Okay, so bit of an odd question, but this happens every year like clockwork, so I want to be prepared.

I have a cat, who likes to eat ribbon and tinsel and the like. Normally, I just try to keep it the heck away from him (and thus generally not in my house at all), but he keeps finding ribbon like things (like the strings from my bag of onions) and trying to eat them.

I stop him when I can, but the odd time, I find him running about the house with a nice bit of string or ribbon poking out of his butt. As hilarious as this sounds, I worry.

Should I help him with the extraction by pulling on it (gently, oh so gently) to help it out, or should I just leave it and hope he passes it safely?

  • Try spraying lemon juice on everything... cat's hate that stuff. Solve your problem at the source :)
    – Michael
    May 19 '14 at 3:00
  • For me it was one of those red things that you peel off bologna. I tried to keep it from my cat, but he finally ate one. After reading these answers, I feel lucky nothing happened to him when I pulled it out (gently). These were a lot smaller than the intestines. Fortunately, this cured him of ever trying again.
    – aschultz
    Jan 6 '20 at 23:04

Do NOT Pull on it!

It is possible that the string/ribbon is very long. A cat's intestines can be several feet long the short piece sticking out could be attached to a 5+ foot (2 meter) long items stretched thorough out the gut. In extreme cases it can cause blockage and actually cut the gut open from the inside. Pulling on it will only make the situation worse.

When this occurs, the prudent course of action is to schedule a vet visit. If the cat is vomiting, has diarrhea, appears to be in pain, or otherwise appears unwell, an emergency trip to the vet is your best course of action.

Even if you recognize the piece sticking out as short piece of known origin, it is possible that a second longer piece (that you don't know about) is in there also. It is very possible that the two pieces have become intertwined (tied together) in the gut so what you really have is 9 foot (3 meter) string with a big knot in it.

The safest way to remove tinsel/ribbon from a cat is to take it to the vet.

  • 2
    Absolutely the right advice. Note that since this IS a serious condition, the right thing to do is to prevent the probelm from happening. If you know you have a cat that can't resist swallowing string, keep string out of his or her reach. (I can't trust one of mine with thin strings. Thick strings, like boot laces, seem to be safe; he chews them into pieces but it takes a while, and he doesn't try to swallow them. There may be some similar compromise you can reach with your cat.) Offering the cat something harmless to chew up and swallow, like a pot of oat grass, may also help.
    – keshlam
    May 16 '14 at 20:22

You're supposed to cut the string as it comes out of their butt. Don't pull on it, only cut the string off at least a half inch from their butt. Don't waste your money on the vet unless your cat is in pain, and trust me, they'll let you know. Dogs on the other hand, hide their pain.

  • I always thought cats were very good at masking their emotions while dogs were not..
    – Cedric H.
    Jun 8 '15 at 18:13

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