Anyone who has a cat is aware of, and possibly bewildered by, all of their strange behaviors: doing zoomies in the middle of the night, “bopping” you in the face, sleeping on your laptop, drinking from the faucet, eating your plants, knocking things over, sucking on blankets—you get the picture. We could do this all day. Cats are weird.
But why does my cat eat string? As grotesque as this is, domesticated cats may still have their wild instinct to ingest the entrails of their prey. Eating string (or similar long, thin objects) mimics that behavior for your cat.
IS EATING STRING DANGEROUS FOR MY CAT?
It absolutely can be.
Cats are often able to pass the foreign bodies that they’ve swallowed with no problem, and they don’t require any veterinary care at all. However, the string can cause a blockage in your cat’s digestive system. Additional complications can arise, such as rough parts of the foreign body, causing perforation or infection.
Another problem that sometimes happens when cats eat string is one end of the string gets caught around the cat’s tongue, while the other end advances through the cat’s digestive system.
If you believe your cat has ingested string or a string-like foreign body, and your cat is exhibiting distress symptoms, seek veterinary care immediately.
HOW CAN I TELL IF MY CAT HAS EATEN STRING?
If your cat has ingested string and is passing it with no complications, it may be impossible for you to know that they ate the string. Unless you distinctly saw them playing with string and now the string is nowhere to be found, you may not even know that your cat ingested string until you find it in the litter box.
If your cat is fortunate and passes the foreign body with no complications, they should pass it within 10-24 hours in its feces. However, knowing if your cat has passed all the string that they ate and whether any foreign body remains in their digestive system can be nearly impossible. Continue to watch your cat for distress symptoms and seek veterinary care if you have any concerns.
Symptoms of complications of the foreign body passing through the digestive system include:
- Dry heaves or vomiting
- Diminished appetite or anorexia
- Diarrhea or extreme difficulty with defecation
- Pain in the abdomen
HOW DO I PREVENT MY CAT FROM EATING STRING?
The main types of string and other linear foreign bodies that cats commonly ingest in the home are:
- Strings from curtains, blankets, rugs, clothing, and other ordinary around-the-house fabrics
- Easter grass
- Fishing line
- Rubber bands
- String for crafts
Considering this list, make your home as cat safe as you can manage. The same way you would baby-proof your home before your baby begins to crawl, your home should be cat-proofed to protect your cat from eating things they shouldn’t have.
Buying trash cans with heavy lids so that your cat cannot grab your floss or any other string you’ve thrown away is a fantastic idea. Storing any of the above items in drawers or cabinets that your cat cannot get into when they are not in use is the best thing to do.
When decorating for holidays or other special occasions, skip the tinsel altogether. Cats are almost always interested in it and want to eat it. Metallic confetti strips aren’t worth the health of your cat. There are other festive decorations to choose from that your cat won’t be interested in eating—destroying, maybe, but not eating.
IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE MY CAT CAN’T EAT?
Why yes, yes, there are. Cats don’t metabolize things the same way humans, or even dogs, do.
Cats metabolize substances in a way that can cause them to get sick and develop complications. They could experience something simple like an upset stomach or something as serious as liver, kidney, or heart failure. They become afflicted with these problems from consuming things humans and dogs eat with no problem.
There are lots of standard home foods and substances that are toxic to cats. Let’s get into it.
The following foods are not safe for cats to consume:
- Caffeine—A small amount won’t hurt your cat, but it can cause severe issues with the nervous system and internal organs in large doses.
- Alcohol—A cat can never have any.
- Chocolate—Chocolate naturally contains caffeine and other substances that are toxic to a cat. If your cat consumes enough chocolate, it can be fatal.
- Dairy—Cats who are past nursing age no longer possess the digestive enzymes to break down dairy products. Dairy products can cause gastrointestinal upset in adult cats.
- Turmeric—Usually evokes a vomiting reaction in cats.
- Raisins and grapes—Can cause kidney failure in cats.
- Garlic, onions, and chives—Causes blood cell rupture in cats.
- Yeast dough—Raw dough can cause cats’ issues if consumed because of the fermentation and expansion of yeast dough.
The following medications are not safe for cats to consume:
- Heart medications
- ADHD medications
It’s safe to say most people know that you should not purposely give your cat human medication. However, suppose they accidentally consume any of the above human drugs. In that case, your cat may experience methemoglobinemia, causing seizures, and in severe situations, death.
The following chemicals and substances are not safe for cats to consume:
- Alpha-lipoic acid
- De-icing salts
- Flea and tick medication for dogs
- Rodent and insect bait
All of these items can cause seizures and death in cats.
Finally, two seemingly harmless household items pose a considerable threat to cats: essential oils and plants.
Whether a cat inhales an essential oil, or you apply it topically to the cat, it can be toxic. According to the ASPCA, you should never apply essential oils to pets. And if you use an oil diffuser, you should never lock your pet in the room with the diffuser. Your pet should always have a way to escape the room if the essential oil causes them to feel unwell. The oil diffuser should also always be out of the reach of your pets.
There is a seemingly unending list of plants that are toxic to cats. The recommendation is that before bringing a new plant into your home (or any plants at all), you check the ASPCA website to see if that plant is safe for cats. https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/cats-plant-list
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I THINK MY CAT ATE SOMETHING UNSAFE?
If you believe your cat ingested a string or some other linear foreign body and is showing signs of distress, take them to the nearest animal hospital immediately to receive veterinary care. The site emergencyvetsusa.com can help you find the nearest 24-hour emergency veterinarian.
If you believe your cat has consumed something toxic, contact the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 or the 24/7 Animal Poison Control Center Pet Poison Helpline at (855) 764-7661. Each service charges an unlisted consultation fee or a $59 incident fee, respectively. Still, they will provide you with detailed information, help, and recommendations based on what exactly your cat ate.