When you think of curiosity in animals, dogs come to mind first. However, every cat owner will tell you that their fur baby is actually more inherently curious. They move around the house and the yard, hunting for new sights, smells and objects to play with.
Unfortunately, it’s this trait of curiosity that can get cats into a lot of trouble. All too quickly an innocent adventure or afternoon play can turn into a dangerous situation. In fact, cats are notorious for ingesting everything from thread, wool and rubber bands to paper and toys.
Most of the time these incidents will resolve themselves naturally. However, every cat owner should be prepared to leap into action in case a bit of curious playtime turns into a serious foreign body obstruction.
Symptoms to look for
If your cat swallows something dangerous, there are a number of symptoms to look for. While you may be tempted to try and ease their discomfort, it’s important not to induce vomiting, or massage the throat or abdomen. In fact, the best thing you can do is call a vet.
Signs that your cat has swallowed something dangerous include:
- Straining to defecate
- Lack of appetite
- Abdominal tenderness or pain
- Incessant pawing at the face or mouth (common when thread has been ingested)
- Behavioural changes such as biting or growling when touched or carried
Understanding the danger
While it’s easy to think that anything swallowed will naturally pass out the other end in due course, this isn’t always the case. In fact, cats are prone to ingesting materials and later suffering from a condition known as foreign body obstruction.
To comprehend this complication, it’s important to understand cat anatomy. The digestive tract is a tube that allows food and drinks to pass down the esophagus, into the stomach and through the small intestine. Later, the stool is formed in the colon and pushed out of the rectum.
If an object is too large to pass, it begins to obstruct stomach outflow or the flow of things into and out of the small intestine. This kind of obstruction either compromises or cuts off blood supply to vital tissues. This interruption has the potential to cause irreparable damage.
This could result in necrosis or death of vital tissues. When this happens, toxic enzymes are released into the bloodstream. As a result, the intestinal wall breaks down and develops a hole for contaminated intestinal contents to leak into the abdomen, resulting in infection.
When something is ingested, research indicates that it can take between 10 and 24 hours to completely move through the digestive tract. In most cases, your cat will be able to pass the foreign body. If not, vet intervention will be needed to remove the foreign body obstruction.
Cat owners know that their beloved pet can get into anything and everything. With something as serious as foreign body obstruction a real possibility, caring for your cat can be a frightening prospect.
However, you don’t have to watch your cat like a hawk in order to prevent this condition. Rather, it’s important to limit, where possible, your cat’s access to naturally tempting items like rubber bands, wools and thread.
Access to inappropriate toys should also be limited. So, when shopping for toys, look for products that are the right size. They should also be comprised of materials that don’t easily break down into small and potentially dangerous pieces.
If you suspect that your cat is suffering from a foreign body obstruction, there are many diagnostic tools that veterinarians will employ in order to reach the most accurate conclusion.
Sometimes a foreign body obstruction can be diagnosed by a physical exam. The vet will be able to inspect your cat and see certain objects stuck anywhere in the digestive tract, small intestine or rectum.
In other cases, an x-ray will be required. While there may be obvious clinical signs of an obstruction, sometimes the intestines may not have undergone enough visible change to view at the time of the first x-ray.
If no blockage is found straight away, the vet will then take a series of x-rays, aided by contrast film. Under this method, x-rays are taken over the course of a few hours to monitor if the contrast material is moving through the intestines or stopping at a certain point.
After the exact nature of the obstruction is identified. The vet will talk you through a series of treatment plans. If the foreign body is not causing an obstruction, your cat will likely pass the item naturally and require no further treatment.
However, if the ingested item is causing an obstruction, surgery may be required. It’s worth noting that a prompt surgical removal more often than not results in a good prognosis. In fact, surgery may be easier on the cat, depending on where the object is stuck.
It’s also important to mention that the average cost when taking your cat to the vet for a foreign body obstruction that makes it to the small intestines is, in most cases, around $5,087.
Raising curious cats
Every cat owner wants to protect their feline from trouble. However, these naturally curious animals can get themselves into trouble quicker than you may think. The trick to keeping them safe is not taking away their fun, but instead, monitoring it.
By removing tempting and also dangerous objects like small toys and rubber bands from the grasps of your cat, you are saving them from potentially painful and dangerous foreign body obstructions.
This way, cats can still have their fun with more suitable playthings. Fulfilling their need for adventure and action while also saving you from the stress and financial burden of an emergency vet visit.