called the emergency vet and planned on bringing him in, but when we attempted to get him into the carrier he perked up very quickly. He's now eating and drinking and we are watching him closely, keeping the door to basement closed so he can't get into his hard to find hiding spots. We will bring him in to the overnight emergency if conditions warrant it.

He's sneaking up on his sister right now, so I think he may feeling better.
posted by readery at 7:08 PM on January 18, 2009

I somehow missed the part about the crying and puking. I hope there's a 24 emergency vet in your vicinity, because you need it.
posted by dead cousin ted at 7:13 PM on January 18, 2009

sorry, failed to preview.
posted by dead cousin ted at 7:13 PM on January 18, 2009

Glad to hear he's feeling better -- eating is a very good sign, but also watch for excreting -- he should be doing both, at the usual rate; at any point that it looks like he's not doing this, or is in pain (crying, determinedly licking a side, or belly, etc.), it's time to go to the vet RIGHT NOW.

As many have said, he may have gotten away with this, but there are plenty of cats who don't -- sometimes the same ones that have gotten away with it in the past.

Assuming things are going well, anything you can do to move some bulk fiber through his digestive track is probably a good thing; hairball remedies work, as do (amazingly enough) green beans (cooked, warm, maybe some butter) or pumpkin pie filling (right from the can), if he'll eat them (some cats go nuts over 'em, others not so much).

If you manage to dodge the emergency vet, by all means get him to your regular vet ASAP, and be sure there's nothing similar for him to gobble down in case he decides that the experience needs a repeat.

Best of luck!!
posted by nonliteral at 8:08 PM on January 18, 2009

(Forgot, of course - IANAV, IAN Your V, etc...) Also, please be sure he's eating AND excreting before filling him up with fiber...
posted by nonliteral at 8:10 PM on January 18, 2009

Do not pull string hanging out of a cat's rear end. Not very hard, at any rate. You can do internal damage.

I think this is my new favorite Metafilter comment.
posted by Electrius at 8:50 PM on January 18, 2009

My cat swallowed about 1.5 feet of floss two weeks ago; we called and were told to look for "listlessness" but, well, that's her defining characteristic. She seems fine, but we're a little mystified as to where it went, seeing as how we never saw any evidence of it.
posted by whatgorilla at 9:56 PM on January 18, 2009

You can feed it some Laxatone (or just petroleum jelly like Vaseline) if you have it for the time being - it may or may not help get things moving along.

I've been in a similar position, and when I called my vet this is exactly what they recommended. It literally lubricates the digestive tract, allowing for the string to pass more easily, and more rapidly. It also will help avoid the string getting tangled in the intestines.
posted by tybeet at 8:05 AM on January 19, 2009

We have a friend whose cat died after having severe intestinal damage when his owner pulled the string out in a similar situation.

DON'T PULL, no matter how disgusting the string appears.
posted by yellowcandy at 1:34 AM on January 20, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for your help.
He is fine.
Once he was eating and drinking normally the vet said to keep and eye on him, which we did. The yarn was red so easy to spot in his poo.
I think it is also important to note that the yarn was wool and as an organic material may have been easier on his system - in both his vomit and poo it was fairly shredded.
posted by readery at 10:55 AM on January 21, 2009

I am very glad to hear it, thanks for taking such good care of him.
posted by internet!Hannah at 12:45 PM on January 22, 2009

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