Yesterday, we rushed Lion to Angell Memorial after he ate about 14" of the string from Harris's beloved Growly pole toy. I had just written about my concern that he might do this a few days ago.
Lion had silently taken possession of the toy after Harris had finished playing with it and helped himself to the string, which to him is the most attractive part of any toy. The anonymous person who had been playing with Harris had wedged the pole beside the seat of an armchair and had let go of it for "a short time." I need to emphasize that the anonymous person feels horrible about this. The anonymous person and I next spotted Lion running with the Growly dangling oddly from his mouth. We failed to catch him before he bit off the string that held it. The toy dropped, and he swallowed the rest of the string.
Lion has done this before. The last time, he managed to jump onto a high bookshelf where I stored spare Neko Flies toys, with their long strings, because I'd considered them safely out of reach since even I needed to reach to get them. The last time, we had been away when it happened, and didn't know which cat had done it. We had to take three suspects to the vet. This time, at least, only Lion had to be wrestled into a carrier and hurried to the hospital.
I called ahead, and then threw a phone charger, water, snacks and some editing work into my bag. I also packed the remains of the string, since vets like to see what they're hunting for inside your cat.
We were lucky this time that the emergency staff wasn't too busy. The vet in charge of his case was an intern who looked about as old as a recent high school grad. The first thing vets give to cats who've recently swallowed foreign objects a dose of a powerful horse tranquilizer, which makes some cats throw up. Yes, many cats throw up all the time, but when you want a cat to do it, good luck. This failed for Lion, they told us, because he was apparently too upset to throw up. So they sent us home and he stayed behind to have an endoscopy.
The operating team called us during the procedure to tell us they had pulled out about a foot of string. They texted a photo. I pulled out another Neko Flies toy and compared measurements again, and determined that another two to three inches of string was probably still inside Lion's stomach. They went back to work. Unfortunately Lion still a stomach full of breakfast, so they couldn't locate the rest.
Afterward, the young vet called to say that the short length of missing string would probably pass without causing any problems, especially if we fed him more fiber to bulk up his stool. She recommended one of their "prescription" foods, Science Diet W/D, and I said, "No, No, No. We do not feed our cats such poor-quality and questionable products." She was nice about it, and said she would ask around about other prescription foods. And I told her we also don't feed any of their other "prescription" food. She asked if Lion liked pumpkin I said he might, because he loves sweet potatoes. And broccoli. We settled on broccoli for his fiber, which she thought was hilarious and I thought was fine.
She called again in the later afternoon to tell us that Lion had freaked out while recovering from the anesthesia but that he was fine now. I found out later that he escaped from his cage, or wherever he was being kept, and two vet techs attempted to catch him. He bit one hard enough to break the skin while the other one somehow hit her head. Knowing Lion and his panics, I can imagine how it went down. I won't say I'm proud of his destructive behavior because that would be mean, but I do think it was rather impressive, if rude.
The bite was not terrible, they told us, but it was bad enough that official state paperwork had to be filed and his vaccine records were verified. I hate it that our cats get unnecessary vaccines (rabies shots are good for years but are required annually in Massachusetts) but in this case, it may have saved Lion from quarantine. So, once again: please take your cats to the vet at least once a year, have their teeth checked, and get the damned shots.
We brought Lion home a little before 9 o'clock. We'd spent most of the afternoon out of the house, because it's not pleasant to be there without all five cats. Even though Lion hides all afternoon, it still felt empty. We went to Quincy and looked at huge houses we didn't buy year ago, and congratulated ourselves. Then we went to Hingham, because we'd never been there. Then we went to Doyle's pub in Jamaica Plain and ate mediocre burgers because it was near the hospital and we weren't supposed to be there before 7 and we couldn't bear to go home. We got to Angell at 7, and waited until long past 8 before they paid any attention to us. Lion's bill came to $1,400. (Perhaps that figure will put the fear of God into you around pole toys; it sure doesn't seem to work around here. Because this is at least our third experience with swallowed string from pole toys. I think we might be getting a repeat-customer discount.) We went home with two medications to soothe his esophagus and prevent any side-effects from the procedure, so we are dosing him five times a day.
Personally, I do think it's simpler, less expensive, and puts less wear-and-tear on both cats and humans to keep a close watch on a pole toy and to get up and put it away in a safe place when the cats are done playing with it. But that is an opinion.
You might think it's simpler, less expensive, and puts less wear-and-tear on everyone to not have pole toys in the house at all. This is our second endoscopy episode courtesy of Neko Flies in particular. But you have never seen Harris with his "Growly," or Toffee leaping high in the air after a Neko Flies bug, or Lion dragging me to another room with their Kittenator in his mouth. Pole toys give our cats their best, most satisfying exercise — as long as they are strictly supervised.
It's possible that it's simpler, less expensive, and puts less wear-and-tear on everyone if I'm the only one allowed to handle the pole toys around our cats. You might very well think that. But I couldn't possibly comment.