If you have a cat, you know to hide your hair ties. If you didn’t know this, consider yourself warned, because a couple in Virginia just found out their cat, Winnie, had eaten 46 hair ties — 46! And they were still inside the poor kitty when the family took her to the vet.
“We noticed that she had not been eating, she had not had any water, and by the end of the day she still hadn’t eaten anything and she wasn’t going to the bathroom,” DJ Nowlin told WDBJ News.
The concerned couple took the cat to the vet, where they learned the horrifying truth.
“And these are all hair bands in a row going down through the center of her stomach,” Animal Emergency and Critical Care’s Jay Harper explained while pointing out images inside the cat’s stomach.
“This is the most hair ties I’ve ever seen. It’s usually one or two or three,” Harper said. “So we knew it was going to be a bunch. I had guessed 20 to 30.”
More than $800 dollars in vet bills later (emergency surgery isn’t cheap), Winnie is recovering at home.
How common is this? Well, outside of cat lovers bonding over tales of the weird stuff their cats eat, it happens quite a bit, even though no one is keeping a running tally.
“As far as I know, nobody keeps track of how commonly this happens,” Tony Buffington, emeritus professor of veterinary clinical sciences at Ohio State University, tells Yahoo Beauty, “and some cats also eat rubber bands, string, Q-tips, and other small objects that I imagine they think are ‘prey.’ The problem with doing this is that these objects can block the intestine or even cut into it, leading to serious injury and even death. Eating ‘foreign bodies,’ as these are called in veterinary medicine, occurs fairly commonly.”
Last May, a 7-year-old Siamese named Kitty was brought into an animal hospital in Boston after consuming around 12 hair ties, and pet message boards are littered with questions about cat hair tie consumption.
Cats love secrets almost as much as they love hair ties, so you should know there are a few things you can do to fight this damaging habit that might be happening while you’re not watching.
“Because ‘prevention is the best protection,’ there are two things people can do for their cats to minimize the risk of foreign body problems,” explains Buffington. “First, put hair bands, rubber bands, etc., in containers (e.g., boxes, drawers) that the cats can’t get in to; and second, give cats something more fun than these to hunt! For example, one could let them hunt for their food by giving them a food puzzle, one could schedule regular (daily) play times with their cats to help them stay active and engaged, anything to safely engage their inborn instincts.”
Find more cat play suggestions here.