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What are Ingestion of Foreign Objects?

The ingestion of foreign objects or non-food items puts the cat's gastrointestinal system at risk of blockages and internal damage. Seeking help for the cat is necessary to ensure its safety and health.

Cats who ingest foreign objects, such as small toys, wool, plant materials or paper, often do so due to their curious nature. Unfortunately, ingesting these objects can cause foreign object obstruction, a serious condition that may cause organ damage. Cats may also ingest non-food items, such as rocks, dirt or soap, as part of a medical condition known as pica, and eating of the feces is known as coprophagia. Both pica and coprophagia may occur as a result of a vitamin or mineral deficiency, rather than curiosity.

Ingestion of Foreign Objects Average Cost

From 549 quotes ranging from $400 - $2,500

Average Cost

$1,100

Symptoms of Ingestion of Foreign Objects in Cats

The most important symptom of ingestion of a foreign object or non-food item is witnessing the cat eating an object that could endanger its health. Symptoms that may appear after the item has already been ingested include:

  • Vomiting
  • Loose stools
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal tenderness or pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Straining during defecation
  • Producing small amounts of stool
  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Behavioral changes, such as growling when being picked up with hands around the abdomen
  • Frequent pawing around mouth if a small object, such as paper or thread, is stuck on the tongue
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Causes of Ingestion of Foreign Objects in Cats

Though cats may eat a foreign object simply out of curiosity or due to their nature, such as mothers who eat their kitten's feces as part of caring for them, there are medical conditions that can cause pica or coprophagia. These causes include:

  • Intestinal parasites
  • Diabetes
  • Increase in hunger
  • Malnutrition
  • Vitamin deficiency
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Severe anemia
  • Neurological disease
  • Thyroid disease
  • Stressful environment
  • Boredom
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Diagnosis of Ingestion of Foreign Objects in Cats

The veterinarian will need to know the cat's health history, any other symptoms that are occurring, such as frequent urination that may be indicative of diabetes, and recent activities. This information can help the veterinarian determine if the ingestion is due to a behavior or medical cause.

Several labs will be run, which will include a complete blood count, a biochemical profile, an electrolyte panel and a urinalysis. These labs can help identify medical reasons for the foreign object ingestion, such as anemia. If thyroid disease is suspected, thyroid hormone tests may also be performed. If no medical reasons are identified, the veterinarian will need to know what the cat typically eats, any stressors in the environment and typical handling practices to prevent the behavior from happening in the future.

The veterinarian will physically examine the cat, looking for signs of foreign object obstruction, such as abdominal pain. If a sharp object was ingested, such as a needle, it may have pierced the intestines or trachea, preventing it from passing through. String objects, such as wool or thread, may wrap around the tongue. X-rays and ultrasounds will be performed in order to look for the object and see if it is causing an obstruction or poses a risk of causing an obstruction.

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Treatment of Ingestion of Foreign Objects in Cats

Surgery

If a foreign object has become obstructed, immediate surgery will be necessary as the blockage will stop the normal blood supply from reaching vital tissues. The cat will be placed under general anesthesia and the veterinarian will make a small abdominal incision in order to reach and remove the object from the intestines or stomach. The cat's incision will be closed with dissolvable sutures. 

Bronchoscopy

If the foreign object is lodged in the trachea, a bronchoscopy will be performed. The cat will be placed under general anesthesia while a small endoscopic tube is inserted into the cat's mouth and throat in order to identify and remove the object.

Dietary Changes

Cats who have pica may be placed on a special diet in order to ensure that their dietary needs are being met. The veterinarian may also subscribe nutritional supplements in order to meet the cat's nutritional needs.

Treating Underlying Disorders

Any underlying conditions that caused pica to occur, such as diabetes or inflammatory bowel disease, will need to be treated so that the cat no longer eats non-food items. Medications, insulin, and specialized diets may be recommended in order to treat these conditions.

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Recovery of Ingestion of Foreign Objects in Cats

Any underlying conditions will need to be followed up with the veterinarian on a continual basis in order to monitor progress. If the cat received surgery, an Elizabethan cone will need to be worn to prevent the cat from biting its sutures. 

It's important to follow the veterinarian's dietary instructions to ensure the cat doesn't turn to non-food items again. Removing stressors, such as other animals and young children, from the cat's environment can help reduce the cat's stress levels. Providing daily mental and physical stimulation can help keep cats who eat objects out of boredom from doing so again.

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Ingestion of Foreign Objects Average Cost

From 549 quotes ranging from $400 - $2,500

Average Cost

$1,100

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Ingestion of Foreign Objects Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Sphynx

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6 months

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Vomiting Diarrhea

My breeder started with raw so I tried when we brought the kittens home, but it’s hard to find her so once I was out of raw I continued with the kibble I also gave. Thursday I was out and decided to stop and grabbed blue wilderness soft kitten food in a can, and they are small cans. I split one between both thinking it wouldn’t be a big deal. That evening my male kitten threw up everywhere, and since has thrown up two more time I believe one being yellow liquid, and has diarrhea. My female kitten I believe just has diarrhea. None of my vets here are open this weekend, any advice?

Aug. 2, 2020

Owner

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Jessica N. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello- Thank you for your question. I am wondering if the diet change has caused GI upset for both of your kittens. If they are both still active, drinking and interested in food I would recommend fasting them for a couple hours then offering some baked chicken (no seasoning and no skin) with some white rice. I would only offer small amounts at a time. If they are keeping it down continue that until stool has normalized. If the diarrhea is worsening, vomiting is continuing or they become lethargic then at that point I would recommend going to an emergency veterinarian so they can assess them, provide fluids and medications to help stop the diarrhea. I hope they feel better soon.

Aug. 2, 2020

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Kylo

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Cat

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9 Months

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

None

Hi we think my 9 month old kitten swallowed a very small screw not a pointy one either it belonged to my lap top. Just wondering if we should wait it out til morning to see if he poops it out or see the vet.It has only been around 2 hours since we believe he swallowed it.

April 23, 2018

Kylo's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Depending on the size of the screw, it may pass without incident for Kylo. It is always an unknown, however, and foreign objects can cause GI upset and blockages. Since you are not sure if he ate it, it would be a good idea to have him seen by your veterinarian, and they can take an x-ray to see if the screw is in his GI tract, so that you know whether you need to worry or not. I hope that all goes well for him!

April 23, 2018

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James

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American Shorthair

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4 Weeks

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

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Diarrhea
Vomiting

I have a 4 week old foster kitten that bit off and swallowed a bottle nipple a few days ago. I’ve been watching him and there has been no changes in his behavior and has been eating and drinking. However, he’s had diarrhea and has vomited several times. Tonight, i found the nipple in his stool. Am i in the clear, or do i need to keep watching him closely?

April 21, 2018

James' Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

It is great that James passed the piece of nipple, as that could have caused a foreign body for him. It would be a good idea to continue to monitor him for GI upset, and if he continues to vomit or have diarrhea, to have him seen by a veterinarian. he may recover fully at this point, but the object passing through his GI tract may have caused some inflammation. I hope that he is okay!

April 21, 2018

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Chiron

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tabby

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3 Years

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Vomiting

About 12 hours ago my 3 year-old tomcat accidentally swallowed a small hazelnut. He vomited 2 hours ago, but no hazelnut out here. He then ate a little bit more and did not vomit. What should I do?

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Oliver

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Domestic shorthair

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4 Months

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

N/A

My 4 month old kitten ate 2 condoms that he found in the trash last night. So far, his energy and appetite have been the same and there have been no signs of vomiting. He hasn’t yet attempted a bowel movement. Would it be possible for him to pass these or would it be more likely that he need surgery?

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D’Andre

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chinchilla

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4 Months

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Low Appetite

My 4 months old cat ate a piece of narrow, soft ribbon (those usually attached to thick, hardback books). Judging by how much went missing from the ribbon, my cat probably ate a good 10cm. It’s been 2 weeks and he hasn’t passed it out yet. Strangely enough, he hasn’t had any diarrhoea, no vomiting, energy level is still pretty high. But since about 2 days ago, he’s beginning to eat less and shows no interest when I open his tinned food. He would eat small amounts and would only eat more if I add in his favourite snack. I’ve already contacted the vet and an appointment has been made. But just want to get a second opinion .... I’m very worried, especially if he needs to go through surgery at such a young age.

Ingestion of Foreign Objects Average Cost

From 549 quotes ranging from $400 - $2,500

Average Cost

$1,100

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