Heads Up, Cat Owners: Yarn is Not a Safe Cat Toy!

Heads Up, Cat Owners: Yarn is Not a Safe Cat Toy!

A cat meowing at a basket of yarn, which is not a safe cat toy.A cat meowing at a basket of yarn, which is not a safe cat toy.
A cat meowing at a basket of yarn, which is not a safe cat toy.A cat meowing at a basket of yarn, which is not a safe cat toy.

Table of Contents:

  1. Why Do Cats Like to Play with Yarn?
  2. Is Yarn Harmful for Cats?
  3. How to Keep Your Cat Safe
  4. What to Do If Your Cat Ate Yarn
  5. What Are Some Safe Yarn Alternatives for Cats?

Ask anyone to imagine a kitten playing, and they’ll most likely envision them pawing a ball of yarn. Did you know that this seemingly harmless, endlessly abundant, and affordable cat toy can threaten your fur baby’s health? It can even pose a threat to your wallet, due to the potential for costly vet visits.

The PetPlace team wants to keep your kitty safe and entertained with interactive cat toys that won’t send them to the ER. Keep reading to learn more about the hazards of yarn and safer toy alternatives.

Why Do Cats Like to Play with Yarn?

Cats are natural predators and hunting is instinctual. A piece of yarn in your home may provide your cat with the thrill of the hunt, resembling the snakes, mice tails, and bird feathers they’d commonly see in the wild. The feeling of yarn twisting and curling around their clawed paw even reminds them of their wild side.

Unfortunately, cats naturally want to put yarn, ribbon, or string in their mouths,  just like they would a mouse or bird after a successful hunt. Kittens also explore the world with their mouths, just like human babies, who typically want to put everything in their mouths, edible or otherwise! Their rough tongues make it easier for string to get carried into the back of their throat and wrapped around their tongue. Also, yarn and string don’t agree with a kitty’s stomach like a furry mouse does.

Is Yarn Harmful for Cats?

Yarn is dangerous in a variety of ways that will likely send you in for an emergency vet visit.

These hazards include:

  • Choking
  • Stomach pain from ingestion of the yarn
  • Obstruction or blockage of the intestines (which can be life-threatening)
  • Entanglement and constriction of the intestines, caused by string attaching to or wrapping around the intestinal wall (also life-threatening)

How to Keep Your Cat Safe

If yarn intrigues your playful kitten, they will no doubt seek out other common household hazards like:

  • Dental floss
  • Rubber bands
  • Ribbons
  • Tinsel
  • Rope and twine
  • Sewing or embroidery thread
  • Curtain and window blind strings
  • Hair ties
  • Shoelaces

If you have other wild animals of the human variety in your household who tend to leave a trail of stringed hazards around, remind them of how their messiness endangers the family pet.

Try your best to adequately store all sewing, craft, gift wrapping, and holiday decorating hazards in out-of-reach, sealed containers. You can tie up curtain and window blind strings so that they don’t hang temptingly at cat-eye level. If you buy cat toys with strings (such as a fishing pole or a kitty wand), always supervise your cat at play. Finally, you may want to purchase a lidded trash can to keep your curious kitty from investigating dental floss or other stringed items that might be disposed of in the bathroom.

What to Do If Your Cat Ate Yarn

First, try to get a sense of how much yarn or string your cat ate. Then, call your vet for their opinion about your next steps. They will most likely ask you to keep a close eye on your kitty, watching for a change in appetite, vomiting, or other symptoms of illness like:

  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Discomfort or irritability
  • Gastrointestinal distress
  • Hiding
  • Lethargy
  • Straining to have a bowel movement

If there are no complications, your cat should pass the string in their feces in 10 to 24 hours. Vets advise against trying to pull on or remove the string yourself if you see it wrapped around your kitten’s tongue or sticking out from their anus. Head to the vet instead for some expert help!

What Are Some Safe Yarn Alternatives for Cats?

Some of the safe, kitten-approved toys recommended by vets include:

  • Small balls
  • Felted toys
  • Scratching posts and pads
  • Laser pointer toys
  • Cardboard boxes
  • Interactive toys (like food puzzles)

The good news is that, with a little tidying up around your house and thoughtful selection of safe cat toys, you can keep your favorite furry friend safe from stringed hazards. Remember that even if your feline ages out of their crazy kitten days, older cats can still be tempted by yarn. Despite its long history as a playtime favorite, yarn is not a safe cat toy, no matter what.

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