Plastics are up there in the list of fascinating “must-eat” items for a good number of cats. In my case, every time I set down a plastic bag of groceries or open the plastic seal of a container of water, two furballs in my clowder suddenly appear out of nowhere and two sets of eyes gleam at me with obvious excitement. Plastic materials that cats love to eat come in different forms – plastic bags, cellophane tape, bread bags, plastic cups, plastic straws, candy wrapper and even harder items like baller bands and small detachable parts of toys, to name a few.
What To Do After Your Cat Eats Plastic?
1. Small, Soft Plastic — Wait and Check The Litterbox
If your cat ate plastic, the next course of action will depend on what type of plastic was eaten. If this is a small piece of soft plastic then you have the option to wait and observe your cat. It takes between ten to twenty-four hours for material to pass through the digestive tract, sometimes as long as four days. You may want to call your veterinarian to ask advise about giving your cat laxatives or fiber dietary supplements that may help the food and other materials eaten to move along faster. Check the litterbox regularly for signs of the plastic material. Usually cats expel these small foreign bodies with no complications. Remember though that waiting and observing is a good idea only when the cat looks happy, going about his regular business and is showing no obvious signs of distress. Never give anything to your cat that will force him to vomit. Induced vomiting, if needed, is best left done by the veterinarian.
2. Big Piece of Plastic, Hard Plastic — Watch Out For Signs of Gut Obstruction and Injury, Take to Vet
If your cat ate a bigger piece of soft plastic, then there is the possibility of folding of this material into a linear type of foreign body like a string, ribbon, or rubber band. The danger here is if this string-like plastic becomes trapped in either the base of the tongue or at the junction between the stomach and intestines. This can cause an obstruction that, if left unresolved for some time, can result in some parts of the digestive system dying. Therefore, a prompt visit to the veterinarian is in order especially if your cat is showing any of these signs of obstruction: vomiting, retching, loss of interest in activity and food, abdomen is painful to the touch, diarrhea (when the obstruction is partial) or constipation (if the obstruction is complete). Just in case you see a piece of plastic hanging from either your cat’s mouth or anus, do not pull on it because its other end might be trapped further in the digestive system and pulling may cause more injury.
If your cat ate a piece of hard plastic, big or small, take the cat to the veterinarian immediately because hard objects may cause injury to the walls of the digestive tract as they go along. If wounds form on the walls, bacteria from the gut can have easy access into the bloodstream and cause a generalized infection. The veterinarian can take a series of x-rays to identify the location of the plastic. If it is still in the stomach, it may be removed by endoscopy only as compared to when the plastic has moved into the intestines already which will require surgery.
3. Have Vet Check Kitty’s Liver and Kidneys, Plastics May Be Toxic
Regardless if your cat passed the plastic uneventfully or had an obstruction which needed medical or surgical intervention, it is recommended to talk with your veterinarian for testing of your cat’s liver and kidneys because plastics when subjected to the digestive juices may release toxic chemicals that can damage these two organs. Your veterinarian can get a blood sample and do these tests. It is always better to be safe than sorry. These two organs will show signs of dysfunction only when the damage is quite extensive already. It will be easier to deal with a problem in the liver or kidney while it is still just starting.
Why Is Eating Plastic Tempting For Some Cats?
If I could only ask my two furballs directly, I would have! Different theories have been placed forth as to why cats eat plastic. A bag of groceries can have a residual scent of food items placed inside so cats try to eat them. Bioplastics are said to be made from vegetable fats and oils and some animal by-products and cats can pick up this scent. Possibly it is the crackling sound that plastic makes when chewed that cats find enticing. A chronic plastic muncher should be taken to the veterinarian for a check-up as dental problems and nutritional deficiencies are believed to contribute to the development of this condition. Ruling out organic problems in the cat, this behavior may be attributed to boredom or a form of compulsive behavior.
How To Stop a Cat From Eating Plastic?
Cats cannot really make the association that “I ate plastic that is why I feel unwell”. So it is up to us cat parents to take the responsibility to keep our cats safe and away from plastics. Keep plastics that your cats prefer to chew on safely stored and under lock and key. Note, a few cats have been known to be able to open cabinet doors and drawers in search of their beloved “food item”. Give kitty safe toys to distract his attention and play with him to dissipate his energy and keep his mind from plastics. You can also try to make plastics unappealing for him by spraying it with bitter substances (check with your veterinarian first for what they’ll recommend) and hope kitty will eventually form the association that plastics taste bad and stay away from them.
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