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Why Yarn & String Are Dangerous for Cats

Why Yarn & String Are Dangerous for Cats

One of the most dangerous myths about cats is string and ribbon is a good toy for them.

Kittens seem magnetically drawn to string and things that will stay still long enough to be attacked, so they’re especially vulnerable to the dangers of playing with string and ribbon.

While it might be cute to watch your cat roll around with a ball of yarn, that fun and enjoyment can become very dangerous if things take a wrong turn.

Keep reading to find out why string, yarn, and ribbon are dangerous for cats.

Cat tongues don’t agree with string

Cats have rough tongues because they are covered with these “barbs” called papillae that point toward their throat.

These barbs are what make a cat’s tongue have that sandpaper feeling.

The barbs help your cat lick off any debris or dead hair when they’re grooming themselves.

For wild cats, the barbs are what help them remove an animal’s flesh from the bone.

These same barbs that help your cat with grooming and eating work against your cat when it comes to yarn and string. Why?

Because the barbs point toward the throat rather than toward the opening of the mouth, so your cat can’t spit the yarn out.

Instead, they can try to pull the string out with their paws or simply swallow it, and that’s where the trouble comes in.

An Intestinal Disaster

Once a cat swallows yarn or string, a very dangerous phenomenon occurs.

If the cat doesn’t poop the whole string out or vomit it back up, it could mean that part of the string has become lodged in part of their intestines.

The medical term for this event is a linear foreign body, and it’s very dangerous.

Just like in humans, when cats digest something, the intestines move the food (or in this case, yarn or string) through the digestive tract.

However, when one end of the string is lodged and the intestines continue to try to move it down the tract, the intestines plicate (bunches up), like an accordion.

This is a very painful and life threatening condition for the cat. It is rarely caught in time. The only way to remove the lodged string is with an expensive emergency surgery.

This is when pet insurance comes in handy. In the event something like this happens to your cat, you know you’re financially prepared for it.

**WARNING** If you see a string sticking out of your cat’s mouth or out of their bottom, do not pull on it because you can cause the same “accordian” problem with the intestines.

Call the vet immediately. This is an emergency – the longer you wait, the worse it will get.

Your cat will likely require surgery to remove the foreign body. The sooner it can happen, the better.

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Choking Hazards of Yarn & String

A secondary danger of yarn or string is that your cat can get it wrapped around their paw, or worse, their neck.

Although it might seem cute and playful at first, a couple rolls in the wrong direction could cause damage to a paw or suffocate them.

**DANGER ALERT** If your cat starts to feel trapped in the yarn or string, a common response is to run away, and this can make the problem worse.

They could seriously injure themselves or even choke to death, so please be careful and supervise them!

[AUTHOR’S NOTE] I knit. I have to be very careful when I’m knitting to make sure that my cat isn’t entertaining herself with one of the many skeins of yarn I have.

While she’s better about playing with the yarn now that she’s older, but I don’t trust her with it if I’m not there.

If you knit or crochet and have a large stockpile of yarn, you can use the clear zipper bags to hold your yarn and keep it out of a paw’s reach.

Why Do Cats Like String, Ribbon, and Yarn?

Your cat might love ribbons, strings, and yarn because of an ancient instinct to hunt snakes.

In the wild, snakes can be either dinner or a threat. Cats will attack them to either defend themselves or grab a snack.

It’s possible that your cat is applying the same logic from the wild to stringy objects.

Safe Stringy Alternatives

Playtime is important to cats. Just because yarn and string are dangerous doesn’t mean you have to take the fun away altogether.

There are plenty of safe alternatives to give your cat the same thrill, but without the potential danger.

1. Rubber Snakes: Many cat owners have reported that rubber snakes are a great alternative for dangerous stringy objects.

Note: Cut off the rubber snakes’ tongues to make sure your cat doesn’t try to eat them.

Click here to get the rubber snakes on Amazon.

2. Soft Measuring Tape: These are wide, therefore your cat cannot eat them.

Click here to get the soft measuring tape on Amazon.

However, be sure to monitor your cat when he/she is playing with the measuring tape to avoid getting tangled in them and choking.

**GOLDEN RULE** Any string or ribbon with a width of at least one inch is considered safe. For our UK readers, this is roughly 2.5 cm.

3. Interactive Cat Ribbon: This one is something you can have fun entertaining your cat with!

Click here to get the Interactive Cat Ribbon on Amazon.

Final Word Of Advice

If your cat (like most) can’t resist a good ball of yarn or a stray piece of string, you need to make sure anything like that is well out of paw’s reach.

Anything that they can swallow and is long enough to get stuck in their gut is potentially dangerous.

[Seasonal Danger] Avoid tinsel entirely. Tinsel has been responsible for too many trips to the emergency vet around Christmas time.

Even a small piece of string (like dental floss) can be dangerous for your cat. Keep your home neat and tidy so you can make sure there are no string hazards for your cat.

Consider the alternatives listed above to satisfy your cat’s playful side.

SUMMARY: Why are Yarn, String, and Ribbon Dangerous To Cats?

  1. They can get lodged in the cat’s intestinal tract and cause the intestines to plicate (bunch up), causing a medical emergency that requires surgery.
  2. Your cat can get tangled in them and suffocate.

QUESTION: Did you know yarn, string, and ribbon were dangerous to cats? Tell us your answer in the comments below.

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5 Replies to “Why Yarn & String Are Dangerous for Cats”

  1. Tinsel is definitely a no- no. When I was young, my parents used to put tinsel on the tree. The cat would eat it then my mom would have to pull it out of the cat’s butt (we didn’t know that was dangerous). After the first year, we stopped putting tinsel on the tree. To this day, I don’t put tinsel on the tree. Too dangerous for my kitty Max.

  2. Yes, an experienced cat owner told me. I embroidery and have lots of threads. I had accordion doors put in to block of my front room where I keep them along with needles and pins.

  3. My cat Cosmo who has since passed away once got into my dental floss in the bathroom when I was in the hospital. But thank heavens he threw it up. I had the sense after that to throw it in the kitchen wastebasket and not in the bathroom wastebasket after that. He muste have really missed me because he never did that before.

  4. Cats can eat measuring tape. One of my fosters a few years ago had ingested about 1 foot of measuring tape ( at someone else’s home), but we didn’t know it at first. Much later she proceeded to vomit pieces of the tape, in several episodes, including the metal end! Tapes should not be left around, they belong in the sewing box!

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