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What Should You Do If Your Cat Ate A Hair Tie?

Your kitty cat will always find random unappealing objects much more interesting than any expensive accessory you can buy for them. The list of apparently useless things cats find interesting includes but is not limited to, plastic, styrofoam, boxes, and maybe the most common of all: hair ties.

Cats and hair ties can be a dangerous combination because hair ties can cause gastrointestinal issues that might require surgery and put your cat’s life at risk. Even a single hair tie might hurt your pet, so keep hair ties away from your cat.

What should you do if your cat eats a hair tie?

A cat eating hair ties is a reason for concern, but it’s not always a medical emergency. However, what you will read in this article can’t and isn’t meant to replace professional advice, so if you have reasons for concern, it’s better to consult your veterinarian.

If your cat ate a hair tie and not multiple ones, you can simply keep an eye on them and check their stools thoroughly until they pass it.

It might take up to a week, so as long as your cat keeps eating, drinking, and behaving normally, there is no reason to worry even if you don’t see the hair tie immediately.

The hair tie might appear in the feces over the course of several days, because it might not come out as whole as it went in, so until you’re sure that the whole hairband has been pushed out, keep checking the stools every day.

What should you do if your cat is not showing any symptoms of discomfort?

Some cats may not show any symptoms of discomfort even if you don’t see the hair tie after several days. Nonetheless, if the hair tie doesn’t come out, it’s stuck in the gastrointestinal system, and the longer it stays there the more dangerous it becomes.

In fact, your cat’s health may start to decline really quickly, so it’s important to check the stools daily and if the hairband doesn’t appear within 6-7 days, you should call your veterinarian.

You can help your cat push out the hair tie by giving them a cat laxative or changing their diet to something that helps lubricate the GI tract, like pumpkin or puree.

Cats that are usually on a dry food diet may benefit from eating wet food instead. Suspend the administration of dry food and keep your cat on a wet food-only diet for a few days.

Do not try to induce vomiting in your cat, because it’s a risky procedure that shouldn’t be done at home unless strictly necessary and with your veterinarian’s permission. Furthermore, this procedure is only useful within 2 hours from ingestion.

What should you do if your cat threw up? 

If your cat swallowed a hair tie and is throwing up or showing symptoms of discomfort, you should contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Symptoms you should look out for when a cat eats hair ties include:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Dehydration
  • Diarrhea
  • Whining
  • Lethargy
  • Unusual behavior

Since cats are animals that do not drink much and may sleep up to 18 hours per day, it might not be easy to spot some symptoms right away. However, it’s up to the owner to recognize unusual behavior in their cats, for example being less active than usual, refusing food, etc.

Prompt intervention is essential because some cats feel immediately sick after eating hair ties and might even collapse. Once at the veterinarian, they will decide whether to proceed with inducing vomiting or if further exams are required before a proper diagnosis.

What happens when a cat eats a hair tie?

Eating a hair tie poses two main problems for cats: choking and gastrointestinal blockage. If your cat chokes on the hair tie, you will know right away and you’re required to act quickly either by intervening yourself or bringing your pet to the emergency room.

A gastrointestinal blockage might not be easy to recognize, which is why this condition can be very dangerous and you need to monitor your cat closely.

Choking 

If we compare cats and dogs, most cats remain quite small in size regardless of their breed. A smaller mouth and throat means it’s easier for cats to choke on small items like hair ties.

If a cat ate an elastic string, a rubber band, or a hair tie, there’s a risk it might get stuck in their mouth, between their teeth and tongue, or it may form an obstruction inside their throat and cause suffocation.

Open your cat’s mouth and check if you can see the hairband. The easiest and quickest way to prevent suffocation is to remove the item with your fingers before it goes down the throat.

If you can’t retrieve the hair tie, it’s a medical emergency, so you should head to the veterinarian or animal emergency hospital in your area. Time is essential in this situation, so remember to call beforehand in order to have the emergency room ready when you arrive.

GI obstruction 

Although a single hair tie is unlikely to cause a full blockage, depending on the size of the cat, a hairband could cause a partial blockage or other gastrointestinal issues, for example, slowing down the digestive process.

The difference between a partial and a complete blockage is that in the first case, the cat can still digest liquids and some types of wet food or small bites, while a cat that has a complete obstruction of the intestines will pass neither food nor water.

If your cat has a habit of chewing on hair ties, it might be accumulating lots of them in the intestines and thus are at risk of serious complications. There is at least one confirmed case of a cat that almost died from ingesting too many hair ties.

Cats suffering from severe GI obstruction show a combination of two or more of these symptoms:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Lethargy
  • Abdominal Discomfort
  • Whining
  • Lying in unusual positions
  • Changes in their normal behavior

Gastrointestinal obstruction usually requires surgery to remove the hair tie(s). It is a delicate and invasive procedure that can sometimes be deadly.

Before the surgery, the veterinarian will need to locate the hair ties, which is why x-rays are usually required. However, it may not be easy to spot the hair ties unless they have metal pieces.

In severe obstruction cases, a part of the intestine needs to be removed before the remaining intestine is re-attached. Recovery depends on many factors, first of all from the clinical picture of the pet.

This procedure and the exams needed before and afterward are quite expensive and it’s much cheaper to simply make sure your cat doesn’t have access to hair ties.

Why do cats eat hair ties? 

Cats are predators at heart and not even domesticated cats ever overcome their hunting instincts, that’s why you find cats playing with the most random things in your home.

For some items, it’s easy to guess what purpose they have for your cat: for example, boxes offer a good place to hide and study their ‘prey’. However, when it comes to hair ties, it is not clear why cats are so attracted to circular rubber bands.

It is also true that not all cats are attracted by the same items and you might be surprised to find that some cats do not care about hair bands at all. Those who do, however, will use every chance to play with them. Play, not eat.

In fact, cats do not usually find hairbands appetizing. They play with them and might even bite them or chew on them, because cats often bite as part of their playtime, but aren’t interested in eating the objects they play with.

That means that if your cat swallowed a hair tie, it was probably by mistake. But sometimes, swallowing inedible objects is the symptom of pica.

Pica 

Pica is a psychological condition that develops in those pets who feel some kind of discomfort. As a result, they start eating inedible objects as a way to express that discomfort.

Both cats and dogs can be affected by this condition, although it is slightly less common in cats. It is a manageable condition if you find out the reason why your pet behaves like that.

Oftentimes, pica might be the consequence of a lack of nutrients in the diet, therefore the animal looks for that nutrient somewhere else. But it can also be a consequence of psychological issues due to trauma, fear, abandonment.

It is not always possible to find the cause behind pica, however, you can proceed by process of elimination or ask a professional (like a veterinarian, an animal nutritionist, or an animal behavior specialist) for advice.

Can cats eat hair ties?

Cats can’t eat hair ties and they usually don’t want to, but when a cat chews a hair tie they might accidentally swallow it, so you should remove hair ties from wherever your cat can reach.

Cats like to play with rubber bands and hair ties, as well as with many other objects, and they’re usually not interested in tasting inedible items as it might happen with dogs.

However, accidents can happen, or you might have a cat suffering from pica, which pushes them to compulsively eat random items and can quickly put their lives in danger.

Hair ties can cause gastrointestinal blockage, which usually requires surgery to remove the item and might have devastating consequences on the health of your cat or even be lethal, as it prevents food and water absorption.

Your cat needs to play in order to keep a healthy lifestyle, but you should provide them with the right pet toys designed for their safe entertainment and shouldn’t let them play with whatever they come across.

Protecting your cat from these dangerous accidents is easy: simply keep your hair ties in a safe place your cat cannot access and make sure not to leave them around the house.