“Emma, my cat ate a feather! What should I do?!“
My friend is frantically calling me at 10 pm on Friday night. I could hear she was crying and I didn’t understand a single word after these two short sentences. Luckily, she lives only two blocks away, so I hung up and ran to her place.
I found her googling the words “my cat ate a feather”. She was really panicking. I sat next to her and I started checking if at least one vet is working now. I know, chances are pretty low, but maybe…
Does this happen to you often? I mean, friends calling you to help them with something you’re not sure you’re an adequate person for? Well, it became an everyday thing for me. I started working in a pet shop three years ago, so I know a thing or two about pets.
But I’m not educated for treating sick animals or helping those that are injured, I can help with routine care though. I can definitely recommend you a perfect toy for your pet and help you find delicious (and healthy!) food for them.
Skittles appeared to be fine, a bit confused if I may notice. But, other than that, nothing out of the ordinary. I’ve put all my effort into trying to make her relax and she finally did. After a couple of deep breaths, she started explaining what happened.
They were playing like they always do and she went to the kitchen to get them a snack. When she came back, the cat ate all feathers from the toy. Truth be told, she had that feather toy for quite some time now and I’ve been telling her that she has to throw it away.
Anyways, after she calmed down a bit and stopped rigorously typing on a keyboard, I shared with her all I knew, since I couldn’t find an open vet station.
My cat ate a feather: is it dangerous for her?
How do you think your feline friend eats their feathery prey? Do they remove feathers first? I don’t think so. It’s in cats’ nature to hunt for food, and they certainly don’t clean it out beforehand. So a feather or two probably won’t harm your cat, but…
C’mon, you know that there’s always but, stop rolling your eyes. Things can always go wrong, so you should pay attention to how she’s behaving and if she has any obvious problems. So no, feathers are not dangerous for cats, but they can mess with their digestive system.
What happens when cats eat feathers?
Okay, the main issue here is the quill of the feather that may cause serious damage to your cat’s digestive system. It can get stuck in cats’ intestines and that’s where problems occur. This prevents food and water to go through and it causes blockage.
If she swallows one or two feathers, your furbaby should be perfectly fine. Still, pay attention to how she behaves, and don’t hesitate to seek medical attention if you notice that something may be off. Chances that something may go wrong are higher if you know that your cat ate a lot of feathers.
In some extreme cases, your kitty may need surgery to get rid of the quills, since blockage can sometimes be lethal. Also, feathers can carry various types of bacteria that can cause infections if eaten. This happens particularly in those cases where the ingested feather made a hole in the esophagus or stomach wall.
Don’t wait to make sure that your cat is okay if you know that she ate a lot of feathers. Seek professional help right away. I guess you’d rather prevent choking and other serious issues than watch your furbaby struggle.
She’ll probably vomit as soon as she swallows the feather and she’ll definitely poop it in a couple of days but if you see even the slightest change in her behavior, take her to the vet.
Can cats digest feathers?
Unfortunately, no, cats’ digestive systems can’t break down keratin which is the main compound in bird feathers, because they don’t have that specific enzyme. However, they should poop it out within 48h after they’ve ingested it unless she threw it up earlier.
If you don’t notice that your kitty got rid of the feather, and you notice that she’s a bit lethargic, call your vet immediately. He’ll give you the best advice and explain what you should or shouldn’t do next. In case you notice that your feline is having more severe problems, seek medical attention urgently.
But, my cat ate a feather of a toy: will she be fine?
Yes, don’t worry too much about it. If your cat didn’t spit the feather out soon after she ate it, she’s going to poop it. However, you have to put her on monitoring after you notice that one part of the toy is missing.
Even though artificial feathers are also pretty soft and flexible, they may get stuck somewhere on their way out and cause blockage. You need to be ready to take her to the vet as soon as you notice that she’s not feeling well.
Since those toys are never fully made just out of artificial fathers, she may swallow some other, more dangerous parts, like metal parts. These can cause severe problems and seriously damage her digestive system.
She may feel lethargic, have stomach pain, or even constipation. Also, she may start vomiting, or choking, since it’s possible that the feather simply stays in her throat, and in those cases, don’t think twice before you pick her up and require medical attention.
Pay attention that you give all the details to your vet, because even if some things don’t seem important to you, they may be crucial for him to know.
How can I prevent this from happening again?
It’s not easy, since you can’t directly influence this. There are a couple of ways that you can minimize the chances of her eating feathers, but completely preventing this from happening again is going to be a bit tricky.
However, you can make things a bit better if you opt for feather toys that are of higher quality and won’t break that easily. You can also avoid them completely, but I wouldn’t recommend that, since there are some benefits of this toy we’ll mention later.
Rather, opt for those toys that have bigger feathers, so you can minimize the possibility of her eating them and causing problems. It’s possible that she may ingest feathers that accidentally ended in her food, so if you notice traces of any stray feather, remove them.
Also, if she likes licking or chewing that feather toy, you can spray it with a bitter-tasting spray, or get her more chewable toys she can use instead of it. As we’ve mentioned, it’s not extremely dangerous for your cat to nibble on feathers, but you have to be cautious.
In the end, if you notice that your cat ate a feather, put her under monitoring and analyze her behavior. In case something weird happens, or it seems like her health may be compromised, consult your vet right away and ask for further steps and advice.
How can I help my cat to process the feather faster?
There are certain ways you can help your cat to process the feather faster. Try serving her food that will help her digestive system and make her poop sooner. You can serve her some squash, or wet food as her next meal.
Anything that’s natural and plant-based may actually help her digest faster and get that feather out of her body. So, instead of panicking that she still didn’t pass it, help her by feeding her food that will stimulate her metabolism.
Are there safer alternatives to feather toys?
Don’t get me wrong. Feather toys are extremely beneficial for your feline. She definitely enjoys playing with feathers and it actually helps her stay fit. These toys are making your cat sharpen her skills. She’ll jump around and upgrade her chasing techniques.
Feathery toys help improve your feline’s focus, coordination and balance while enhancing her reflexes. It reduces her stress levels and makes your cat extremely happy. Sounds pretty cool, right?
Anyway, my point is that you shouldn’t stop using them altogether, but be careful when your furbaby is playing with feathers. If you, however, opt to completely get rid of these toys, here are some safer alternatives that you can easily find.
Interactive cat toys will surely keep your cat busy. Choose puzzlements pockets cat toy, play and squeak mouse (or other smaller animals that are usually her prey), or tower of tracks toy. If you still don’t have a double-decker playground, this is your sign to get one.
You can also buy her a laser cat toy and tease her a bit. Make her jump around the house, but be careful about those vases. Also, if you want to opt for munchies to keep her busy, you can always choose from a variety of healthy human food that she can eat.
My furbaby adores greens! So I put a couple of celery stalks in her bowl or some peas. I know that they are obligate carnivores, but I can’t help seeing her cute face while we’re sharing lunch. Of course, inform yourself before you serve her anything human beings eat.
In the end, I’ll tell you this. Whatever you choose, make sure it stimulates her hunting mind and keeps her engaged in the activity.
Did my cat eat a feather due to pica?
Have you heard about this term before? Pica refers to a condition where cats mistakenly eat non-edible objects because they think of them as prey. This usually happens with kittens, since they’ve just started learning about the world around them.
So, your little feline may regularly chew on paper, shoe laces, or different fabrics and other objects from her surrounding. This is the problem some pet owners are facing and it’s actually pretty dangerous. Eating random objects may cause blockage, stomach issues, and even choking.
If your cat ate a feather, it’s not considered to be pica if she’s just tearing it apart and not munching on it, otherwise, it is. Whenever she’s simply playing (and kind of destroying) with her toys without trying to swallow some parts, she’s just sharpening her hunting skills.
Are you worried that your cat may have this condition? In case your furbaby is bored at home and doesn’t have enough entertainment, she may put up with this problem. So to prevent pica, buy her more toys, give her catnip from time to time and let her wander outside a bit.
Other frequently asked questions
This is the part where we’ll go through everything that, I’m sure, bothered you at least once in your pet owner career. Read the answers to the questions someone asked me before so you don’t have to.
1. Is it normal that my cat licks feathers?
Yes, it’s completely normal behavior. Her ancestors were hunting their feathery prey and licking and biting on feathers used to be a part of the routine. She still has the same instincts, so she may be doing this because it’s in her DNA.
However, licking artificial feathers could be tricky, since they may have some chemicals to keep them in place or to preserve the color of the toy. If you see her doing this more often than not, try to keep her away from the toy.
2. Why is my cat chewing on feathers?
As we’ve mentioned earlier, cats are hunters, so chewing on feathers is actually a part of that. However, it can be pretty dangerous if she eats them since she can’t digest them. They have beta-keratin and cats (and our bodies too!) can’t digest that specific protein.
3. I think my cat ate a feather when I wasn’t looking. How can I be sure?
Don’t panic, that’s the most important thing. Monitor your cat for the next couple of hours. Look for changes in her behavior and possible signs that she may be struggling with pain in her tummy. She may start vomiting or her appetite may decrease.
That’s happening because she probably has a blockage and if she’s feeling a bit lethargic too, seek medical attention immediately. As we’ve mentioned in the article, she may poop even 48h after she at a feather, so be patient and be prepared for some gold-digging.
4. The feather got stuck in my cat’s throat! What now?!
Go to the vet station, asap! Depending on how serious the blockage is, the situation can turn into a fatal one. If you can see it somewhere a bit closer, try taking it out of her mouth with your index fingers, but gently! You don’t want to push it further.
In case you decide to save the situation on your own, take her to the vet afterward to check if everything is okay.
5. Should I dispose of all feather toys?
As said before, you don’t have to dispose of all the feather toys that you’ve bought for your cat. They have some health benefits, which makes them a good choice for your feline. Just be careful when she’s playing with them.
6. Can cats get salmonella from playing with feathers?
If the bird was carrying the disease, then unfortunately the answer is yes. Cats can get salmonella from playing with the feathers of those birds. It’s nothing to be particularly worried about since some human food, like raw pork, is also susceptible to the same bacteria.
7. How will the vet check if my cat swallowed a part of a toy?
He’s going to physically examine your feline first, meaning that he’ll touch her stomach and try to feel if something strange is happening. Chances are that he’ll do the blood test and take X-rays as well. If these options don’t show the problem, he’ll do an ultrasound or refer you to the specialist.
Okay, so those are all tips and tricks I could share with you this time around regarding the cat-ate-a-feather topic. Hope it helps! Stay pawsitive fellas!