Monday, May 2, 2011

Cat-astrophe, Kittehgeddon, Needlegate

If you follow me on Twitter you've probably read about most of this already. It's such a bizzare story, and such an important and little-known issue that I had to share it. Plus, who doesn't like cute cat pictures?

This is my cat. Her name is Mei Mei, which means 'little sister' in Mandarin (yes, that's a Firefly reference).

note: that is not my computer, I'm a PC girl.

On the 22nd of April, Mei Mei swallowed a 2.5cm sewing needle, with 7cm of thread attached.

I don't know if you know - I sure didn't! - that the thread was actually more dangerous to her digestive system than the needle. The needle wasn't sharp enough to puncture anything, but thread can cause bunching in a cat's intestinal tract, which means the damaged portion will have to be removed. Cutting into the intestines has two pretty big risks post-operation; either the intestines will not join together properly, or the bacteria inside will migrate to the abdominal cavity and cause a pretty bad infection.

Very luckily for kitty, I realised what had happened a few minutes after she ate the needle. It being midnight, I had to do a frantic Google search to find the nearest emergency vet clinic. About an hour later, a very tired boyfriend, myself, and slightly freaked out kitty (she hasn't been in a car for about two years and didn't like it one bit) arrived. She was whisked away for an x-ray, and I attempted to remove some of her hair from the sleeves of my jacket. I looked like I was slowly transforming into a yeti, it was pretty ridiculous.

 don't be fooled by the cute face, her 'FUR ATTACK' is infamous.

The vet confirmed that she had indeed swallowed the needle. She wasn't in any pain or distress so we concluded that she'd be ok to wait until morning, when we could take her down to our regular vet and organise surgery, since that was going to be a bit cheaper.

Arrived home at 3am. Boyfriend left. I fell into a fitful sleep, rising again at 7:30 so I'd be able to call the local vet when they opened at 8am.
Me: "Do you have any appointments open today?"
Receptionist: "A few, what's the probem?"
Me: "My cat swallowed a sewing needle."
Receptionist: "OH. Well in that case, don't worry about an appointment, just bring her in as soon as you can."

Shortly after 8:30am, we arrived. Kitty went straight in for x-rays (so they knew where to go) and then surgery. Around 2pm I got a call from the vet saying that the surgery had gone really well.
"The needle and thread got stuck in a fairly large hairball in her stomach," the vet said. "There was no stomach or intestinal damage at all." I laughed and promised to never complain about her hacking up furballs again. Another phone call an hour later confirmed that she had come out of the anaesthetic really well.

The whole ordeal cost a ton of money, which was not fun since my parents are on holiday. I ended up paying quite a bit for x-rays and consultations on my debit card (thank GOD for my new job) and luckily, the vet take payments over the phone, so I was able to use the credit card dad left me for grocery shopping to pay for the actual surgery.


So the moral of the story - apart from "keep needles away from pets" - is OH MY GOD PET INSURANCE IS YOUR FRIEND.
There are actual companies that specialise in pet insurance. I reccommend looking it up. We could have saved sooooooo much money and stress by having it. This is probably the worst medical problem we've ever had with a pet. I mean, one of our dogs has developed a cataract over one eye, but that's not life-threatening, and he's no worse off because we couldn't afford to get it removed. In fact, most of the time I forget he's half-blind. It doesn't affect him at all. However, leaving the needle in Mei's stomach could have killed her. I am so grateful I figured out what happened. It sounds far-fetched, but it's actually a really common occurance.

If you have pets, and you don't have a spare three or four thousand dollars lying around... get pet insurance. Seriously. Just do it. Also learn how to give pills to animals. It took me nearly a week to be able to give her medicine by myself; I have to force them down her throat since apparently they taste so bad, no food could disguise them sufficiently for her to eat them ground up in any way. Also she scratched me AND my boyfriend - the first time she's ever scratched anyone, ever. I'm so glad she finishes her course of antibiotics tomorrow. Two pills twice a day = unhappy kitty and unhappy me.

post-surgery kitty  
(those white bits on the bottom of the collar are from her spitting up pills. fun times)
 she is REALLY hates that collar


  1. Oh my gosh she's sooo cute! I remember when my dog had surgery and had to wear a cone :3 I didn't know there was pet insurance, I want to look into that. My dog has Cushing's disease and the special food and pills and stuff are really expensive.

  2. Oh I'm so glad she's alright. Good for you for getting the message out there!

  3. This is awful! I'm glad she's ok, Mei Mei is just an adorable ball of fluff! I had a very similar experience and it was really scary. My one cat stopped eating and drinking one day and was throwing up, which she had never done before. We called the vet and they said just wait until tomorrow. The next day I called them again but in a nutshell what happened was she ate a PEN GRIP, like the little rubber things around a pen and it blocked her intestines and she couldn't poop. They almost had to do surgery because they could see it on the xray but somehow she actually threw up the pen grip and was fine after that! The vet said cats can throw things up from various points in their digestive system. Anyway, I know how you feel, it was very scary and expensive! I hope the poor thing doesn't have to take pills much longer!

  4. Aww your kitty is so beautiful! I'm so glad she's ok! Stupid animals eating things that are not edible!

  5. Poor kitty, I'm glad she's okay! Throughout the whole post I was just imagining how it would feel to swallow a needle D:


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