Cats love to play with small items that they can bat around with their paws, and yarn is no exception. It's lightweight, changes shape, and can be picked up easily by any cat. But yarn can also cause some serious problems in cats, so it's important to understand the risks as well as find some alternative toys for your cat.
Concerns With Yarn
- Choking - Chewing on yarn can be appealing to some cats, and sometimes they chew off pieces and accidentally swallow them. This is worrisome, because items like yarn can cause your cat to choke if a piece gets lodged in the back of its mouth. If a cat is choking on yarn, the piece needs to be dislodged or removed from its throat immediately.
- Foreign body - If a cat swallows some yarn and doesn't choke on it, it can end up in the cat's stomach and intestinal tract. Yarn and other items that shouldn't be eaten are referred to as foreign bodies when they are inside your cat. Some foreign bodies will pass through a cat and exit the body when a cat vomits or defecates, but other items can get stuck and cause an obstruction, just like in a dog.
- Obstruction - Obstructions are very serious, and surgery is often necessary to remove the object. Yarn can be especially problematic since long pieces can stretch out from the stomach and into the intestines. As the stomach and intestines attempt to move food through the use of peristalsis, yarn can interfere with the normal function of the intestines, cut through them, and even cause the intestines to lose blood flow and die if left untreated.
- Entanglement and constriction - Yarn can be fun to play with, but it can also get twisted and tangled around a cat's foot or tail. If your cat gets tangled up in yarn, the blood supply could get cut off from that part of the body. This causes pain and swelling initially, but if the yarn doesn't get removed, constriction can also result in tissues dying. This means toes and tail tips can die and fall off just because yarn gets wrapped around them too tightly.
Other Stringed Dangers
Yarn isn't the only kind of string that can be dangerous to your cat. Other common household stringed dangers include window blind and curtain strings, sewing thread, shoe laces, hair ties, rubber bands, ribbons, tinsel, rope, and twine. These items all have the same concerns as yarn has for choking, obstruction, foreign bodies, entanglement, and constriction.
How to Keep Your Cat Safe From Stringed Dangers
The obvious answer here would be to simply keep stringed items out of your home if you have a cat, but this isn't entirely plausible. Aside from opting not to use an item in your home that can pose a danger to your cat (like tinsel on your Christmas tree), you need to be careful with how you store and use these items. Children should be taught the dangers of leaving their ribbons, hair ties, and other stringed items out if a cat is present, and adults should watch for any stringed items left lying within reach of a cat. Sewing, knitting, and crocheting supplies should be properly stored, kitchen twine shouldn't be left out on the counter unattended, and curtain or window blind strings should be tied up so a cat cannot get tangled in them. Kittens are especially at risk for getting into trouble with stringed items, but that doesn't mean adult cats are free from stringed dangers.
What To Do If Your Cat Ate String or Yarn
If your cat consumed a stringed item you'll want to monitor it for any vomiting, ensure it is eating, offer it extra water, and check its stool to see if any foreign objects exit your cat's body. If your cat becomes lethargic, won't eat, or is vomiting, you should take it to your veterinarian.
Alternatives to Yarn
While cats may love to play with yarn and other stringed items, there are much safer alternatives that you can provide to your feline friend at play time. Small stuffed toys, fake mice, small balls, and other toys that can be carried and batted around make great options for cats to play with.