What I Learned From The Time My Cat Had a String Stuck in His Butthole

Handling a situation that’s equal parts awful and hilarious, without laughing or crying—these are the lessons I learned from my cat’s resilient rectum.
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Publish date:
August 17, 2015
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pets, cats, funny, embarassing moments, vets

Ryder is slinked against the wall, sitting spread eagle on the floor across from me with four inches of black shoelace dangling from his rectum.

Even as I type the words into my Google search, I’m disturbed by my willingness to accept them as part of a typical, Tuesday afternoon in my life. How to remove a string from my cat’s anus?

My phone, humiliated by the task, gives me a minute to rethink the question before loading its response.

I look up at my ever-dapper, black-and-white tuxedo cat, who is staring back at me with an admirable, almost obtrusive lack of shame. He’s an optimist; and a persuasive one.

I start to wonder what the issue here really is? So, he has some string coming out of his butt. Haven’t we all, at some point? Figuratively speaking, of course. He doesn’t seem all that concerned about it. He’s not even bothering to break eye contact with me while lazily pawing at the string, as if out of obligation to entertain an old friend who’s just returned from a long journey.

My phone, struggling to dissuade me from adopting apathetic cat logic, hurriedly springs a list of solutions before my eyes. I peruse the abundant archive of options, a little relieved to discover the prevalence of this problem in the cat community.

The first link to pop up is titled, “Cats and String—To Pull or Not To Pull?” According to the article, like snowflakes, every string-in-cat’s-butt situation is unique.

Sometimes, one can gently tug on the string and it will effortlessly glide out of the cat, allowing the cat owner to look like a magician performing, “The World’s Weirdest Magic Trick.” Other times, the owner will encounter some resistance when pulling on the string.

In this situation, it is advised to cut the string as close as possible to the rectum, and not, as I assumed, to poke a hole in the bottom of a cup, attach it to the string, and establish a line of communication between oneself and whoever is on the other end of the portal.

Since pulling too hard could result in the string getting caught, tearing the intestinal lining, and possibly yanking the intestine out along with it, in the event of total failure, seeking professional help is highly recommended.

Ryder’s Feline Pupil Alarm System (FPAS) is currently disengaged. Loud noises, sudden movements, flies, free-dangling fingers, strings, cars pulling into the driveway, and 3:36 a.m. are all things commonly known to set off his FPAS.

With this in mind, I rise from my chair using an FPAS-approved slow motion technique. Putting one foot toward Ryder and easing it onto the ground with extreme caution, I step flat-footed onto the floorboard to reduce creak-age. The slow-motion backfires. My uncharacteristic use of grace triggers his FPAS. Fully-activated, giant black moons track me across the room.

With just one step left to take, I stretch my arms out to grab him. The creaky floorboard beneath my left foot cries out. In an act of utter treachery, the floorboard screams, “Ruuun!”

Ryder launches into the living room, leaving me alone to wonder how my day has somehow devolved into my life—best surmised by the endless pursuit of tail, and the boisterous rejection which follows.

For an hour, Ryder engages me in a heated game of catch and release; I catch him, he forcibly releases himself. Even in the brief moments when I am able to scoop him up and tug on the string, it won’t budge. It’s stuck in there like Excalibur in the stone, and lacking King Arthur’s touch, I will have to cut it off.

I retrieve a pair of scissors from the kitchen, and return, scissors in hand, to the living room. Ryder looks at me, peers down at the scissors, and raises his cold, dead eyes back up to mine.

Maybe it was a hiss, maybe I’ve become delirious from exhaustion, but I swear I heard him whisper, “To the death, bitch.”

From underneath the couch, he fetches a large metal file and begins sharpening his claws. A cartoonish scuffle commences. We fight, creating a tornado in which he and I are only recognizable by our limbs which occasionally escape from the dust cloud before being drawn back in. Nearing death-by-tiny-scratches, I’m tossed out of the cloud.

This is beyond my capability. Higher education did not prepare me for this. I have arrived at the sandy shores of The Last Resort. Ryder is going to the veterinarian. I’d swallow my pride, but I can’t find it anywhere, and fear it may be lost somewhere in my cat’s lower intestine along with my shoelace, a tire, and a California license plate.

There is only one way to enter a room when carrying a string, inside of a cat, inside of a box, and that is to burst in. I plop my plastic blue box of shame on the counter.

“Hello,” the office assistant says. “Do you have an appointment?”

“Uh, no,” I reply, suddenly aware of everyone else in the waiting room.

Peering over my shoulder, I count five dog people. They’re easily identifiable as dog people because they’re patiently waiting with smiles on their faces. Much like their pets, dog people are often just happy to be outside.

“What can we do for you today?” the assistant inquires.

I feel the dog people listening.

“My cat ate a shoelace,” I respond in a hushed tone. “And it’s coming out.”

The dog people hardly attempt to hold back their smug chortles.

“Well, that’s no good,” the assistant says peeking into the carrier. “What’s his name?”

“Ryder,” I tell her.

“What’s his last name?”

“I didn’t give him one,” I say. “He’s a cat.”

She stares at me for a moment, letting wave after wave of righteous, sarcastic remark pass, before settling on, “What’s your last name?”

The snickering behind me grows louder.

“Oh, right. It’s under, Carreiro.”

“Perfect,” she says. “We’ll take Ryder back, and a doctor will take a look at him as soon as possible.”

Not long after watching Ryder disappear into the back office with an assistant, am I called into an observation room.

Waiting for the doctor turns into a tailspin of wondering how much I am supposed to disclose. Do I tell them that Ryder is FIV positive? What will they think of me as a cat parent if I do? Not only have I not cat-proofed my shoelaces, I allow my cat to engage in risky, promiscuous sex. He was positive when I got him, I swear! Maybe I should just wait and see if they ask.

My stream of digression is interrupted by Ryder’s sharp, heart-piercing cries echoing into my room from down the hall. My heart sinks for my poor, misguided little rascal. Moments after the screaming stops, the doctor enters my room.

A male model in scrubs, I am convinced he is an actor researching a part for a movie or T.V. roll. Coming to ABC this fall, the Grey’s Anatomy spinoff Greyhound’s Anatomy will surely star this vet as their bronzed, sandy-blonde McDreamy.

“So, Ryder swallowed a string,” McDreamy says with a smirk.

“Yeaaah,” I admit.

“Do we know how long it was?”

“I think he gnawed off maybe five or six inches of my shoelace.”

“Well that’s not too bad,” McDreamy tells me. “But the downside is that when I try to pull on the string, he clenches, and he doesn’t seem to be responding too well to my anal probing.”

Wow, I think, he really is my cat. One giggle bubbles up.

With extreme focus, I manage to hold it at bay in my chest; suppressing it there. McDreamy uses his left pinky to pantomime how he’ll try again to manually manipulate the string out of my cat’s anus.

Giggles two, three, and four force the first up to the back of my throat. I’m trying hard not to lose it, sucking my lips between my teeth and clamping down to assure no escape for my highly inappropriate, immature, and morally corrupt giggles, but the blockage forces my body to writhe with a boiling up of laughter. I look insane.

“The cat’s colon is only about yay big,” McDreamy measures approximately 10 inches of imaginary colon between his index fingers.

If ever there were a way to remove the mystery of what fantastical skills a man’s fingers might be capable of, watching him use them to gesture out facts about cat colons is an effectual road less traveled.

“So, if it’s less than 10 inches, we might be able to get away without surgery,” he says

“Surgery!?” I nearly scream, beginning to realize the severity of the situation.

“As of now, I’m going to have to put him under at least one round of anesthesia,” McDreamy says. “It could be that once I get him to stop clenching, I’ll be able to coax the string out manually.”

He continues, “But if the string is longer than 10 inches, there’s a chance that it is caught on something inside the intestine. If that’s the case, I’ll have to do surgery.”

This is a sore subject for me. The first cat that I ever adopted died due to complications when he went under anesthesia for a minor surgery. The surge of giggles retreat back into my abdomen, only to return in the form of tears as the urge to cry.

I hadn’t even considered the possibility that my cat could die with four inches of string protruding from his asshole. I mean, I had an inkling that’d be my eventual demise, but it’s not a death I deem suitable for my cat. Not Ryder.

I always expected he’d go out in some blaze of glory, parachuting into Paraguay under the veil of night on a secret rescue mission to retrieve a jaguar being held hostage by South American poachers.

I feel a thought pushing its way into my brain and distract myself by reading off the dog breeds illustrated on a poster on the wall next to me. Brittany Spaniel, Bloodhound, Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, My Cat Could Die, Shih Tzu—wait, what was that last one? My cat could die? My cat, my invincible black wrecking ball of destruction, could die.

Ryder has gone by many names—Knight Ryder, Devil, Rascal, Rascal Fatts, Mitts Romney (because he has little white mittens for paws and he hates the lower class), and, most commonly, You Bastard!!

Now, though, it seems that he could just be, dying. My glass half-full is evaporating. I tell myself to think more like Ryder, the fearless, if maybe slightly delusional, optimist that he is.

I force the bad thoughts into a dark corner in my mind, and while they linger there as an assistant reads me the price list of how much this could all end up costing me, I just remind myself that in his one year of life, my cat has probably only used about 7 of his 9 lives.

One hour, $600, and 12 inches of string later, Ryder emerges from the emergency room alive, string-free, and ready to continue being my constant reminder of how life should sometimes be lived.

Yes, it is good to live life aware of the consequences one might encounter, but it is equally important to at times dive into things with the fearless passion of a cat chasing a string. At the very least, you’ll end up with a great story; like that time the hot vet from Greyhound’s Anatomy stuck his pinky up your ass.