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Dr.Fiona, Cat Veterinarian
Category: Cat
Satisfied Customers: 6273
Experience:  16 years experience as a companion animal veterinarian in British Columbia, California and Ontario
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My cat swallowed some dental floss last night. Our efforts

Customer Question

My cat swallowed some dental floss last night. Our efforts to induce vomiting were not successful. He seems fine today, so we are just keeping an eye on him. How long does it generally take before a cat would pass such an object?
Submitted: 8 years ago.
Category: Cat
Expert:  Dr.Fiona replied 8 years ago.
Hi thereCustomer

Welcome to Just Answer! I would like to try to help you with this question. In order to better assist you, could I please get a bit more information?

Has he vomited at all?

How many hours has it been since he ingested the dental floss?

Is he energetic this morning, or hunched up and reluctant to move?


Customer: replied 8 years ago.
It has been about 10-12 hours since he swallowed the floss. It is referred to as "comfort ribbon" so it is thin and stretchy, not stringy like normal dental floss. He hasn't vomited at all. Last night, a local emergency vet clinic recommended that we give him some hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting, but all that did was irritate him! He is his usual energetic self, running, playing and eating.
Expert:  Dr.Fiona replied 8 years ago.
Oh, I know that type of dental floss - we have some in the house!

How long was the piece?
Customer: replied 8 years ago.
About 8 to 12 inches
Expert:  Dr.Fiona replied 8 years ago.
Ok, thanks for all that information.

So, the short answer to your question is that swallowed items (if unhindered) will usually make their way out the intestinal tract in 24-36hours. When I am watching for an item to appear, I usually start to get concerned if it has not appeared after 3 days.

Cats like to play with strings and ribbons and they can be particularly problematic.

What can happen is that the ribbon goes down into the stomach and one end gets knotted up into a big ball. If the ball is too big to fit out the pylorus, it gets stuck there. The danger is that a tail of ribbon may slip out into the intestines. If you have a big ball in the stomach and a tail out in the intestines, the intestines will try to move the tail along, but cannot. Instead, the intestines will "plicate" up around the tail of ribbon.

Think of a hair scrunchy - that is what happens to the intestines. The ribbon is now all tightly pulled up in these scrunched up intestines, and it can then saw through the intestines! This is very serious! As you can imagine, if the ribbon does saw through the intestines, it is not only very painful, but also can be fatal.

I am worried about this because it is so serious, and is a possibility with your kitty. So, it is really important that you monitor him closely. There is every possibility that this will pass through with no problem. BUT watch him for vomiting, loss of appetite, hunched appearance, lethargy and reluctance to walk or run around. If these happen, see a veterinarian immediately!

Here is more about foreign bodies in cats:

To try to help this to pass, you could offer your cat some high fibre foods. The idea with this is that it makes a kind of pillow that traps the dental floss in it, and helps to move it through. Options would be:
- cans of "light" cat food
- canned pumpkin (PLAIN canned pumpkin, not pie filler) - 1 tablespoon twice daily

If he doesn't want to eat these things, just keep feeding him small, frequent meals of his regular food. Monitor his feces closely! If the floss appears, but is dangling out his anus, DO NOT PULL ON IT!! Just cut the piece that is hanging and wait for the rest to come out on its own.

Good luck with him, and please let me know what happens!

If this has been helpful, please hit the green "Accept" button and leave feedback.

If you need more information, just click on reply and I will still be here to provide it!

The above is given for information only. Although I am a licensed veterinarian, I cannot legally prescribe medicines or diagnose your pet's condition without performing a physical exam. If you have concerns about your pet I would strongly advise contacting your regular veterinarian.


So, the botXXXXX XXXXXne is that you should

Customer: replied 8 years ago.
It doesn't appear that the last sentence in your answer was finished.
Expert:  Dr.Fiona replied 8 years ago.
Oh, sorry! I work on my answers in Word and then cut-and-paste them so I don't lose the whole thing if my browser crashes!

So, the botXXXXX XXXXXne is that you should expect the floss 24-36h after ingestion, watch for signs of gastrointestinal problems, and take him to a vet if he has any or if the floss has not appeared by Monday morning.

Dr.Fiona and 2 other Cat Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 8 years ago.
Thanks so much for your help and suggestions. He isn't keen about the pumpkin, but I will try dousing it with some fish oil or something. I will let you know how everything "comes out".
Expert:  Dr.Fiona replied 8 years ago.
GOOD LUCK! If he eats the canned pumpkin, that is great, but if he is not interested, try the canned "light" food, or even just regular food - as long as he keeps eating!

I will keep my fingers crossed for you and look forward to a good news update!
PS - do NOT hit accept again even though the system will prompt you to do so