What Happens if a Cat Swallows a Piece of Chewing Gum?

"She keeps tasty stuff in here."

"She keeps tasty stuff in here."

Sabrina is a curious feline, so naturally she played in your bag and got your packet of gum. Whether she nibbled on the corner of a piece or actually swallowed a whole piece, you’ll need to get her to the veterinarian immediately. Chewing gum can be toxic for your kitty.

Choking

One of the initial things that can happen if Sabrina swallows a hunk of gum is choking. Gum gets sticky and chewy when it gets wet, after all; it’s supposed to. When your fuzzy chum ingests the gum, it might get lodged in her throat. She may start heaving and panicking as she tries to get it out. If you can see it in her mouth, carefully restrain the cat and pull it out, otherwise, get her to the emergency hospital right away. You don’t want to reach down her throat and grab something you can’t see -- you could wind up pushing it farther down.

Intestinal Obstruction

Chewing gum isn’t digestible; that’s why we spit it out. Your mischievous buddy doesn’t know that. If Sabrina swallows a piece of chewing gum, it may get lodged in her tiny digestive tract. Watch for vomiting, weight loss and dehydration. She might not be able to pass stool, leaving only urine in her litter pan for several days. Depending on the severity of the obstruction and exactly where it is, your veterinarian could have to perform emergency surgery to get it out.

Problems With Blood Sugar

Sugar-free chewing gums often have xylitol as a sweetener ingredient in place of sugar. While xylitol is perfectly safe for humans, it can be life-threatening for your four-legged family member. Xylitol affects the hormone insulin in cats, which regulates sugar in the blood. When Sabrina’s intestinal tract absorbs xylitol, it causes her pancreas to send extra insulin into her blood stream. As a result, her blood sugar will plunge to dangerously low levels, a condition known as hypoglycemia. Within 30 to 60 minutes of eating gum with xylitol, your furry pal will start to show signs of hypoglycemia, says Dr. Dana Brooks, a Seattle-based veterinarian. The cat may become extremely lethargic, have difficulty walking or suffer from a seizure. If left untreated, hypoglycemia can lead to liver failure within a few days.

Other Considerations

Kittens and adolescent cats are curious about everything in their environments. They’ll put just about anything in their mouths to figure out what it is. Chewing gum isn’t the only danger. You’ll see Sabrina gnawing on wires, tasting the houseplants and even sampling her kitty litter. Because younger kitties are more likely to chomp on anything, they have a higher risk of suffering from intestinal obstructions. Baby-proof your house until Sabrina gets a little older. Lock up any food, tape down wires, put away all of your breakable items, and don’t leave your purse unattended. And don’t let her lick your plate. Xylitol isn’t just in chewing gum, it’s also in all kinds of sugar-free ice creams, pastries and desserts. If Sabrina winds up eating these types of foods or if you notice that your package of gum has been tampered with, get her to the vet quickly.

 

About the Author

Melodie Anne Coffman specializes in overall wellness, with particular interests in women's health and personal defense. She holds a master's degree in food science and human nutrition and is a certified instructor through the NRA. Coffman is pursuing her personal trainer certification in 2015.

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