Don’t Let Your Cat Play With String!

Hi Dr. Janeway,
My 3-year-old cat Tootsie has been throwing up for the past couple days. She has long hair and does throw up hairballs a lot, but this looks different, it’s mostly yellow bile. She is a cat that is kept mostly in the house, but does go outside sometimes. She is eating the same food she always has and she is on hairball remedy that I give her a few times a week. Tootsie does eat shoelaces but I haven’t noticed any shoelaces recently chewed on. My wife said we could try giving her mineral oil, how much should we give her in a syringe? What can I give her at home to help her get through this?
Thank you for your help ?

Hi Tootsie’s owner,
I am so glad that you reached out to me before giving her mineral oil! Do not syringe mineral oil into your pets’ mouth, especially if she is vomiting. There is a risk that she could aspirate the mineral oil into her lungs and that could be very serious or even fatal.

Unfortunately, I really think Tootsie needs to come in to be seen ASAP. Vomiting multiple times in a short period of time is very concerning. One of the biggest concerns is that she could have eaten something (since we know she likes to eat shoelaces) that could be lodged in her intestines. There are other possibilities such as toxin ingestion, pancreatitis, renal disease and the list of differentials goes on. . . All of these possibilities will require diagnosis and treatment in the hospital.

Tootsie needs to have a thorough exam performed and likely some diagnostic tests. Radiographs (x rays) and possibly blood work will be needed to help narrow down the cause of her vomiting. If she has eaten a piece of string, we may be able to find a piece of it lodged under her tongue on her exam. When a cat eats a piece of string one end can become lodged between their teeth, but they will swallow the remainder which travels through the esophagus into the stomach and intestines. Sometimes the piece of string will not become lodged in the mouth but can become lodged in the stomach or further down in the small intestine. When a string is fixed at one end and continues to travel through the intestines the intestine will continue to contract and will become bunched up like an accordion on the piece of string. You can imagine the tension on the string will grow and can become very taut. Without surgical treatment the taut string will eventually saw through the intestines causing many areas of rupture in the intestinal wall. If the intestines have already ruptured there is a risk of infection in the abdominal cavity called a peritonitis.
Animals that play with string, eat blankets or towels or chew on Christmas tree tinsel are at risk of developing a linear foreign body that may need surgery to remove.

Tootsie’s owner- I am sorry I can’t give you any quick and easy solutions to try at home, but please call the office to bring her in to be examined ASAP.
Dr. Robin Janeway is an owner of Brighton Greens Veterinary Hospital in Grass Valley, CA. Your question could be the topic of next months article! Submit your questions via email or messenger at

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