We've all seen them…pictures of adorable kittens and cats playing with a ball of yarn or chasing a piece of string. Whether it be on a greeting card, a poster or even an illustration in a child's book….cats and string seem to go hand in hand (or should I say paw in paw…sorry, I couldn't resist). Though string may seem to be an obvious choice when it comes time to play with your cat or kitten, think again. Unbeknownst to many, string (and other string like objects such as Christmas garland and ribbon) can actually be quite dangerous…especially if swallowed! So what are some of the possible health implications…well, I'm glad you asked!

Dogs love to chew (think sticks and stones)…therefore; they experience bowel obstruction more often than cats. However, cats tend to have bowel and intestinal problems when they swallow string like objects such as yarn or ribbon. Most of the time, when an animal swallows a small object (such as a coin or stone) nature takes its course and well, they eventually "poop it out." String, on the other hand, can be a completely different story. If your cat eats a piece of yarn and a day or two later you notice it hanging out of their anus…DO NOT…and I repeat…DO NOT pull it out. If you attempt to pull out the string you could cause serious damage to your cat's organs (you could even kill your cat!). Use blunt scissors to carefully cut off the dangling end of the string (cut the string as close to the anus as possible so that the cat cannot pull on it). Make an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible so that x-rays can be taken. An x-ray will be able to determine if the string or yarn is in fact wrapped around intestinal tissue. More often than not, the vet can safely remove the string without surgery. However, if the intestines or other organs are involved…sorry, but kitty will probably need to undergo a surgical procedure.

If you notice string or ribbon hanging out of your cat's mouth…you may be able to remove it before he actually swallows it. The first thing you should do is check to see if any part of the object has been swallowed (this is very important!). If your cat has swallowed the string (even a small part)…let your vet remove it. Removing partially swallowed string could cause great harm to your pet as you could cut delicate tissue. If your cat has not swallowed ANY of the ribbon or string (and it is just lodged in his or her mouth) then gently (and SLOWLY) start to pull the string out. If you feel ANY RESISTANCE what so ever...seek veterinarian assistance before going any further.

Now this next possible string-induced problem may sound some-what funny…however, non-the-less should be taken seriously. Cats tend to play hard and tend to get themselves into interesting situations. If you notice that your cat has string wrapped tightly around his tail (and he can't get it off by himself) then by all means…help him out! Though tail problems usually aren't emergencies…they can be painful! The first thing you should do is check for swelling. If the string is wrapped tightly around the tail, it can, in fact, cut off much needed blood flow which could cause serious problems later. Ask a friend or family member to hold your cat so that you can CAREFULLY cut the string and remove it. For whatever reason you cannot remove the string yourself, take your pet to the veterinarian.

Finally, the last possible cat and string scenario…string wrapped around tongue. Ouch! Most likely, if your cat has somehow managed to tightly wrap ribbon or string around his tongue…you will need to take him to the veterinarian for assistance with removal. Do not attempt to cut the string from your cat's mouth as you could seriously injure him (or yourself!). Plus, you need to find out if any of the object has been swallowed before attempting to remove it (and this would be the vet's job).

Reaching for a piece of string may seem like the natural (and harmless) choice when it comes time to play with your kitten or cat. Think again. Make caring for your kitten or cat easy and safe by providing him or her with toys that are not only fun, entertaining and stimulating…but cat friendly as well. Avoid toys that have small pom-poms or bells that can easily come off and of course, by all means….STAY AWAY from that ball of yarn in your sewing box! Though it may sound ridiculous…it could be a deadly weapon when it comes to your cat! Knowledge is power…the more you know when it comes to kitten and cat care, the better!