Help! My Cat Ate Part Of A Toy
Here’s what to do 😿
Cats spend a lot of time chewing on their toys, so it’s not unusual for your cat to accidentally swallow a tiny piece of her toy, like a bit of feather.
But if your cat eats a big piece of toy (or something sharper than a feather), it could be really dangerous. So what should you do if you think your cat ate part of a toy?
The Dodo spoke to Dr. Megan Conrad, a veterinarian with Hello Ralphie, to find out what to do if your cat eats something she’s not supposed to.
What are the risks if your cat eats part of a toy?
If your cat eats a tiny piece of a toy, it may be able to pass through her system — but you shouldn’t just assume that'll be the case.
“Sometimes the toy or toy part your cat swallowed will pass through their GI tract without causing any harm,” Dr. Conrad told The Dodo. “However, swallowing a toy or other object definitely carries the risk of serious and possibly life-threatening problems, so if you know your kitty swallowed something they shouldn't have, never assume it will pass on its own.”
There are a number of problems that can come from your cat accidentally swallowing part of a toy, with the most common one being a foreign body obstruction — which basically means the object plugs up her GI tract.
“If the object doesn't pass through their system, obstruction from the foreign body can cause dehydration, electrolyte imbalance and cut off blood supply to the digestive tract (which leads to tissue death),” Dr. Conrad said.
If your cat eats something sharp, such as a piece of plastic or metal, it could damage your cat’s stomach or intestines as well, Dr. Conrad said.
While a piece of thread or string might seem harmless, it can also cause damage to your cat’s intestines.
“Anything string-like, such as a string or yarn toy, ribbon, floss or a rubber band can cause what's called a linear foreign body,” Dr. Conrad said. “The object can get an end lodged at the base of the cat's tongue or at the beginning of their intestines and cause the intestines to fold together, possibly perforating them.”
(This can also happen if your cat eats tinsel.)
What happens if your cat eats a toy?
Since an obstruction can cut off blood flow to your cat’s digestive tract, if it’s not treated as soon as possible, it can be very dangerous for your cat. So if you notice any of the symptoms below, take your cat to the vet immediately.
Symptoms of foreign body ingestion in cats include:
- Refusing to eat
- Abdominal pain
- Straining to poop
- Behavioral changes (like becoming agitated when picked up)
Symptoms can show up within hours, or it could take some time before you notice anything is wrong with your cat.
“These symptoms can show up hours, days or even weeks later, depending on what was eaten, where it is in the cat's digestive system and how fast their digestive process works,” Dr. Conrad said.
And if you see an object sticking out of your cat’s butt, don’t try to pull it out! You could cause damage to your cat’s intestines. Take her to the vet so they can remove it safely.
How will your vet diagnose your cat if she eats part of a toy?
If you see your cat eat a piece of a toy, take her to the vet ASAP. But if you didn’t see the toy eaten and your cat has started to show these symptoms, your vet may need to figure out what’s causing them.
“Your vet will do a physical exam and possibly want to check blood work and take X-rays,” Dr. Conrad said. “The vet can check the inside of your cat's mouth to see if anything is lodged under their tongue as well as seeing if their abdomen seems painful. X-rays will generally show if there is a foreign body (or evidence of blockage or damage to the intestines, even if the foreign body isn't clearly visible). If X-rays don't show the problem, the vet may want to use ultrasound or refer you to a specialist for more detailed diagnostic imaging.”
How will your vet treat your cat?
When you bring your cat to the vet, try to bring as much information with you as possible, like what your cat ate, how much she ate and how long ago it was eaten. The more information you can provide, the easier it will be for your vet to treat your cat.
How your vet treats your cat will depend on whether the object is causing an obstruction or if they think it will be able to pass on its own.
“If the vet feels there's a chance the toy or toy part will pass, they may recommend hospitalization and monitoring, with supportive care such as IV fluids,” Dr. Conrad said. “Repeat X-rays will be taken to see if the object is moving through.”
But if your cat ate a bigger piece that is blocking her throat or intestines, she may need surgery to remove it.
“If an obstruction clearly exists, and they see damage or potential damage to the stomach or intestines, exploratory surgery is generally the next step,” Dr. Conrad said.
The prognosis of ingestion of foreign objects in cats will depend on a few factors.
“Prognosis is anywhere from poor to good, depending on what your kitty ate, how long it has been there when diagnosed and treated, and where in the cat’s digestive tract it's located, as well as the health of the tissue in that location,” Dr. Conrad said.
How to prevent your cat from eating toys
To prevent your cat from swallowing part of a toy, be careful with the toys you give her and make sure they don’t fall apart easily or have little pieces that could be choking hazards.
You should also keep your cat away from anything string-like, and if you notice a toy coming apart with lots of threads, you should throw it out. And don’t let your cat play with hair bands, either, especially unsupervised.
“Avoid letting them have string, rubber bands, hair ties, flexible bracelets and other string-like objects,” Dr. Conrad said.
Be sure to buy toys for your cat that are designed for cats, are well-made and won’t fall apart so your cat won’t choke or eat some of the pieces.
“Use wand toys with sturdy fabric, ping-pong or solid plastic balls, stuffed toys with any small parts removed (bells, plastic eyes, buttons, string tails), etc.,” Dr. Conrad said. “Your veterinarian can recommend more safe toys to enrich your kitty's world.”
This wand toy received The Dodo’s Paw of Approval — we tested it on our own cats and found it was fun to play with and durable, so your cat won’t tear it apart. You can get it from Chewy for $3.44.
You should also try to keep an eye on your cat when she’s playing with toys whenever possible so you can step in if she’s trying to eat something she shouldn’t.
“Supervise your cat while they're playing when you can, or play with them using interactive toys,” Dr. Conrad said. “Put away any toys that may be a swallowing hazard when you're away from home.”
And remember that just because it’s not food doesn’t mean your cat won’t try to eat it.
“Cats are curious creatures that love to play and to sometimes eat their ‘prey’ that comes in the form of a toy,” Dr. Conrad said. “Play can become risky if the wrong thing goes in their mouth and is swallowed.”
If your cat swallows part of a toy, take her to the vet ASAP. And to avoid your cat eating pieces of toys, be sure to buy her sturdy toys that can’t be easily torn apart.
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