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How to Know Whether Your Cat Has an Intestinal Blockage and What To Do About It

Cats are known as curious for a reason! Sometimes get into things they’re not supposed to. While many of these items are harmless to your furry friend and/or pass through her digestive system without a problem, other items can cause intestinal blockages. But intestinal obstructions in cats aren’t only caused by foreign bodies. Sometimes they point to a larger health problem.

Educate yourself on the signs and symptoms of an intestinal blockage in your cat, so you can be the best advocate for their health and safety and know exactly what to do if you suspect one.

What Causes Intestinal Blockages in Cats?

She Ate Something Odd

A common cause of intestinal blockages in cats is foreign bodies. Sometimes a cat eats something she absolutely shouldn’t—like tin foil. But other times, she might have swallowed part of her toy by accident.

Here are some things you’ll want to keep out of reach of your kitty:

  • String
  • Paper clips
  • Yarn
  • Tinsel
  • Rubber bands
  • Feathers
  • Dental floss
  • Ribbon
  • Plastic
  • Tin foil
  • Fabric
  • Needles and thread

Did your cat eat string?

She Has a Medical Condition

Blockages aren’t only caused by foreign bodies. They could be the result of another medical problem including:

  • Tumors
  • Roundworms
  • Gastroenteritis
  • Torsion
  • Narrowing of the intestine or stomach
  • Hernias
  • Another issue that involves the digestive system, stomach, or intestines

What Are the Signs of an Intestinal Blockage?

In many cases, if your cat ate a foreign object, it will pass on its own, and you will never notice there was a problem. In other cases, whether the cause is a foreign body or another medical issue, the signs of an intestinal blockage are clear, but may also be evidence of another problem.

Here’s what you should look out for:

  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Straining to go to the bathroom
  • Diarrhea
  • Not eating or not eating much
  • Lethargy
  • Behavioral changes
  • Doesn’t want to be picked up
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Abdominal pain

Sometimes the type of symptom your cat has will point to the severity of the issue. For example, constant vomiting can indicate a complete obstruction in the digestive track, while intermittent vomiting is a sign of a partial blockage. Diarrhea can happen when there is a partial block, but constipation points to a complete intestinal blockage.

When to Bring Your Cat to the Vet for an Intestinal Blockage

If you notice any of the above signs or symptoms, bring your cat to the vet as soon as possible. Delaying could cause more serious problems.

If you see your cat eat something she’s not supposed to or suspect that she did, take her to your veterinarian right away. In many cases, it can be easier to get the foreign body out if it’s still in her stomach.

You may notice the foreign body in your cat’s mouth or throat, or coming out of her rectum. Do not pull on it. Items such as string might be wrapped around your cat’s tongue or intestines. Removing it incorrectly could cause harm to your cat.

How Is a Cat’s Intestinal Blockage Treated?

The treatment for your cat’s intestinal blockage depends on the cause, but also the location. First, your veterinarian will do X-rays and ultrasounds, sometimes using dye to locate the item and determine what it is. Many vets also complete blood tests and collect urine samples to ensure no other organs are affected. These tests can help you rule out other causes of blockages, like infections.

A gastric endoscopy is another tool your veterinarian may use. A small camera is directed through your cat’s digestive track. If the cause is a small foreign body, tools used in a gastric endoscopy can even allow the vet to retrieve the item without invasive surgery.

The next step is determined by the discoveries made by the X-rays, ultrasound, and endoscopy. If the item is a foreign body and found in the stomach, your vet may induce vomiting. Never try this on your cat at home. Doing it incorrectly can harm her. If the foreign object is located elsewhere in your cat’s digestive tract, your vet may want to see if it passes on its own or may suggest surgery.

If the item or problem can’t be located, exploratory surgery may be recommended to determine the exact cause. With anesthesia, your vet can find the obstruction.

If your cat’s intestinal obstruction isn’t caused by a foreign body, your vet may suggest the following:

  • Torsion – The vet will untwist the intestine and attach it to the side of the stomach to prevent the issue from reoccurring.
  • Dead or deteriorating bowels – Your vet will remove the dead or deteriorating sections and reattach the intestines that are in good condition.
  • Heartworms – Deworming medication is safe and simple.

For obstructions caused by cancer or other medical issues such as gastritis, your veterinarian will outline a specific treatment plan or other options available to you and your cat. The doctor may also have suggestions regarding diet after treatment.

cat intestinal blockage

How to Prevent Intestinal Blockages in Cats

Not all intestinal blockages in cats are preventable, as health issues such as cancer and torsion can happen at any time in a cat’s life. Other causes can be prevented!

Keep Objects Out of Reach

There are some items your cat will be very interested in, such as string. Put these items away out of reach when you are done using them.

Carefully Select Toys

Not all toys labeled as “cat toys” are safe for your furry friend. Ribbons and bells can easily detach and be swallowed. Carefully research toys and read reviews before purchasing them. Some objects may be safe for cats, such as dangling wands, but only under supervision. When not using these toys, keep them out of reach.

Keep Garbage Out of Reach

If your cat has a habit of getting into the garbage, try keeping it away from her, like in a closet or under lock to ensure she doesn’t go exploring for something she shouldn’t hve, even after you’ve thrown it away.

Keep a Clean Environment

Homes with roaches or mice put your cat’s health at risk. These animals’ waste products can provide a source for roundworm infection. Roundworm eggs can also be passed from cat to cat through their stool. Keeping a clean home and litterbox are essential to your pet’s health.

If you notice the signs of an intestinal blockage in your cat or pet, take her to your veterinarian immediately. Left untreated, it could lead to more health problems. Try to keep foreign items out of reach to reduce the chance of an intestinal obstruction, but also monitor your cats’ health and behavior for sudden changes.

Do you suspect your cat ate something she wasn’t supposed to? Is your cat having trouble going to the bathroom, or has she stopped eating? It’s time to visit your veterinarian. We offer a wide range of services to find the exact cause of the problem and have the expertise to recommend the proper treatment for your cat.

To schedule an appointment or to bring your cat in for an emergency visit, please call us at 281-693-7387, or visit us at 2519 Cinco Park Place in Katy, Texas.

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The Team @ Cinco Ranch Veterinary Hospital

Cinco Ranch Veterinary Hospital serves Katy, TX and the surrounding areas with a dedication and passion for our animal friends that is unmatched. Our veterinarians are highly trained, experienced, and compassionate when it comes to giving your pet the care they deserve. If your companion is in need of emergency care, a dental cleaning, grooming, or just a check-up, we would love to see them! Call 281-693-7387 to make an appointment quickly and easily.

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