Trying to get your pets to behave can be harder than trying to control a toddler. No matter how many times you tell them ‘no’, no matter how many times you reward them for good behavior, sooner or later, they’re going to do something they shouldn’t, go somewhere they oughtn’t, or eat something they mustn’t. Most of the time, it works out fine. You might have to deal with a knocked over vase or an upset plant, but usually, you, your house, and your pet will escape the incident unscathed. But sometimes, things can get serious, fast. Cats and dogs are notorious for not quite knowing the difference between things that are edible and things that really aren’t. Take cats and ribbons. Dangle a piece of ribbon in front of some cats, and the most they’ll do is give it a lazy tap with their paws. Others will see it as prey. And prey is likely to end up either torn to shreds or in their bellies. If the worst they do is tear it, great. If they eat it, you’re going to need to act. A kitten playing with a ball of yarn might be the very definition of cuteness, but as catster.com notes, yarn can be lethal to cats. As can string, dental floss, fishing line, Christmas tinsel, Easter grass, ribbon, and any similar long, thread-like item. So, what do you do if your cat ate ribbon?
Spot the Signs
Sometimes, it’s easy enough to know your cat ate ribbon. One minute you’re dangling a piece in front of them, the next minute their licking their lips and looking a little guilty. But how can you tell if your cat’s eaten some when you’re not around? Sometimes, it will be obvious by taking a look in their litter tray. If there’s no complications, a cat will simply pass the ribbon in around 10 -24 hours without any issues. However, simply seeing the ribbon in their litter doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods just yet. Without knowing exactly how much ribbon your cat ingested, it’s impossible to know if they’ve passed the lot or if there’s still some in their digestive system.
If you think your cat has eaten ribbon, stay vigilant and watch for any warning signs. While the symptoms can sometimes be down to entirely unrelated issues, some of the most common indications that your cat’s got a belly full of ribbon include vomiting, fever, loss of appetite, bloody diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Although cats will usually try and hide any signs of pain, you might notice they become aggressive when you pick them up, or take to hiding away. As thesprucepets.com notes, symptoms will usually manifest within one to two days, depending on how much ribbon was ingested and whether and where it’s become caught in their digestive system.
What Happens When a Cat Eats Ribbon?
Depending on the length and thickness of the ribbon, what starts as a minor incident can quickly develop into a life-threatening condition that veterinarians refer to as linear foreign body. As cattime.com notes, linear foreign body develops when one end of the ribbon becomes lodged in the cat’s GI tract while the rest of it moves through the digestive tract. When your cat’s intestinal tract tries to pass the ribbon along, the intestine bunches up. Not only can this lead to a loss of blood supply to the ‘bunched up’ area (which in turn can cause the tissue to die), in some cases, the intestine can work so hard to pass the ribbon, it ends up ripping enough to let GI waste enter the abdominal cavity. Left untreated, the condition can quickly prove fatal.
What Should I Do if My Cat Ate Ribbon?
The first rule you should know about cats and ribbons is never, ever try to pull it out. If you see a piece of the thread or string protruding from your cat’s anus or mouth, you might think you’re doing them a favor by simply easing it out. You’re not. If the ribbon is long, pulling it can cause serious damage to your cat’s gastrointestinal tract, leading to even more catastrophic consequences than there might be otherwise. If your cat allows it, try cutting the protruding string as short as possible. Keep monitoring your cat until the entire string is passed. If you’re concerned that any ribbon is still caught inside, or if your cat starts to develop any tell-tale symptoms, seek urgent veterinary assistance.
What Will Treatment Involve?
If you need to visit the vet, the first thing they’ll do is conduct a physical exam and palpitation. If nature has already taken its course and your cat has passed the string, that might be all that’s required. If the string can’t be located and it’s only been a short time since it was ingested, they may induce vomiting. If there’s a possibility the ribbon is still caught in the cat’s GI tract, they may need to complete further procedures such as x-rays or blood work. If your vet decides it’s necessary, an endoscopy (a non-surgical procedure that examines the digestive tract under anesthesia by inserting a flexible tube with a camera attached into the stomach via the mouth) may be needed to determine the next steps. If the endoscopy manages to locate the ribbon, it can be removed safely while your cat is still under anesthesia. The procedure is very safe and short – in most cases, the cat will be released as soon as your vet is happy they’ve recovered from the anesthesia. If the results of the endoscopy suggest your cat requires immediate intervention to stop any further damage (or if the string was ingested several days before and your cat is showing signs of illness), surgery may be required.
Prevention is Better than The Cure
Accidents will always happen, especially when pets are involved. But an ounce of caution can often stop the worst from happening. Toys might provide hours of fun, but they can be dangerous. Always supervise play time and remember to check any new toys for safety – if they have any dangling parts or look like they could be easily torn about, be extra cautious about letting your cat play with them if you’re not around. And obviously, keep any balls of ribbon, string, dental floss, or yarn well away from where little paws can reach them.