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My Cat Ate Styrofoam! Here’s What to Do (Vet Answer)

vet approved graphicSome cats are just determined to get into mischief and end up eating things they shouldn’t – food or otherwise! If you suspect your cat has eaten Styrofoam then read on to find out what you should do.

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My cat ate Styrofoam – what do I do?

  • Check your cat is breathing – First of all, it is important to make sure that your cat hasn’t actually inhaled Styrofoam rather than eating it. Make sure that your cat is breathing normally and seems well in himself.
  • Prevent your cat from eating more Styrofoam – Put your cat somewhere safe whilst you remove any further Styrofoam. Remember to keep other animals away from it too!
  • Call your veterinarian – If you are able, tell them how much Styrofoam you think your cat has eaten, the type of Styrofoam it was, and how long ago they ate it. Be sure to tell them if your cat has any signs of illness such as vomiting or diarrhea.

What happens if a cat eats styrofoam?

Cat vomiting_Tunatura, Shutterstock
Image Credit: Tunatura, Shutterstock

If your cat eats Styrofoam and gets a blockage in his guts, then he will start showing signs of illness. He may be quieter than usual and more lethargic. Other signs of a possible blockage include vomiting, diarrhea, and a lack of interest in food and or water. All of these can quickly lead to your cat becoming dehydrated.

Blockages of the digestive system are life-threatening so it is important to contact your veterinarian straight away if you suspect your cat has eaten Styrofoam, or if he is showing any signs of illness.

Will my cat be ok if they ate Styrofoam?

If your cat has eaten Styrofoam and he is unwell, particularly if he is vomiting, then your veterinarian will want to do further tests to check whether he has a blockage. This might involve x-rays or an ultrasound of his abdomen. He might need a stay in hospital so that he can receive medications to make him better and he might also need fluids through a drip to correct his dehydration. If your veterinarian suspects that there is a blockage then surgery might be required to remove it. The earlier the blockage is treated, the better your cat’s prognosis.

Your veterinarian might decide that your cat just needs monitoring, either at home or in the hospital, depending on how ill he is. Always follow your veterinarian’s advice — they will tell you any signs to watch out for.

cat and vet. _Maria Sbytova_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Maria Sbytova, Shutterstock

How long does it take to pass a blockage?

If your veterinarian suspects that the Styrofoam is passing through your cat’s digestive tract without causing any problems, they will usually tell you to monitor your cat’s feces to check that he has passed it. It will usually take around 10-24 hours from when your cat eats the Styrofoam for it to be passed in his feces, however, it could take much longer than this.

What is styrofoam?

styrofoam_Ekaterina43_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Ekaterina43, Shutterstock

Styrofoam is a type of polystyrene or plastic foam material that has a wide variety of uses. It is most commonly used for packaging and comes in several different forms including packing peanuts, blocks, and beans. Styrofoam beans are often found inside soft toys and other household items such as bean bags. Styrofoam is also sometimes used for food containers such as burger boxes or coffee cups. These might be more attractive to your cat as they will often have residual food flavors which may encourage your cat to try eating them.

Styrofoam is also sometimes used as an insulation material in buildings or around pipes. If your cat roams outdoors then they might find styrofoam on nearby building sites. Styrofoam peanuts are commonly used in packaging to protect items during delivery. These are likely to appeal to your cat’s playful nature as they are light and easy to bat around. Some more inquisitive cats might be tempted to chew on them as they have a soft and airy texture.

Dangers of a cat eating styrofoam

cat on a wooden table_HartmutStein, Pixabay
Image Credit: HartmutStein, Pixabay

The main risk to your cat from eating Styrofoam is that it can cause a blockage in your cat’s stomach or intestines. A partial blockage can cause your cat to display symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhea and a full blockage is classed as a surgical emergency. Both types of blockages can be life-threatening and your cat will need prompt veterinary treatment and possibly surgery to remove the blockage.

The other risk is that your cat accidentally inhales a small piece of Styrofoam when playing with it. If it becomes stuck in your cat’s airway it could stop him from breathing which could prove fatal. Call your veterinarian immediately if this happens.

Although styrofoam is unlikely to be poisonous for your cat, some types do contain chemicals that could irritate your cat’s mouth or digestive tract. This may cause him to salivate excessively or could even cause him to vomit. In large quantities, these chemicals could be toxic to but your cat is unlikely to eat enough styrofoam to cause any toxic effects. Your veterinarian might suggest a blood test just to be sure though.

Can cats digest Styrofoam?

Cat vomiting_Nils Jacobi_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

Cats cannot digest Styrofoam but recently some packing materials that may look like styrofoam, such as packing peanuts, are actually made from corn starch. Corn starch is biodegradable and much more environmentally friendly than traditional Styrofoam. It is easy to tell the difference as corn starch foam will dissolve if you place it in water. These types tend to be less hazardous to your cat as they should dissolve in your cat’s digestive system rather than causing a blockage. It is still important to tell your vet if your cat has eaten any type of packaging so that they can give you further advice.

How do I stop my cat from eating Styrofoam?

The best way to stop your cat from eating Styrofoam is to prevent him from having access to it! Make sure that any food packaging items, such as styrofoam meat trays, are disposed of straight away as this is likely to be more tempting for your cat to eat! Never encourage your cat to play with styrofoam, even when supervised, as this will mean they are more likely to seek it out in the future.

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Conclusion

Cats are inquisitive pets and tend to show an interest in things they sometimes shouldn’t! Be sure to keep styrofoam packaging out of your cat’s reach and don’t allow him to play with packing peanuts. If you are concerned your cat may have eaten Styrofoam or any other foreign object, then always contact your veterinarian for advice.

Related Read: Coughing in Cats: Causes & Treatments (Vet Answer)


Featured Image Credit: Pixabay