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Home > Ask A Vet > My Cat Swallowed String: Here’s What to Do (Vet Answer)

My Cat Swallowed String: Here’s What to Do (Vet Answer)

bobtailed cat playing with the string from the window blinds

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Dr. Iulia Mihai Photo

Written by

Dr. Iulia Mihai

Veterinarian, DVM MSc

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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If your cat has swallowed string, take them to the vet immediately. Do not try to induce vomiting because you can do more harm than good. The sooner you take your cat to the veterinary clinic, the better for your cat’s health.

Linear foreign bodies (such as strings) can lead to severe health problems and the death of your pet if not intervened quickly.

In short, swallowing string is considered a medical emergency, and you should take your cat to the vet immediately.


Is It Dangerous If Your Cat Swallows String?

If your cat has swallowed string, it is dangerous and even fatal. These linear foreign objects can move along with normal intestinal peristalsis. The string can be anchored with one end in various parts of the digestive system (most often in the mouth, at the base of the tongue), and the other end can move into the intestine along with the intestinal peristalsis. Over time, the presence of this foreign body leads to damage to the mucosa and even the deep layers of the intestine.

Also, the continuous, natural movement of the intestine can cause a dangerous effect as a result of anchoring the string in two different portions of the digestive tube. This effect results in the tightening of intestinal loops in an accordion-like shape. This will block transit and cause inflammation. In severe cases, the intestinal wall can be perforated, which will lead to massive necrosis and severe peritonitis.

If you can see the string tied to the base of your cat’s tongue, do not pull because you can cause severe damage. Likewise, you must not pull the string even if you see it at your cat’s other end. Exaggerated tractions, in the absence of medical supervision, produce extreme complications, accentuating the trauma on the digestive tube, which may remain unnoticed for a while but endanger your cat’s life. The longer and thinner the foreign body is the more severe the problem.

Red Cat playing with a bow on a string
Image Credit: Alexander Sobol, Shutterstock

Signs That Your Cat Ate String

You may not have been present when your cat swallowed string, but there are a few clinical signs that can indicate that this has happened. The most common clinical signs that appear when a cat ingests a linear foreign body are:

  • Licking their muzzle frequently
  • Constantly trying to get something out of their mouth
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea with blood
  • Lack of appetite
  • Abdominal pain
  • Behavioral changes (e.g., hiding, aggressivity)
  • Straining when defecating
  • Fever
  • Lethargy

What to Do If Your Cat Swallowed String

First, resist the temptation to pull the string, even if your cat has only partially swallowed it. Take your pet to the vet immediately, even if the danger is not immediate. If you try to remove the string yourself, you risk damaging the esophagus and causing vomiting or suffocation. Vomiting, in turn, can cause aspiration pneumonia if the vomited material enters the wrong pipe.

Second, call your vet beforehand to give them information about your cat’s situation and condition. Upon arrival, the vet will examine your cat. They may also recommend general anesthesia to fully examine your cat’s mouth.

What Is the Treatment for a Cat That Swallowed String?

If the vet suspects a linear foreign body, usually, they will recommend exploratory laparotomy to remove the string. Your cat will be under general anesthesia, and their abdomen will be opened. If a linear foreign body is found, the vet will cut the intestine (in certain cases, in several places) to remove it. Also, if the intestine is necrotic or perforated, the veterinarian will also remove those portions.

playful tabby cat lying on the living room floor, playing with a ball of string
Image Credit: Impact Photography, Shutterstock


Frequently Asked Questions

Can a Cat Survive After Swallowing String?

Swallowing string represents a medical emergency, and you should act quickly. It can endanger your cat’s life because it can cause gastrointestinal obstruction, necrosis, and/or intestinal perforation. In severe cases, it can lead to septic peritonitis. If your cat starts vomiting and/or has bloody diarrhea, lack of appetite, and abdominal pain, go with them to the veterinary clinic for an evaluation. If you saw how your cat swallowed a string, and one of the ends is tied by your cat’s tongue, do not pull it. Take them to the vet.

How Do You Tell If a Cat Has an Intestinal Blockage?

If your cat has an intestinal blockage, there may be vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, vocalizations, lethargy, weight loss, a lack of interest in food or water, excessive salivation, lip smacking, or a string hanging out of your cat’s mouth. However, even if you only suspect that your cat has swallowed a foreign body, take them to the vet for an evaluation. Foreign bodies represent medical emergencies and must be treated as such.



If your cat has swallowed string, contact your vet immediately. Swallowing any foreign body is considered a medical emergency and must be attended to immediately. If the treatment is delayed, complications like gastrointestinal obstruction, necrosis, intestinal perforation, and septic peritonitis may occur.

Swallowing string can be fatal. Moreover, you should not try to pull the string or induce vomiting. The veterinarian is the best able to perform these actions. Clinical signs of string ingestion in cats may include vomiting, bloody diarrhea, lethargy, weight loss, lack of appetite, and abdominal pain. If your cat shows these signs, see the vet as soon as possible.

Featured Image Credit: Cowen Duggar, Shutterstock

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