When your *best case* scenario relies on hoping for your cat to shit out three feet of Christmas ribbon, you know some poor choices have been made somewhere, by someone.
In my case, I can’t decide if I’m at fault for pulling out green curling ribbon when wrapping a birthday present for my friends’ baby. Or if Miss Moneypenny – who suddenly decided that curling ribbon looked DELICIOUS – is to blame.
Regardless, one minute I was sitting there listening the Christmas carols and wrapping a present. The next, I was online googling “cat ate ribbon” and finding that I probably needed to rush her to an emergency vet.
Nevermind that it was 9pm on a Saturday and it was pouring rain outside and I don’t have a car. And the vet is located up near Maryland. Sigh.
Don’t get me wrong – I did consider just riding it out and seeing what would happen. After all, Miss Moneypenny didn’t seem to be distressed. In fact, she seemed oddly sated – and newly obsessed with curling ribbon.
Let me back up.
After wrapping my friends’ baby’s gift, I decided it would look better with a wee bit of ribbon on it. So I pulled out a spool of thin green curling ribbon – ribbon that I’m pretty sure was out frequently last year during the holidays and that seemed to have escaped Miss Moneypenny’s notice at the time.
I cut a four foot section of ribbon and draped it over the back of my chair while I returned the spool to its drawer. When I turned around, the ribbon was on the floor, Miss Moneypenny was sitting on top of it, licking her lips – and only a foot of it remained. I was baffled.
“Did you just eat that?” I asked. By the way she attacked the remaining foot of ribbon, it was obvious that she had. If I hadn’t moved quickly, that last bit of ribbon would’ve been down her hatch as seamlessly as a snake swallowing a tiny mouse. (This, from a cat who is super picky about her REAL food.)
Immediately, I thought of my childhood friend’s dog, Toby, who had once eaten an entire spool of dental floss – all 25 yards of it. My friend’s family had returned home to find the plastic dispenser hanging out of his mouth, and were able to pull about three yards of it out before it seemed to stick on something. They took Toby to the vet, where a chunk of his intestines were removed. Apparently that’s common when an animal eats an excessive length of a linear object.
I did what everyone does when faced with the prospect of bundling up their animal for a weekend/late night ER trip. I a) posted a query on Facebook, hoping my cat-owning friends would tell me I was over-reacting and could just stay home, and b) googled to see if the wider internet community could offer some reassurance that cats regularly ate three feet of curling ribbon and lived to tell about it.
Sadly, on both counts the response was, “Better get to the vet.”
I made one last attempt at avoiding the vet by calling the emergency line and asking if I could just monitor Miss Moneypenny and bring her in if she seemed distressed? Answer: No, get thee to a vet.
So we did. Thank you, Uber, for making that relatively easy. And the animal hospital was surprisingly well-staffed at 10pm on a Saturday. There must’ve been at least a dozen people working, and they were all really friendly. Fortunately, it was also a quiet night, so there were only two other people in the waiting room: one was a woman whose Labradoodle was having an allergic reaction to his vaccines, and the other was a man whose two daschunds had gotten into a tin of pure cocoa and needed their stomachs pumped.
Explaining that my cat had just ingested 2-3 feet of curling ribbon made me feel like they might send us home with a Darwin Award.
Instead, they sent us home without treatment and instructions to just monitor her for lethargy, vomiting or any other evidence that the ribbon had created an intestinal blockage. (I’d like to point out that that was the plan I’d originally proposed, and which they’d shot down over the phone.) There’s a 50% chance she’ll be able to pass it on her own, and a 50% chance we’ll need to go back for emergency surgery.
“Was there nothing that could be done NOW?” I asked, hoping to head-off both the possibility of surgery and having to monitor her litterbox for evidence that it had passed. I also didn’t want this trip to the vet – which would end up costing $200 – to be in vain. “Can’t we pump her stomach and make her puke it up? Or do an endoscopy and retrieve it before it works into her intestines in the first place?”
Apparently the answer to both questions is, “Not unless you want to spend an even crazier amount of money” – at least at 10pm on a Saturday night when their Surgical Internist is home in bed.
So I packed up Miss Moneypenny and we returned home.
Side note: The Uber driver on our way home puzzled me. He seemed to really like animals and was awesome about letting me bring a cat into his cab, but had some questions that indicated a lack of familiarity with cats. To wit:
Driver: How often do you need to cut her hair?
Me: Cats don’t really need haircuts.
Driver: I take my daughter to PetSmart to see cats get their hairs cut. But there are never any cats. Just dogs.
Me: Yeah, I don’t think cats ever really get their hair cut.
Driver: How long can their hair get though? Very long?
Me: No, it stays a pretty set length. You know how they have a winter and a summer coat? Maybe they just lose all their fur frequently enough that that’s why we never see it grow past a certain length.
Driver: Do you shampoo her?
Me: No. Cats do a good job of grooming themselves.
Driver: What does the groomer do then? Just cut their hairs?
So now we’re home. I’m monitoring her. And while I certainly don’t want to return to the vet for emergency surgery, I can’t say I’m looking forward to seeing that three feet of ribbon resurface.
My friend Andrew reminded me that he had an equally distressing situation some years ago when his doberman ate a box of dryer sheets. How’d it work out? According to his roommate, who witnessed the entire thing: “He looked like a tissue dispenser for about 20 minutes.”
At least dryer sheets smell nice.