“Stitch” the kitty who lived up to his name

(Linear Foreign Body)


Stitch was a young kitten when he first started coming to the Route 516 Animal Hospital for vaccines and his subsequent castration. He was a healthy, male domestic short hair who had lots of energy. Like most kittens, he was curious, playful and loved to explore his world. At one year of age, Stitch’s owner brought him to the animal hospital after three days history of not acting like himself. He was vomiting frequently, had diarrhea, was acting lethargic, and beginning to lose weight. Upon examination, Stitch appeared depressed and was uncomfortable when his abdomen was palpated.

Radiographs (x-rays) were taken of Stitch’s abdomen to assess for abnormalities. His intestines were abnormally clumped and tightly coiled with abnormal gas patterns in many areas. Based on these findings, we were concerned that Stitch had a linear foreign body in his intestines. Ingested foreign bodies are more common in younger pets that tend to be mouthier during times of teething and tend to play with more abnormal objects and toys than their adult counterparts. Foreign bodies can be any non-digestible object but frequently include pieces of toys, rocks and articles of clothing in dogs and pieces of string or yarn in cats. When long strings (linear foreign bodies) are swallowed by cats, it can be very dangerous if not diagnosed immediately. The string can lodge and anchor under the cats’ tongue and eventually pass through the stomach and stretch into their intestines. Once in the bowels, it can embed and cut into the soft digestive tissue which puts the cat at risk for a life-threatening bowel perforation. Diagnosis of foreign bodies can be difficult since they are rarely obviously apparent on radiographs, and patients cannot tell us what they put in their mouths. Therefore, we also have to base our diagnosis on physical signs such as vomiting, abdominal discomfort, missing toys/clothes in the house, and sometimes a special x-ray series with barium or even an ultrasound. Often it is necessary to perform an exploratory surgery to look for the foreign body and remove it via one or more incisions in the stomach (gastrotomy) and/or intestines (enterotomies).

After Stitch’s blood work was deemed normal, he was stabilized with IV fluids, antibiotics, and pain medication. An exploratory surgery was performed and a long strand of sewing thread without the needle was found tightly wound in his intestines. After a gastrotomy and several enterotomies, Stitch recovered without incident and began to thrive again.

In order to prevent your pets from ingesting foreign bodies, we recommend supervising playtime with toys and keeping tempting objects such as yarns and sewing string in locations not accessible to kittens or puppies. Also, if your pet is vomiting and acting abnormally, you should call your veterinarian immediately.