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My Cat Ate String but Is Acting Normal, What Should I Do?

Kit Copson

By Kit Copson

Cat string play

No matter how much we spend on toys for our cats, in their eyes, you just can’t beat a simple piece of string. String is commonly found in many homes and often as part of commercially sold cat toys, so it’s really easy for cats to get hold of. Cats love playing with string as it appeals to their chasing and hunting instincts but if they ingest it, it can cause some serious problems.

If your cat has swallowed string but is acting normally, we would recommend having them checked over by a vet anyway to be on the safe side. Read on to find out why string can be dangerous for cats.

hepper cat paw divider

Why Is String Dangerous for Cats?

If swallowed, string can get stuck in the stomach and cause a blockage because it can’t be easily digested. Once the string reaches the intestines, it will cause the intestines to “bunch up” because they’re unable to move the string along. The result of this bunching up of the gut is a bowel obstruction. String can also cause an obstruction in the mouth and throat which can result in the cat choking.

Moreover, if we factor in that string is sometimes attached to other objects like needles, it’s apparent that the dangers of letting cats play with string are simply too serious to ignore. All of the said situations can be life-threatening if not dealt with quickly.

Image Credit: Tony Campbell, Shutterstock

What Should I Do if My Cat Has Eaten String?

If your cat has eaten string, the first thing you need to do is take away any string they’re playing with to prevent them from eating any more of it, then contact your vet as soon as you can, even if your cat seems fine. Your vet will likely ask you to bring your cat in for an examination.

Try to ascertain what exactly your cat ate (string, ribbon, etc.) and when as this information could help your vet get to the bottom of the situation more quickly. Even if you only suspect that your cat has eaten string or something similar, it’s best to let your vet know—it’s always better to be safe rather than sorry.

If you see a piece of string hanging out of your cat’s mouth or rear end, though it’s understandable that your instinct would be to pull it out, you should absolutely not pull on that piece of string. Pulling on string lodged in your cat’s body could damage their intestines, stomach, or throat, making the situation much worse.

Symptoms of Swallowed String

The symptoms of swallowed string can vary depending on the string’s location in the body. Here are some potential signs to keep an eye out for:

String in the Mouth or Throat

  • String hanging out of the mouth
  • Choking
  • Retching
  • Pawing at the mouth
cat choking
Image Credit: Santa3, Pixabay

String in the Stomach

  • Appetite loss
  • Not eating at all
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Reluctance to be picked up (due to abdominal pain)
  • Hiding
  • Bloody diarrhea

String in the Intestines

  • Lethargy
  • Reluctance to be touched on the stomach
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

What’s the Treatment for Swallowed String?

In some cases, the string will be passed in a bowel movement within 2–5 days if the cat is lucky. If treatment isn’t sought, cats with string stuck in their bodies can develop sepsis and peritonitis, which is life-threatening. This is why it’s so important to get treatment for your cat as early as possible instead of just waiting it out.

If your cat has swallowed string, your vet will either remove it under anesthesia (string stuck in the mouth) or by performing surgery (string stuck in the stomach or intestines). The further down in your cat’s body the string is, the more complicated it is for the vet to remove it.

If the string is in the stomach, the surgery is pretty simple, but if the string is in the intestines, it’s far more complex and the recovery time is longer.

hepper cat paw divider


Again, if your cat has swallowed string but seems completely normal, it’s best not to take this for granted as the situation could still progress and become dangerous. Give your vet a call and follow their advice.

Luckily, many cats recover and go back to normal after treatment, but if the cat is left too long without treatment, the chances of recovery become slimmer, so stay on the safe side and get your cat checked out.

Featured Image Credit: Snake44, Shutterstock

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