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My Cat Swallowed a Foreign Object: 4 Things to Do & Dangerous Items

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By Nicole Cosgrove

cat eating a yellow flower

It can be extremely concerning if your cat has swallowed a foreign object. It is important to act quickly, as some objects can cause serious digestive problems or obstruct the intestines. Here’s what to do if you encounter this situation with your cat.

The 4 Things to Do if Your Cat Swallowed a Foreign Object

1. Seek Veterinary Advice Immediately

The first step is to seek veterinary advice. Even if your cat seems OK and the object appears small, you should still take them to the vet for a check-up. The vet will be able to determine whether the object has caused any internal damage. If your pet has swallowed a toxin or poison, immediately contact your veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline (1-855-764-7661).

veterinarian examines a calico cat
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2. Monitor Signs

In some cases, getting your cat examined right away may be impossible or your vet may just recommend waiting to see if the object will pass on its own, depending on the type of object that is swallowed. If this is the case, monitor your cat closely for any changes in your cat’s behavior or appetite. It is also important to be on the lookout for signs of discomfort, such as vomiting, diarrhea, or lethargy. Keep track of your cat’s behavior and condition.

3. Wait for Treatment Instructions

Do not induce vomiting unless instructed to do so by a vet. Some foreign objects can cause additional damage if they are regurgitated. Your vet may have you feed your cat a substance like mineral oil to help pass the object through the intestines without causing further harm.

vet checking bengal cat
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4. Provide Follow Up Care

It is important to follow any and all instructions given by your veterinarian. Depending on the severity of the situation, your pet may need to be monitored or given other treatments. Your vet may also recommend that you feed your cat a special diet and provide additional nutrients to help them recover.

The 10 Common Foreign Bodies That Are Dangerous to Cats If Ingested

It’s important to keep these away from your kitty at all costs!

1. String and Yarn

String or yarn can become easily tangled in a cat’s stomach, resulting in digestive blockages. Signs may include vomiting, decreased appetite, and constipation. Treatment involves surgical removal of the string or yarn and possible abdominal exploration.

cat playing yarn
Image Credit: Svetlana Rey, Shutterstock

2. Hair Ties

Hair ties are small but dangerous objects when ingested by cats. Signs may include gagging, vomiting, loss of appetite, and lethargy. Treatment usually requires surgery to remove the hair tie from the stomach or intestines.

3. Batteries

Batteries contain caustic chemicals that can cause severe damage if swallowed by a cat. Signs include swelling around the mouth area, difficulty breathing, coughing, vomiting, and diarrhea. Treatment involves emergency surgery to remove the battery, followed by a course of antibiotics and fluids.

cat coughing
Image Credit: Ada K, Pixabay

4. Needles

Ingested needles can cause severe distress for cats as they can puncture their intestines and stomach lining. Signs may include vomiting, lack of appetite, lethargy, and abdominal pain. Treatment includes surgical removal of the needle and abdominal exploration to check for any other foreign bodies or damage.

5. Coins

Coins are small but dangerous objects that cats may find attractive enough to swallow or chew on. Swallowing a coin can lead to digestive blockage and possible perforation of the intestinal wall. Signs may include vomiting, decreased appetite, constipation, and dehydration. Surgery is necessary to remove the object from your cat’s digestive tract.

cat watching stack of coins
Image Credit: William Barton, Shutterstock

6. Toys

Toys that contain small parts are hazardous to cats if ingested, as they can cause intestinal blockage or other serious damage to the digestive system. Signs include vomiting, decreased appetite, and constipation. Treatment may require surgery to remove the object from your cat’s stomach or intestines.

7. Buttons

Buttons are small objects that cats can easily swallow and become lodged in their stomach or intestines. Signs may include vomiting, loss of appetite, lethargy, and abdominal pain. Treatment involves surgical removal of the button from your cat’s gastrointestinal tract.

a cat that feels sick and seems to vomit
Image Credit: chie hidaka, Shutterstock

8. Nuts and Bolts

Nuts and bolts are dangerous for cats, as they can cause obstruction of the digestive tract. Signs of ingesting a button may include vomiting, decreased appetite, constipation, and abdominal pain. Treatment involves surgically removing the object from your cat’s stomach or intestines.

9. Rocks

Rocks may seem like harmless objects to cats, but if ingested can cause serious damage to their internal organs. Signs may include vomiting, lethargy, loss of appetite, and difficulty breathing depending on where the rock is lodged at. Treatment includes surgical removal of the rock from your cat’s stomach or intestines and supportive care such as IV fluids and oxygen supplementation.

cat scratching tree root in the ground
Image Credit: Andi WG, Shutterstock

10. Beads

Beads are another tiny object that can easily be swallowed by cats and become lodged in their digestive system. Signs may include vomiting, loss of appetite, lethargy, and abdominal pain. If the button isn’t small enough to pass on its own, treatment usually involves surgical removal of the bead from your cat’s gastrointestinal tract.

The 10 Common Household Cat Poisons, Their Effects, and Their Treatments

In some cases, the foreign body your pet swallows may be poisonous. Here is a list of some common household items that are poisonous to cats.

1. Lilies

Lilies are highly toxic to cats; even a small amount can cause kidney failure within 36 to 72 hours. Your cat may experience vomiting, lethargy, dehydration, and decreased urination. Treatment includes intravenous fluids, monitoring electrolytes, kidney function, and activated charcoal administration.

white lilies
Image Credit: Pixabay

2. Human Medications

Human medications such as pain relievers, sleeping pills, and antidepressants can be harmful to cats, leading to severe injury or death. Signs of ingesting human medications may include seizures, vomiting, dehydration, and lethargy. Treatment involves decontamination, gastrointestinal protectants, corrective medications such as defibrillators, and the use of IV fluids.

3. Household Cleaners

Common household cleaners such as bleach, detergents, and disinfectants can be lethal to cats. Signs of toxicity include vomiting, respiratory distress, and core burns. Treatment options include decontamination, symptomatic care, IV fluids, pain management, and oxygen therapy.

scoop of detergent
Image Credit: karunasanghvi, Pixabay

4. Insecticides

Insecticides, including fly bait, bug spray, and ant traps, can cause vomiting, tremors, seizures, and death in cats. Treatment involves supportive care and IV fluids, while decontamination procedures rely on the toxicity and severity of the exposure.

5. Human Foods

Some human foods like onion, garlic, chocolate, and grapes contain compounds that are toxic to cats and can cause digestion issues, increased heart rate, depression, and seizures. Treatment includes supportive care, including IV fluids and oxygen therapy.

carob chocolate with carob pods on the side
Image Credit: Tati Liberta, Shutterstock

6. Essential oils

Essential oils are trendy products, but they can be toxic to pets. Cats are particularly susceptible to the toxins found in essential oils. Ingesting or inhaling these oils can lead to diarrhea, lethargy, vomiting, and anemia. While the specific treatment options depend on the severity, you should remove the cat from the source of exposure.

7. Antifreeze

Ethylene glycol, a toxic component found in antifreeze, has a sweet taste that cats find hard to resist. It can lead to sudden kidney failure and death if ingested. Signs of ingesting antifreeze include thirst, vomiting, dehydration, depression, and seizures. Immediate treatment is crucial and includes induced vomiting, use of activated charcoal, and/or intravenous fluid therapy.

Image Credit: nikkytok, Shutterstock

8. Fertilizers

Ingesting fertilizers can be life-threatening to cats. Chemical poisoning can cause vomiting, lethargy, and depressed respiratory and cardiac functions. Treatment options for fertilizers depend on the chemicals ingested by the cat and symptom severity.

9. Paints and Solvents

Paint and solvents are toxic if ingested. They can cause clinical signs like vomiting, tremors, seizures, and lethargy. Treatment options include gastrointestinal decontamination, supportive care such as IV fluid therapy, and oxygen supplementation.

tempera paints mixed on a palette
Image Credit: maRRitch, Shutterstock

10. Poisonous Plants

Various common house plants, including pothos, snake plants, and philodendrons, are toxic to cats. Ingestion of these plants can cause nausea, vomiting, respiratory distress, and even cardiac arrest. Treatment involves supportive care and close monitoring of vital signs.

How to Keep Your Cat Safe from Foreign Body Ingestion and Poisoning

Prevention is often the best medicine. There’s no way to go back in time, but in the future, these tips can help your kitty keep things out of its mouth that don’t belong there.

  1. Use childproof locks and secure cabinets to keep cats away from potentially hazardous materials.
  2. Store all human medications, cleaning products, and other toxins in a safe place where your cat cannot access them.
  3. Do not use insecticides or other chemicals on your lawn or indoors without consulting with an expert first.
  4. Watch out for plants that are poisonous to cats, such as pothos, snake plants, and philodendrons, and avoid planting these in your garden or keeping them in the house.
  5. Be aware of items like string, rubber bands, needles, and thread that can become lodged in the intestines if ingested by cats. Do not leave these items lying around and be sure to properly dispose of them.
  6. Provide toys and other items for cats to play with, as this can help prevent boredom and reduce the risk of accidental ingestion.


Accidents can happen, and knowing how to react in an emergency is critical. Ensure you have your veterinarian’s number handy, and don’t hesitate to contact them if you suspect your pet has ingested something toxic or hazardous. And don’t forget, keep all potential toxins and foreign bodies that your cat may be tempted to ingest out of reach and away from your pets!

Featured Image Credit: kliman kato, Shutterstock

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