Cats enjoy playing with strings, ribbons, and rubber bands, but they occasionally get the urge to eat them, resulting in intestinal blockage surgery for cats, which is surprisingly common. Our Los Angeles veterinarians go over the pros and cons of intestinal blockage surgery for cats, as well as the cost and recovery time.

How do intestinal blockages happen in cats?

An intestinal blockage is a very serious condition in cats, often caused by your feline friend eating something indigestible such as the string from a roast, a ribbon, or other small objects. Further, your cat may also need intestinal blockage surgery if they have a hairball.

Foreign bodies are indigestible objects swallowed by pets, and when they completely or partially obstruct your cat's intestinal tract or bowel, they are not only painful but also potentially fatal.

There are 3 types of intestinal blockages that your cat could experience, complete, partial, and linear.

Complete Intestinal Blockage in Cats

When an obstruction entirely blocks your cat's GI tract, causing a complete blockage, it's a situation that needs the attention of a reliable emergency vet in Los Angeles. This type of blockage can occur anywhere along the GI tract, but it is most common where sphincters (muscles that control the flow of material through the GI tract) or narrow sections exist.

Signs of a complete intestinal blockage include:

  • Uncharacteristic behavior or aggression
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Lack of energy
  • Diarrhea
  • Lack of appetite 
  • Drooling
  • The appearance of partial item from the anus

How can intestinal blockages in cats be prevented?

A completely blocked intestine is a medical emergency! If you suspect your cat has eaten something it shouldn't have, or if your cat is exhibiting any of the symptoms listed above, you should contact your veterinarian right away. A completely blocked intestine is a life-threatening condition.

Partial Intestinal Blockage

A partial intestinal blockage allows some materials to pass through your cat's intestines and can cause symptoms that are similar to a complete blockage. However, your cat may have a partial blockage with no symptoms, but there is a chance that damage to your cat's GI tract is occurring, such as open sores and tears, which could cause pain and infection. Sepsis, a serious medical condition that can quickly be fatal, can occur in some severe cases.

Linear Intestinal Blockage

If your cat eats long, thin objects like string, tinsel, or fishing line, it can cause linear blockages. In the early stages, these blockages can occur without causing any symptoms. However, as the object moves through your cat's GI tract over the next few days and weeks, bunching of the intestine or bowels may occur. The intestines may lose oxygen as a result, causing permanent and serious damage. There's also a chance that the foreign object will slash through the intestine's wall, causing leakage into the abdomen.

Does my cat need surgery to treat an intestinal obstruction?

If your cat swallows something, you should not rush them to the vet. Your veterinarian will be able to perform an ultrasound to confirm that the object has not yet passed through to the intestines and may be able to remove it via induction vomiting or endoscopy, which is less invasive than intestinal blockage surgery. Without veterinary supervision, never try to induce vomiting on your own.

Blockages in your cat's intestines can be fatal. If your veterinarian confirms that your cat has an intestinal blockage, emergency surgery will be required to remove the blockage and, in some cases, damaged tissue.

Will my cat be ok after intestinal blockage surgery?

The severity of the damage caused by the block will determine how well your cat recovers after surgery to remove the obstruction. Because there is a high risk of abdominal infection (peritonitis) after this surgery, your veterinarian may decide to keep your cat in the hospital until the infection risk has been reduced and your cat is eating normally again.

Your veterinarian will closely monitor your cat's recovery in the days following surgery for signs of infection and will treat it as soon as possible. Peritonitis is a life-threatening condition that must be treated as soon as possible.

How much does intestinal blockage surgery for cats cost?

This surgery can be expensive, however, if you have pet insurance a portion or all of the cost may be covered.

The cost of surgery varies greatly depending on your location and the severity of your pet's condition. Expect to pay anywhere between $800 and $6000 or more. When you meet with your veterinarian to discuss surgery, he or she will give you a more precise estimate.

How can I prevent my cat from developing an intestinal obstruction?

It's difficult to predict what your cat will find appealing at any given moment, so keep tempting items like elastic bands, small hair ties, and especially the strings off of cuts of meat and chicken out of your cat's reach. It's also a good idea to avoid using tinsel during the holidays, as these thin strands of glistening plastic can easily harm your cat's health if swallowed.

    Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

    If your cat is showing signs of an intestinal blockage contact Washington Dog and Cat Hospital right away to speak to one of our veterinary professionals and book an appointment for your feline friend.