Charlie and his ribbon affair

Charlie is a 2 year old domestic shorthaired cat who just loves to play! One day he decided it would be fun to get some ribbon out of the ribbon box and played with it. Charlie had a wow of a time with his new toy!

But it wasn't long before Charlie was found trying to vomit. He was fine one day, and then vomited some ribbon the next. His owners could see that Charlie still had some ribbon in his mouth, and were concerned about him so they brought him down to the clinic for us to have a look at him. When we saw him, he was still relatively bright, but had an increased heart rate (which can be a sign of pain) and also was warm to touch. After having a feel of Charlie's abdomen, our vet was suspicious of a lump in his abdomen and admitted him to hospital for x-rays.

Charlie's x-rays showed that he had bunching of his intestines, although not much else was apparent. Given his history of playing with the ribbon, we were fairly certain that Charlie had eaten the ribbon and his body was trying to pass it through his intestines. We call this a 'linear foreign body' and it can be very dangerous! If the string/ribbon is fixed up one end, and the intestines are trying to work it through, it can cause some intestine to 'swallow' or 'telescope' over the other parts of the intestine, cutting off the blood supply. It only takes 30 minutes for a piece of intestine to die when it doesn't have blood circulating through it, and when it dies, it can be broken much more easily, allowing gut contents into the abdomen. This means pets can get very sick, very quickly!

We immediately prepared Charlie for surgery; that ribbon had to come out! Lucky for Charlie, the majority of the ribbon was still in his stomach, and only a tiny amount had passed into his intestines. His intestines were in good health, as was the majority of his stomach. We removed two green ribbons - 98cm and 85cm long - from his stomach and stitched him back up. Charlie stayed with us in hospital overnight and was discharged the next day having made an excellent recovery.

Unfortunately, Charlie won't associate his stay in hospital with eating the ribbon so he is still at risk of doing it again. Charlie's mum and dad won't be letting him play with loose string in the future; in fact, they've decided Charlie won't be playing with anything smaller than his head!

Other things that we have seen been retrieved from cats' intestines include:

  • Headphones/ earbuds; those xrays were interesting!
  • Fish hooks and fishing line
  • Lingerie
  • Plastic bags
  • Ends of cat toys/feathers

So keep an eye on what your cat is playing with and be aware that they might just swallow it!