Ball of Yarn for Cat Toy?

Posted on 01 Jun 2017 20:40 by EricT


The ball of yarn has long been the quintessential cat toy. Some people, in fact, consider it the ideal cat toy. Not only is this a myth, it is a dangerous one. Cat's may love to play with a ball of yarn, but they love to play with all sorts of things that could be dangerous for them.

A ball of yarn is, essentially, a big ball of string. If there is ONE type of item you should never let your cat play with, it's string. Whether yarn, string, thread, or anything similar, don't give them to your cat and try to make sure they are not lying around where you cat can find them.

If your cat likes balls of yarn try felted wool balls instead.

Cat's play with their paws but also with their mouth and teeth. Here is the problem: Your cat's tongue is covered with thousands of little rear-facing barbs. You know what it feels like to have a cat lick you. Like sandpaper. These projections, called filiform papillae are there not only to help kitty groom but to help tear meat off bones. Yep, kitty has an amazing.

This amazing tongue, with its rear-facing projections, presents a danger if your cat plays with string. If a piece of string gets caught in his mouth, the papillae make it difficult for him to get it out of his mouth. Instead, the string is forced backward and he may end up swallowing it. Imagine continually swallowing a long piece of string. This string could end up blocking his intestinal tract or even cause severe damage.

If you and your cat are lucky, the string will pass through. In my vet tech days, I've carefully pulled string from a cat's rear end. I've also done it for my little guy who loves to play with string (he has a string finding radar but we are very careful). I am not recommending that you try this. This is a very dangerous situation. The string, on its way out, could cut into the intestinal tract. And, it may not come out. In the end, playing with a ball of yarn could culminate in an emergency trip to the veterinarian and perhaps even a dangerous operation. When swallowed, the string will tend to travel through the intestines length-wise. In a worst-case scenario, the intestines could contract and sort of scrunch up like an accordion, a potentially fatal situation.

Even if your cat doesn't swallow the string, it could end up being wrapped around her neck. If she runs around and gets caught on something, this could become a choking hazard. Some cats, once the string gets wrapped around them, may panic and start trying to "run from the string." The string could easily get caught on something and then tightens around her neck.

String Toys

That leads us to cat toys tied to strings on the ends of sticks. These are just fine for playing with your cat. But once that string breaks, unless you can secure it again to the toy, throw it away. In general, do not let your cat play with string toys without your supervision. They are meant for collaborative play between you and kitty. For self-play, pick a safe cat toy without any strings.

Window Blind Cords

The cords used open and close window blinds or any kind of window coverings that use cords are a cat hazard. The dangling cord could attract your cat as a play item. Many of these cords have a closed loop on the end. Cats have been known to become hung up in the cords. The same products used to baby-proof the cords, like this Cord Wind Up, could be used to cat-proof the cords. These allow you to wind the cord up and keep the ends high out of reach while allowing you to unwind the cord as needed.

Other Dangerous Items

Of course, if balls of yarn (and string in general) are dangerous for a cat, there are a great many other dangerous household items which are similar. Many of the items on this list are cat favorites. Do not let your cat play with these:

  • twist ties
  • any type of wire and anything with wire in it (like twist ties above)
  • rubber bands
  • hair ties
  • any kind of plastic zip ties, small or large (the small ones could be swallowed, and your cat might bite a piece off of large ones)

Notice the last item on the list is plastic zip ties. Often, when your buy new products, certain parts are secured with these, as well as twist ties and various other fasteners. Make sure to dispose of these.

Stringy stuff is not the only household items that are dangerous for cats. There are many. Also do not let your cat play with plastic wrap or any kind of plastic film, including garbage bags. And, similar to large plastic zip ties, don't let them play with anything that may allow them to bite a piece off and swallow it.

And, as always, no bones for cats. Especially chicken bones!

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