A cat’s natural sense of curiousness and love for investigation can be a recipe for disaster at times. It can get them stuck in places they can’t get out from or ingest something that they shouldn’t have.
As naughty as our cats can be at times, they usually have a good sense to stay away from anything dangerous.
But as in life, nothing is 100% infallible.
What happens if your curious cat ate styrofoam or inhaled a few small pieces?
If your cat accidentally ate styrofoam, make sure to check that your cat is breathing normally. Remove your cat from the area and make an appointment with the vet immediately. Styrofoam is bad for cats and can be fatal in some cases.
In this article, we will take a closer look at why styrofoam is dangerous to your cat and what you can do if your cat accidentally ate or inhaled some pieces.
What Is Styrofoam?
Styrofoam is made from a chemical compound called polystyrene.
Polystyrene is a very light material comprising almost 96% air and has very good insulating properties.
Styrofoam can float on water and does a good job of maintaining its physical form. It isn’t biodegradable and can only be broken down by heat.
It is widely used for protecting packaging, making surfboards and insulating materials.
You can also find styrofoam used as fillings for bean bags and soft toys to give them that soft and cushiony feel.
What Happens If My Cat Eats Styrofoam?
If you happen to catch your cat eating styrofoam, remove what you can from your cat’s mouth immediately. There’s a chance that it might have swallowed a few pieces already.
Styrofoam is easy to tear apart and with your cat’s sharp teeth and claws, your cat can shred it to bits in no time.
There’s also packing peanuts which are very small and loose pieces of styrofoam that can pose an even bigger risk to cats due to their small size.
The dangers of your cat eating styrofoam isn’t due to toxicity but to the fact that styrofoam isn’t biodegradable.
The styrofoam pieces can stick to the walls of your cat’s throat and respiratory system which can restrict proper airflow.
When this happens, your cat can experience difficulty breathing or even start to choke.
When cats eat styrofoam, it can also cause blockages in the cat’s digestive system. The stomach acid in your cat’s body can cause the styrofoam to turn sticky and result in intestinal blockage.
Your cat can exhibit symptoms like vomiting, lack of appetite, diarrhea or constipation if left untreated.
Why A Blockage In your Cat’s Stomach Is Dangerous?
A blockage in your cat’s digestive system can restrict the proper flow and absorption in the body.
This condition can cause a lot of pain and stop a cat from eating properly. An obstruction in your cat’s intestinal tract can also prevent proper blood flow which can cause the surrounding tissue to rot.
If your cat ate something that it shouldn’t have, please seek medical attention for it right away. It isn’t something that you want to ‘sit on’ and observe.
What To Do If My Cat Swallowed Styrofoam?
If you know for sure that your cat has swallowed bits of styrofoam or styrofoam peanuts, get your cat to the vet immediately.
There are certain treatments that your vet will administer to treat your cat.
The most important thing is to try and stabilize your cat via an IV drip to hydrate your cat and replenish lost electrolytes.
If the blockage isn’t too serious, the vet might give your cat an enema or prescribe a mild laxative to try and clean out its colon and bowels.
An enema can flush out your cat’s bowels within thirty minutes. But if your vet thinks that a mild laxative is a better option, it takes about 2-3 days to be effective.
For severe blockages, the only way is to perform surgery on your cat and clear it out.
The faster and earlier you bring your cat in for treatment, the better chance it has of a full recovery.
Is Styrofoam Toxic To Cats?
Styrofoam isn’t toxic to cats but it should not be regarded as cat food by your cat. The dangerous aspect of styrofoam is that it can be broken down into very small pieces by your cat and swallowed.
In most cases, even if your cat ate a few small bits of styrofoam, it wouldn’t cause much harm. It can easily be passed out in your cat’s stool.
It is when your cat eats styrofoam in large quantities that there is a very high risk of it clogging up your cat’s digestive system.
Very small pieces can also pose a choking hazard for cats when it starts to restrict proper airflow.
Can Cats Digest Styrofoam?
Unfortunately, styrofoam isn’t biodegradable and it has been reported that it can take up to 500 years for styrofoam to decompose.
I highly doubt any living thing is able to outlive that.
The only way to break down styrofoam is with high heat. The only thing that is strong enough to do this is your cat’s stomach acid which is rather acidic.
However, the stomach acid won’t be able to fully dissolve the styrofoam but instead turns it into a messy sticky sludge.
Thankfully, there are some packing companies that have found ways to make styrofoam more eco-friendly.
Corn starch is now being used to make packing peanuts instead of polystyrene. This is good for overtly curious cats because even if swallowed, the corn starch can be easily dissolved without problems.
Why Is My Cat Eating Styrofoam?
Your guess is as good as one when it comes to ‘why our cats do certain things?’.
Most of the time, it is due to your cat’s curiosity that caused it to eat styrofoam. The loose pieces of styrofoam might be floating and fluttering in the air. Thus making it seem like something that your cat should catch and eat.
Given that styrofoam is tasteless and broken down into such small pieces, it can also be hard for your cat to tell if it has swallowed styrofoam until it is too late.
If it isn’t out of curiosity, then it could be due to a medical condition called ‘Pica’ that is making your cat go on a styrofoam eating spree.
A cat who is suffering from pica has a strong compulsion to chew and ingest inedible objects like plastic, fabric, metal, glass, soil, paper, etc. A favorite item for cats with Pica is chewing on exposed wiring. It might seem that your cat is obsessed with electricity.
This is very dangerous for the cat as these foreign objects can clog up its digestive system.
Unfortunately, there isn’t any cure for cats with pica and it can only be managed.
There are some cat breeds that are more prone to getting pica and they are mainly the oriental breeds like the Siamese, Burmese and Tokinese.
Doctors believe that it is caused by a genetic disorder or bad dietary habits. If you notice such behavior in your cat, it’s best to have a word with your vet about it.
Can Styrofoam Kill Cats?
It most definitely can be for cats that have eaten styrofoam in large quantities. It can be a choking hazard for your cat if it swallowed a large piece or many small pieces.
Styrofoam can easily stick surfaces and can be difficult to dislodge.
Even if the styrofoam doesn’t stick to your cat’s throat, there is still a high chance of it blocking your cat’s digestive system.
It has been reported that styrene which is related to polystyrene that is used to make styrofoam is carcinogenic.
Anything that is deemed to be carcinogenic has a risk of causing cancer.
This doesn’t mean that your cat will get cancer if it has eaten a few pieces of styrofoam.
But the long term effects of breathing and ingesting very small amounts can put your cat at a higher risk of getting cancer.
How Do I Prevent My Cat From Eating Styrofoam?
The best way to prevent your dear feline friend from eating styrofoam is to restrict any access to it in the first place.
If you purchase anything that comes with styrofoam packing, make sure to keep an eye on your cat and don’t leave it alone with the styrofoam.
Place the styrofoam back into the box and dispose of it properly. Not only should you prevent your cat access to it but any other creatures that are fond of rummaging through your trash cans.
Styrofoam is also used as an insulating material in houses.
If you do use styrofoam for such a purpose at home, make sure that it is properly concealed and protected from your cat’s teeth and claws.
Some cats can be very persistent when they are up to no good.
Do not use styrofoam as a plaything for your cat. It might seem like a great way for your cat to work its claws and teeth but doing so will only cause it to inhale and ingest this dangerous material.
Is It OK For Cats To Eat Styrofoam?
It is never ok for your cat to eat anything that can cause it harm regardless of how safe you think it might be.
Many of such incidents that happen can be easily prevented if cat owners start to be more aware and conscientious of what is and isn’t safe for cats.
Cats are known to have a mentality of a two-year-old kid and you have to regard your cat as one.
Leaving foreign objects around a pet that doesn’t know any better is only waiting for a disaster to happen.
As harmless as styrofoam might seem, it is definitely something that you do not want your cat to get close to.
Even a small amount of styrofoam that has been inhaled or ingested can cause some serious harm to your cat.
A potential blockage in your cat’s stomach can also be life-threatening.
Cat owners should keep all sources of styrofoam away from their pets and young kids. Dispose of any protective packaging responsibly as well.