Foreign bodies in cats

A cat paying with toys

There’s no denying that our feline friends are known for their inquisitive nature, often exploring their surroundings with safety far from their minds. This curiosity can sometimes lead to unintended harm, with foreign body ingestion being a common worry amongst cat owners. 

It's important to be aware of the risks associated with foreign body ingestion in cats and take proactive steps to keep them safe and sound. 

Understanding the risks

Foreign body ingestion occurs when a cat swallows objects that are not part of their regular diet. These objects can range from small items like hair ties and rubber bands, to more hazardous materials such as string, tinsel, or even small toys. 

The ingestion of foreign bodies can lead to serious health issues, including intestinal blockages, which may require emergency veterinary intervention.

Recognising the signs

Knowing your cat and their behaviour is crucial in identifying potential foreign body ingestion. This is so that you’re able to recognise some of the more subtle signs that something isn’t quite right with your feline friend. 

Foreign body ingestion symptoms may include: 

  • Vomiting.
  • Retching.
  • Diarrhoea. 
  • Abdominal tenderness. 
  • Decreased appetite. 
  • Lethargy. 
  • Biting or hissing when touched. 

Remember: Cats are really good at pretending nothing is wrong, so they may just try to keep away. If you notice any of these signs, then speak to a vet as soon as you can.

Preventing foreign body ingestion in cats

It is important to make sure your feline friend does not have access to anything that might harm them if eaten. Here are some ways to prevent foreign body ingestion in cats:  

Choose safe toys

When selecting toys for your cat, only pick ones that are designed specifically for felines. Always avoid small objects that can be easily swallowed or items that can break down into smaller, more dangerous, pieces.  

Monitor string and tinsel

Cats are often drawn to string-like objects, giving chase when dragged along the floor and jumping to swipe at anything held above their heads. Unfortunately, these can pose a significant risk if ingested. Keep an eye on items like ribbons, tinsel, and thread, and store them out of your cat's reach. 

Secure your household items

Everyday household items such as hair ties, rubber bands, and other small objects can be tempting for cats looking to play. It’s important to store these items securely to prevent accidental ingestion and further complications. 

Supervise your cat’s playtime

Instead of letting your cat entertain themselves, engage in interactive play with them using safe toys, and supervise their playtime to ensure they don't end up nibbling something they shouldn’t. 

Always put away toys that are not designed for unsupervised play.

Be mindful of houseplants

Some houseplants can be toxic to cats, and chewing on them may lead to bad news. If you have plants in your home or want to add to your collection, always research cat-friendly plants and ensure they’re kept out of reach of swatting paws. 

Properly dispose of packaging

Cats love carboard boxes, don’t they? Well, they’re not the only packaging materials our feline friends might be eager to play with. Our cats might be attracted to plastic or Styrofoam too, so these should always be properly disposed of. 

Don’t give them bones

Cooked bones, especially chicken bones, can cause intestinal issues in our cats as they can be very sharp, lodging in places as they’re eaten. Avoid giving any cooked bones to your cat, and ensure any bin-raiders aren’t munching on a dangerous meal. 

Remember: Secure your bins to help prevent your cat from exploring other potentially hazardous materials and waste. 

Seeking veterinary help 

Many foreign objects can and will pass through the intestinal tract without a problem however, not all make it back out again. If you suspect your cat has ingested a foreign body, or they exhibit any unusual symptoms, seek veterinary attention immediately, as early intervention is key in preventing complications.

Treating foreign body ingestion in cats

Once the foreign object has been identified, exploratory surgery is generally recommended for its removal. It is important not to try and pull it out, even it can be seen, as this can cause serious damage to the gastrointestinal tract.

Once removed, it’s likely your cat will be quite sore for several days and will need to be cared for at home or in a veterinary hospital. They will be monitored closely until they are eating and drinking normally and able to pass faeces again. 

If you have an Animal Friends cat policy, you can download the Joii app to make free video calls to qualified vets, who are there to help you with any concerns you might have.

Looking for more cat advice?

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