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My Cat Ate a Rubber Band – Here’s What to Do (Vet Answer)

vet approved graphicAs we know, cats love to play. They especially love stringy, wobbly things that flip-flop in a similar way to live prey. So, no surprises, cats love rubber bands!

Sadly though, rubber bands are not an appropriate toy for cats—they can cause serious complications if swallowed.

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My cat likes playing with rubber bands – is that OK?

rubber bands_evondue_Pixabay
Image Credit: evondue, Pixabay

It is not OK to let your cat play with rubber bands or similar items like hair bands. If swallowed, a rubber band can block up your cat’s intestines, which requires surgery to correct and can be life-threatening.

Cats get just as much fun from toys that are designed for safe play. If you choose a toy that has dangly bits attached (like a cat wand), always supervise your cat during play to make sure no bits break off.

Be sure to keep your own supply of rubber bands hidden and out of your cat’s reach.

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My cat ate a rubber band – what should I do?

Don’t panic! If your cat has swallowed a rubber band, it can cause serious problems, but not always. A small rubber band, or a piece of one, may pass through your cat’s digestive system without you even knowing.

Monitor your cat’s poop

cat poop in litterbox_RJ22, Shutterstock
Image Credit: RJ22, Shutterstock

Your cat can’t break down rubber in her gut, but she may pass rubber with her poop. This is the best outcome. If you know exactly what your cat has swallowed, you can monitor the poop for signs of the band. If you see it, great news, you know there’s no concern.

A rubber band is not poisonous, so it being inside your cat is not the problem—it’s the damage it can do from getting stuck that is a potential worry.

The time it takes for a band to appear in the poop will vary from cat to cat, and objects that are not broken down during digestion can stay in the gut for a long time.

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Will my cat be OK after swallowing a rubber band?

cat and vet. II_Stock-Asso_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Stock-Asso, Shutterstock

It depends—if the band was small (<1 inch) and they are showing no signs of ill health, then it’s OK to continue life as normal. If your cat becomes unwell, even if sometime later, then make sure you tell your veterinarian that a rubber band was swallowed.

Swallowing a large rubber band (>1.5 inches) is more likely to make your cat unwell. You should speak with your veterinarian, even if your cat seems OK. The larger or longer the piece of rubber, the more likely it is to cause serious complications.

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What are the signs that my cat is not OK after swallowing a rubber band?

Cat vomiting_Nils Jacobi_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

Cats that have swallowed a rubber band, and are suffering from potentially dangerous consequences, are likely to show at least one of the following signs:

  • Not wanting to eat,
  • Vomiting,
  • Changes to their poo
  • They may not pass any poo or may have diarrhea,
  • Being quieter than normal
  • Sleeping a lot, not wanting to play,
  • Having a sore tummy
  • They may not want to be picked up if your hand is under their belly,
  • Changes to their drinking
  • They may drink a lot, and may sick it back up, or may not drink much at all.

If you know your cat has swallowed a rubber band and is showing any of these signs, you must call your veterinarian straight away.

If you don’t know for sure if your cat has swallowed something but she is showing one or more of these signs, it is still sensible to book an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible.

There are lots of reasons that your cat may have a tummy upset, be quiet, or be off their food, but it is important to get her checked over.

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Why is swallowing a rubber band dangerous for my cat?

cat playing_Alexas_Fotos, Pixabay
Image Credit: Alexas_Fotos, Pixabay

Swallowing a rubber band can cause the following complications for your cat:

  • Choking
  • Tangling around the tongue
  • Damage to delicate tissues inside the mouth or food pipe
  • Blockage to the food pipe, stomach, or intestines
  • Tangling of the intestines, or a condition called intussusception where the intestine folds in on itself

These complications can be serious and life-threatening.

When the intestines are blocked, food and water cannot get through. That’s why your cat may not eat and may vomit food they have recently eaten.

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How long can a cat live with a blockage?

woman hand petting a cat_zavtrak92, Pixabay
Image Credit: zavtrak92, Pixabay

If a blockage is completely stopping the passage of food through the gut, your cat will only survive a matter of days without appropriate treatment. Complications like tangling of the intestines can make them very ill, very quickly. The longer the blockage is unresolved, the worse the chance of a full recovery.

If your cat is unwell after eating a rubber band, it is urgent—call your veterinarian straight away.

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My cat is unwell after swallowing a rubber band, what will the vet do?

vet doctor checking up the cat_Andrey_Kuzmin, Shutterstock
Image Credit: Andrey_Kuzmin, Shutterstock

Firstly, your veterinarian will speak to you about what has happened. Be prepared to tell them how long your cat has been unwell, what signs you have seen, and what has been swallowed—try to be precise about when it was swallowed and how big it was.

Your vet will then examine your cat fully—they will be checking for signs that might help confirm if there is a blockage. They will also check your cat’s general health by taking things like their heart rate and temperature. All this is important because, if your cat has got something stuck, they could be starting to show signs of further complications, like dehydration. The treatment for something blocking or tangling the intestines is surgery—your vet needs to know how safe it is for your cat to have an anesthetic.

X-rays and other tests to confirm a blockage

Your cat may need to have X-rays, scans, and blood tests to help your veterinarian make decisions about their treatment. X-rays and scans can help confirm a blockage and pinpoint where in the gut it is. Blood tests can help the vet know whether your cat is in good shape for the anesthetic and whether they need a drip to give them certain nutrients, for example.

Everything your veterinarian does will help them confirm what is going on and make choices about treatment, to give your cat the best chance of a full recovery. If you have any questions about your cat’s care, it’s OK to ask.

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Can my cat die from eating a rubber band?

cat_eating_pixabay licking lips tabby inside
Image Credit: Pixabay

In the most serious cases, yes, swallowing a rubber band can be life-threatening. Rubber can block the intestines, meaning your cat needs urgent surgery.

The symptoms of being ill from swallowing a rubber band are like symptoms seen with many other illnesses. It’s not always easy to know exactly why your cat is showing signs such as vomiting, being quiet, or going off their food, but your veterinarian is best placed to make this assessment.

If you know your cat has swallowed a rubber band and is unwell, call the vet urgently, and mention what has been swallowed to them on the phone.

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I can see a rubber band in my cat’s mouth – what should I do?

veterinarian checks teeth of the maine coon cat
Image Credit: Ermolaev Alexander, Shutterstock

If you can see a rubber band in your cat’s mouth, unless it comes away easily, then please don’t try to remove it, and never pull on it. The band could be caught around the base of the tongue, be partially swallowed, or be caught on teeth. If you pull the band, you might cause harm to your cat. Don’t feed your cat or allow them to drink. Contact your veterinarian.

Your vet will be able to examine your cat’s mouth and hopefully, remove the rubber band safely—they may need to sedate or anesthetize your cat to do so.

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My cat is pooing a rubber band, but it’s stuck in her bottom – what should I do?

If your cat is trying to pass a rubber band, only ever help very gently. If you apply gentle tension, and it comes away easily, then that’s OK. But, if there is any resistance, never tug— you could do serious damage to your cat’s insides. If it’s stuck, call your veterinarian for help.

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How can I stop my cat from swallowing a rubber band?

cat toys_Christian Bodhi_Pixabay
Image Credit: Christian Bodhi, Pixabay

The easiest way to stop your cat from playing with rubber bands is to make sure they are not lying around your home.

If your cat likes playing with rubber bands, try sourcing toys that provide the same stimulation, but are safer—like cat wand toys. All stringy toys should only be used under supervision. You can dedicate time every day to play with your cat—playing together can help strengthen your bond and is good exercise for them.

Find other ways for them to play

If your cat is a tinker for swallowing things and you dare not risk stringy toys, there are still lots of ways to enrich your cat’s world. Cats can enjoy puzzle feeders, wheels to run in, tunnels to run through, toys they can bat about (made of stiff material that won’t break off and be swallowed), catnip, climbing toys—there’s a lot out there!

You can make cheap toys from home materials that are safer than rubber—for example, cardboard toilet roll tubes can be used to hide food, make lightweight balls, or just as something to toss about.

If you’re at all unsure about using home materials and whether they are safe, always ask your veterinarian first.

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In summary…

Cats love to play, so it’s important to provide your cat with safe ways to do this. Playing with rubber bands is not safe, so don’t do it. If you see your cat with a rubber band, take it away and replace it with a safe toy.

  • If a rubber band is stuck in your cat’s mouth, or bottom, don’t pull on it—see your veterinarian for help.
  • If your cat has swallowed a large piece of rubber (>1.5 inches), call your veterinarian for advice even if they seem well.
  • If your cat has swallowed a small piece of rubber (<1 inch), they may remain well, and it may pass unnoticed—count yourself lucky!

If your cat is off their food, vomiting, quiet, or showing signs of tummy pain then you should see your veterinarian promptly, whether you think they have swallowed a rubber band or not.

If you know your cat has swallowed a rubber band, or part of one, and they start to show signs of ill health, this is urgent—call your veterinarian immediately.


Featured Image Credit: Tunatura, Shutterstock