A few days ago while I had my nose buried in paperwork, my attention was caught by a “pling-pling-pling” sound coming from behind me. I turned around and saw my youngest cat Bella playing with a rubber band that was holding a bunch of paper together. She was strumming it like a rockstar playing the guitar, and she was clearly enjoying herself immensely. I secretly hoped the rubber band would break and hit her just softly on the nose, not really hurting her, but just enough for her to make the association that rubber bands are dangerous.
Don’t Pull That Rubber Band!
Rubber bands are indeed dangerous. While they are a source of fascination for many cats, not a few have eaten rubber bands, either deliberately or accidentally. Now, what should you do when your cat ate a rubber band? First, open its mouth and check inside. If the rubber band is still inside and it is free to move in the mouth, remove it immediately. If the rubber band was cut and one end has twisted and anchored itself to structures in the mouth like the base of the tongue, or it has been partially swallowed already, do not attempt to pull the rubber band and removing it manually. Doing so may cause damage to the lining of the mouth and esophagus (the food pipe). Instead, take your cat to the veterinarian. Follow this same advice if you see a rubber band partially hanging out of your cat’s anus.
Swallowed Rubber Bands Can Block The Gut
If you don’t see any rubber band in the mouth upon examining it, a prompt visit to the veterinarian would be ideal. However, it is true that sometimes, small foreign objects will pass through the gastrointestinal tract (GIT) uneventfully. Occasionally, a cat can even cough up the rubber band. Therefore, in some cases, a wait-and-see approach may be taken but do this only if the cat is not showing any signs of distress. You should observe your cat very carefully for any changes in behavior and abnormal signs like gagging, retching and vomiting. Check the litterbox every time she passes stool and see if the rubber band is there. Failure of the rubber band to pass within 24 to 48 hours may mean that it is not moving inside the GIT. This situation, especially if your cat is vomiting, necessitates a visit to the veterinarian immediately.
Rubber Bands Can Saw A Hole In The Gut
If the rubber band was cut and eaten, one of its end may become trapped in the stomach while the other end passes into the intestine. The presence of a linear foreign body, like a rubber band, in the intestine may lead to a serious condition called “Intussusception”. Big word, yes! It simply means that during normal intestinal movement, when there is an immobile foreign body lodged inside, the intestine can slide within itself making one portion go under the adjacent portion. This is also known as “telescoping”, in reference to how a telescope tube folds in on itself. We don’t have to go into the details about how it happens, suffice it to say that this telescoping condition may develop when a foreign object is in the intestine. The most common sign that can be observed in this condition is vomiting. The cat will also show general depression and loss of appetite. The feces passed, if any, is soft and jelly-like in appearance and may be blood-tinged.When the intestine “telescopes”, this blocks the normal passage of food through the GIT. This blockage can further irritate the intestines so its movements will increase further creating a “sawing” action against the trapped rubber band and this repeated motion can actually cut through the intestine resulting in a hole in the intestine!
Blood supply is also cut off to that part of the intestine that is affected by the telescoping and this can quickly cause death of bowel tissue, allowing bacteria and toxins produced by the trapped food and dying tissue to be more easily absorbed into the bloodstream. Also, when the intestine dies, its lining becomes fragile and can tear easily. This tear, same as the hole produced by the “sawing” action described above, can cause intestinal contents to spill into the abdominal cavity resulting in infection and inflammation of the abdomen. When this happens, the animal will show signs of fever and severe abdominal pain in addition to vomiting. This situation can deteriorate pretty rapidly and your cat can go into a state of shock and may die. Surgical intervention is needed in most cases to correct intestinal telescoping and remove the rubber band.
Early Intervention Saves Lives
Early recognition of the symptoms of telescoping and prompt action by a vigilant cat parent can lead to early veterinary intervention and result to a successful resolution of the condition. If a cat parent ignores the symptoms in the misguided hope that it will eventually resolve by itself, this places the cat in a dire situation wherein it may not be able to survive surgery for the reason that when their owners took them to the veterinarian, they were already showing signs of advanced dehydration, severe infection, and early stages of shock.
Going back to little Bella, the rubber band did break but it did not hurt her. After it broke, she immediately lost interest in it and went on to play with her favorite toy, Mr. Giraffe. But some cats, especially kittens, are curious enough to take the rubber band into their mouths to taste it and even eat it! So as a cat parent, always keep those rubber bands in their proper containers away from the reach of your fur babies. This simple act saves you and your cat from a whole lot of trouble!
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