Did my Cat Eat THAT??? REALLY?
This story is one that I love to tell because it fortunately has a happy ending. It could just as easily have resulted in a tragic loss of a pet and a broken-hearted 6- year old. Pay attention and learn, cat lovers.
My patient, FB (short for Fatty Boy), was rushed in first thing Monday morning to my cat practice. His Mom, Ali, said he had been throwing up all last night and hadn’t touched his breakfast. Ali had entertained some friends with children during the previous 2 days. She remembered that she spotted FB playing Barbies with her daughter and friends in her bedroom. We also learned that FB had a history of snacking on plastic bags. He generally was obsessive about eating not only as much food as he could steal from his 2 kitty housemates, but as many clearly desirable objects made of plastic, as well.
Once admitted to the clinic, we promptly took some blood samples and got FB in for x-rays. FB was drooling buckets the whole time. Cats do that when they’re about to vomit, just like we do. I clearly saw two objects (foreign bodies) in the belly. One was in the stomach and the other one had moved further down into the small intestine. Both could cause complete blockages. In many cats, foreign objects that are swallowed move all the way down and are eliminated without consequences. We hospitalized FB overnight with iv support and treatments for pain and nausea. We would repeat x-rays in the morning and hope the objects would pass through uneventfully. The following morning, my assistant and I cheerfully poked through FB’s litter box contents. While carefully shredding and hunting, I squealed as I struck hard stuff and I rinsed it off for display to all. It was a chewed-up piece of plastic that looked like bright blue gum but felt hard. It was not a recognizable object due to all the damage done before it went down the pipe. Still, our new x-ray showed that the foreign body in FB’s stomach had not budged and the one in the intestines was the one we found. Now we had an emergency on our hands and we had to work quickly to get the object out and relieve the blockage in order to save FB’s life. I was optimistic and hoped I could grasp and remove the thing through my endoscope so we could avoid surgery for FB. All attempts with my grabber through the scope yielded only tufts of white cat hair but I could see a solid black thing that was too large and slick to grab. We moved swiftly into surgery with FB just as the sun went down.
I felt sweaty and a little shaky in the OR as I waited for FB to be prepped and settled in. I began to explore the belly and sighed with relief as I peered inn and saw pink, shiny healthy looking tissues. Great news!
My feet and head ached and throbbed with fatigue as it was now dark outside and this day had been challenging. Then suddenly, all my discomfort slipped away as I gently extracted the mystery object and handed it to my assistant. He gently peeled off the hair obscuring the thing and underneath lay a perfect little tiny black dress shoe, a loafer, belonging to Ken, the doll. The litter loafer glistened in the surgical light, tiny and perfect and so cute. I was smiling ear to ear. We later learned that the blue thing found in poop that morning was Barbie’s purse!
The take home message in this story is that some cats have obsessions involving textures or oral sensations. They tend to repeatedly eat things with a specific similar texture, like wool or string or plastic. In other words, cats don’t “learn their lesson” when an object obstructs and endangers their life. We have the sacred responsibility to cat proof the homes of these kitties and always be aware of monitoring for materials or objects they might swallow.