Cat condom nation: A case of feline friskiness gone too far
When it rains it pours, they say. In my case, it purrs. The last few days have brought me wild feline cases—and the one I’m about to relate was the wackiest I’ve seen in weeks. Yes, it involves a condom—really.
Now, normally all my condom cases are reserved for canines with poor taste in their comestibles. Dogs are far more likely to consume discarded objects with a distinctly human flavor. But sometimes cats want to get in on the action, too.
Such was the case with Snowy the cat. She’d decided the castaway item by the bedside looked too good to be left unexplored. The last her owner saw of it, Snowy was high-tailing it out of the bedroom with the unmentionable in her mouth.
Here’s where I make my big entrance into the storyline: Said owner calls in a panic, asking the receptionist whether the ingestion of a condom is grounds for induction of vomiting. It’s Friday afternoon, not the best time for any emergency, much less a potentially surgical one, but I can’t resist taking this call straightaway.
Hi, Mrs. X, I hear Snowy’s been suffering a little dietary indiscretion lately.
Yeah, I’m pretty sure she ate it. I’m going to kill my boyfriend!
The next thing I know I’m involved in a titillating tale with salacious details—all because of one condom-eating cat. This is going to be a fun one, I think to myself.
In case you think I’m going a tad far in relating the details of a private situation, consider that I’ve altered a good number of the identifying details of this case (all of them, actually). In fact, this situation was no different than a zillion others I’ve dealt with in my veterinary career. Condom consumption is that common.
Luckily, most condom-eaters are canines, as I’ve previously explained. In almost all of these cases, the object is expelled much in the same condition it was consumed—within 24 hours. In the case of cats and very small dogs, however, the possibility of safe passage is decreased significantly.
In cats in particular, any ingested foreign body with a linear dimension is of serious concern. Strings or strips made of any poorly digestible material can lead to “linear foreign bodies” in the gastrointestinal tract. These have a tendency to get stuck in the intestines, forcing them into a painful accordion-like position. The scrunched bowel loops will typically die, resulting in a life-threatening infection in the abdominal cavity we call peritonitis.
Surgery is usually the only alternative for these cases—the earlier the better. Because we have no idea which ingested items will get stuck and which will pass, the safest approach is the one that get the object out before it has a chance to get stuck.
Sometimes we can make these objects come out by inducing vomiting. But when the time of ingestion precedes the vet visit by more than a few hours, or when the item is of certain dimensions (large or sharp, for example) our chances are greatly reduced.
In this case we gave some barium, an orally administered liquid visible on X-rays. Unfortunately, there was so much food in the stomach we couldn’t really tell what was in there. A few hours later (the following morning, actually), all the barium had moved out of the stomach and there was no evidence that a condom had ever been there. If it was, it was all jumbled up in the stool ready to make its regular exit.
So Snowy went home. Her owner received strict instructions to search the home for the wayward prophylactic and to search Snowy’s stool for its presence. For good measure and a little levity, I recommended she dump the careless boyfriend. But she had one more question:
What if it’s still inside Snowy somewhere?
We’ll find it if it is. And don’t worry—in the interim I can assure you that Snowy is at no risk of conception.
At least this final attempt got a big laugh. In my experience, sometimes humor is the best medicine—especially when the case is as potentially embarrassing as this one.