Signs & Symptoms of a Cat Ingesting a Foreign Object

Cats love ornaments but the hooks can be deadly.
i Martin Poole/Digital Vision/Getty Images

We humans ignore mundane objects like rocks, string and old fabric. Cats, however, are naturally curious creatures who find pleasure in romping around with rolls of toilet paper. Sometimes their playful curiosity can have dangerous consequences. You may have little time to react if your cat ingests a foreign object.

Why Do Cats Eat Foreign Objects?

There are many reasons cats eat weird nonfood items. Sometimes they’re just hungry or it’s accidental, but there are also medical reasons for strange feline appetites. Malnutrition, vitamin deficiency, diabetes, parasites and thyroid disease can cause your kitty to eat things she shouldn’t. Consult your veterinarian if you find your cat has developed an affinity for items other than her cat food. Your vet will conduct a thorough examination of your cat’s health that includes blood work and a urinalysis in order to uncover the reason for her odd dietary choices.

Signs and Symptoms

Your cat may exhibit the following signs after ingesting a foreign object: vomiting, loose stools, diarrhea, lethargy or weakness. Often foreign objects pass through your kitty’s digestive system without any problems. Keep a close eye on her for the next 24 hours to make sure she is still eating and eliminating regularly. Immediately call your vet if she appears distressed in any way.


When your cat eats a foreign object that is too big to pass through her digestive tract, this creates a life-threatening condition called foreign body obstruction. Signs of an obstruction include vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal tenderness, lack of appetite, lethargy and aggressive behavior. Blockages range from partial to whole but are always dangerous and require veterinary care. Without treatment the condition can result in permanent damage to the bowels and intestines as well as blood toxicity and even death.


The first step when dealing with the ingestion of a foreign object is to locate the foreign object. Your vet will perform an abdominal exam and X-rays in order to find the item in question. Once this is done, your vet will likely induce vomiting if the object is still in your kitty’s stomach. If the foreign object has already made it to the intestines and is causing an obstruction, surgically removing it is the next step. Make sure to watch your cat carefully as she recovers, limiting her access to potentially dangerous foreign objects such as strings or thread.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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