Cats with Foreign Body Obstruction

Cats are very curious creatures. They like to explore crevices around the house, watch the outside attentively from the windowpane, and, unfortunately, swallow common household objects. Sometimes when this happens, a foreign body obstruction results. When a cat ingests or consumes a foreign object which is too large to pass through the GI tract, it becomes obstructed. As a cat owner, you may have found that your cat has developed a certain liking to a particular item in your household. Common Foreign Materials which cats can ingest include strings, threads, rubber hair ties, rubber bands, and small balls or toys. Due to this innate tendency to eat linear foreign objects, things like thread and yarn can become wrapped around the tongue, and pull against it with each swallow. If there is a needle attached to the string, it can cause even more pain and damage to your cat: it may pierce the stomach or intestines multiple times.


The common physical symptoms which your cat may exhibit in the event foreign object is swallowed include:

  • Vomiting (usually many times)
  • Retching
  • Straining to defecate or unable to defecate
  • Gagging
  • Regurgitation
  • Restlessness



If you suspect that your cat has swallowed a foreign object, please call to schedule an examination by a veterinarian immediately – this is a potentially life-threatening condition. It is likely that your veterinarian will recommend radiographs to look for a foreign body or evidence of an obstructive pattern. In some cases, ultrasound is necessary to obtain a diagnosis. Please note, not all objects can be seen by a radiograph, although metallic objects or bones can be viewed this way. In addition, certain radiographic signs can be visable on an x-ray, which may strongly suggest the presence of a foreign body or linear foreign body.

Treatment for a foreign body that cannot pass naturally involves removing the obstructing item. This can be done by an exploratory surgery. In some cases, depending on where the foreign body is lodged, endoscopy can be used to remove the item without the need for abdominal surgery. Endoscopic procedures will involve the use of a camera, inserted through the mouth and into the stomach with a retrieval device attached. The foreign object may be able to be grabbed and pulled back up through the esophagus and out of the mouth in this manner.   Please note, however, that not all foreign objects can be safely removed this way, and others may not be accessible via an endoscopic approach, depending on how far along the GI tract the obstruction has occurred.

Ingestion of Foreign Bodies in Cats

It is essential that you do not induce vomiting to your pet without consulting with your vet first.  This may result in more damage to the gastrointestinal system. Prognosis for foreign bodies is generally good with correct treatment, although severe damage caused by the obstructing object can worsen the prognosis. If you suspect your cat has ingested a foreign body, please schedule an appointment with a member of our Veterinary Team for further work-up and treatment.