How to Treat a Cat That Has Swallowed Thread, String, or Yarn

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. Step 2b

Cats that play with thread, string, or yarn are bound to swallow some sooner or later. A long piece of thread, string, or yarn, if swallowed, can cause a blockage of the cat's intestinal tract with subsequent perforation. This needs immediate surgical intervention.

Veterinarians often find cats have swallowed thread with a needle attached. Sometimes the needle ends up in the stomach and must be removed surgically. At other times, the needle gets caught in the throat or roof of the mouth. This will be evidenced by the cat choking and pawing at its mouth.


Some of the signs to watch for are thread, string, or yarn hanging out of the mouth or rectum; vomiting combined with history of playing with thread, string, or yarn; and loss of appetite with those signs.

If your cat has swallowed thread, string, or yarn, use the following cat care tips:

Step 1: Approach the cat carefully. If your cat is nervous or anxious, restrain the cat if necessary.

Step 2: If nothing is visible, proceed to Step 3. If thread, string, or yarn is hanging out of the cat's mouth or rectum:

Step 2a: Pull on the material lightly. If you feel resistance, stop. Do not continue to pull the material.

Step 2b: Cut off the material as short as possible and proceed to Step 3.

Step 3: Give the cat one tablespoon of white petroleum jelly. Using a small amount each time, rub the jelly on the cat's mouth and paws. The cat will lick it off. Do not give the cat mineral oil.

Step 4: If vomiting occurs or the cat stops eating, transport to the veterinarian immediately.

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