Common Misconception: Yarn as a Toy

We’ve all seen the cartoons—an animal, usually a cat, batting around a ball of yarn and having the time of his life. Yarn will catch the attention of most pets; it moves around, it’s easy to catch, and chewing on it can be a pleasurable experience. The material is also very cheap and easily accessible, making it a popular “do it yourself” toy option. However, yarn can pose an incredible danger to animals regardless of age.

Pets begin to chew on toys when they are teething. As with humans, this is a way to sooth the painful sensation of new, growing teeth. Many pets continue this behavior into adulthood when they are bored or anxious—think: a dog with a bone or a cat with a kickeroo. If possible, it is best to discourage chewing as an animal pastime. It can be destructive to your home and belongings but also dangerous if your pet ingests something sharp, large, or indigestible—such as yarn.

Cats, in particular, are drawn to string and long, flexible objects. Unfortunately, this material is among some of the most dangerous an animal can use as a toy. Ingesting yarn can lead to what veterinarians refer to as “linear foreign bodies,” which occurs when something like string gets wrapped in and around the digestive tract. Surgery is the only method for safely removing the material.

This danger is not limited to yarn—it incudes everything from long clothing fibers to dental floss. It is therefore essential to properly store these materials, as just a couple of inches of string is enough to cause significant damage. If you use string toys with your animals, read through customer reviews to ensure the object is sturdily-built. Store them safely and properly.

If your pet does ingest a piece of yarn, floss, or string, take them to the vet as soon as possible. To that end, never pull on or try to remove a string that is stuck in your pet’s throat or butt; it could very well be wrapped around their digestive tract, and your removal might cause serious internal damage.