Obstructions (Monthly Cat Care Article)

photo by Clarabelle Fields

Disclaimer: the staff writers here are not vets nor are they qualified to give medical advice. This article’s purpose is strictly to share stories/information and should not be used for diagnostic purposes. Please take your cat to the vet if you suspect anything might be wrong with them. Your vet will know best what to do in your specific situation.

In light of this month’s article about all the tasty crafty things that Julius (and many other cats) enjoy, it seemed appropriate to discuss intestinal blockages and obstructions in this installment of Cat Care. Many cats, especially younger ones,  will often ingest or attempt to ingest items that are not actually edible. Common items that cats ingest include ribbons, rubber bands, string, and plastic items, among many others. Some of these items, although not technically “edible”, can pass through the digestive tract without causing problems. Sometimes, however, these inedible items can cause potentially serious health problems for the feline who has ingested them.

Ingested foreign bodies can get stuck in and obstruct the stomach, small intestine, and/or colon. If left untreated, an obstruction can become a perforation, in which the object pokes or cuts a hole in the intestines, and this can lead to a dangerous systemic infection. The obstruction can also sometimes result in a condition called bowel ischemia, in which blood supply to the bowels is restricted or cut off, and this can result in tissue death and other serious complications.

Signs that your cat could have a gastrointestinal obstruction include:

  • Vomiting
  • No appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhea/constipation
  • Pain or discomfort when abdomen is touched
  • General lethargy or unusual behavior

Obstructions, as well as their resulting complications, can result in the death of the cat if not treated appropriately. Therefore, if you suspect your cat has ingested something it shouldn’t have, or if it’s showing symptoms of obstruction, it’s important that it receive veterinary treatment as soon as possible. Vets can diagnose obstructions via x-rays, physical examinations, ultrasounds, and endoscopies. Obstructions can often be successfully treated with surgery or other procedures, especially if they are caught early. Although common and usually treatable, obstructions are still a serious health condition and should not be taken lightly.

Prevention is also important when it comes to obstructions. Rather than having to treat the obstruction through surgery and other invasive means, it’s even better to prevent the obstruction from occurring in the first place. Items that your cat might find tasty or tempting should be kept out of its reach or otherwise concealed where your cat won’t be able to get to them. It is especially important to note that ingesting string or yarn is extremely dangerous for cats. For this reason, cats should be supervised when playing with yarn or string, and every attempt should be made to prevent them from ingesting it.

Cats are curious creatures, and their curiosity can often get the better of them. Remember, curiosity killed the cat, so as much as our kitties might love their shiny, stringy things, pet parents need to beware and make sure such toys are carefully put away when playtime is over.

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