Dear Christopher Cat
Last year, my cat Sophie and I spent Christmas at the emergency clinic because she ate two strands of tinsel from the tree. Surgery and a week of hospitalization saved her life, but the additional expense blew my holiday budget. Please warn your readers about the risk of putting tinsel on the Christmas tree in a home with pets.
Mom won’t allow tinsel in our house, and she hides gifts wrapped with ribbon or yarn. Furthermore, she bans me from the room when she’s wrapping presents, because she knows how much I like to chew curling ribbon.
Unfortunately, ingesting tinsel, ribbon, yarn or string can cause a life-threatening obstruction, as you and Sophie learned.
These “linear foreign bodies” often anchor under the tongue or in the stomach. The normal peristaltic movement of the gastrointestinal tract propels the rest of the tinsel or ribbon into the intestines, where it often saws through the intestinal wall.
Bacteria ooze through the intestinal perforations into the abdominal cavity, causing infection and peritonitis.
Tragically, a recent study showed that only 63 percent of cats recover from linear foreign body surgery.
So the moral of this holiday story is to prevent the problem by reducing access to tinsel, ribbon, yarn and string. Any cat with diminished appetite, lethargy or vomiting should see the veterinarian immediately, as prompt intervention increases the likelihood of survival.