My Cat’s Emergency Surgery: Removing 30+ Swallowed Hair Ties

Man holds his black cat in a hug. The photo is very emotional

I remember a year ago I watched a veterinarian show what they removed from a cat’s stomach/GI track. After that video I was very strict to hide all the hair elastics, strings, and other objects that our cat could potentially swallow. I really thought that I was being a responsible cat owner, and that Chumka wouldn’t experience an intestinal blockage… boy howdy, was I ever proven wrong this weekend!

Last weekend my cat ended up having an emergency surgery to remove a number of foreign objects from his stomach and his intestines. In here, I am going to share our (expensive) story, how much is cost us, talk a bit about pet insurance, and everything in between.

Disclaimer: While I hope my experience with my cat’s surgery can raise awareness about potential dangers, please remember this is my personal story. For any specific questions or concerns regarding your pet’s health, always seek professional guidance from a licensed veterinarian

Signs of intestinal blockage in cats

I am going to share the symptoms that my cat was experiencing, for a full list check out this website.

The first symptom appeared about a week before the surgery. I noticed that Chumka wasn’t as interested in playing, or that he would tire out much quicker. This was quite unusual for him, as I often struggle to tire him out before bed. At first I thought that maybe he’s just tired from adventuring lately… But I became concerned on the third day.

2 days before the surgery Chumka got stomach sick, and he threw up some cardboard pieces in the evening. He also had really low appetite, but it got better once the carboard was out.

The next day (1 day before emergency), my cat was back to normal – like nothing ever happened! So we took him out for a little adventure to visit our family. He had his appetite back and ate thorough the day.

The day of the surgery, I woke up to Chumka being sick and throwing up. There was nothing in his vomit – just bile… but it smelled really really bad… I tried to give him a bit of a tube treat to see if he would keep anything down – but he would not. He was very lethargic and his gums were pale (dehydration).

One thing to notice – his “litterbox habits” stayed the same. He was able to go pee and poo this whole time – which is unusual for obstructions.

Emergency Pet Hospital and the Surgery

This was my first time at a pet hospital. I waited for about 2 hours to (see?) talk with the vet, as there were couple more serious emergencies the clinic was busy with.

At first, the veterinarian thought that our cat might have ingested something toxic – like a plant or snow that was contaminated with ice melt. Chumka had a fever and a slow heart beat (on top of his other symptoms) which can indicate a toxicity – quoting the vet. I did agree to doing some blood work and an x-ray to see if it’s toxicity or obstruction. The blood work came out looking perfect. The x-rays on the other hand…

Cat xray photo, showing a big obstruction in the stomach from ingesting a number of hair ties The “strings” you see by the ribs are hair ties. My cat’s stomach was filled to the brims with hair ties. 😵‍💫 Some of those have been there for over a year… Isn’t that insane?!

The vet said that the intestines were not stretched from the obstruction, which is a really good thing. It means I was able to catch it while it was in its’ “early stages”.

Chumka needed some IV fluids before the surgery, as he was dehydrated. The surgery was done in the late evening and took almost 2 hours. The team needed to create 2 openings (not sure if that’s the right word for it) – one in his tummy and one in his intestines. Once the foreign objects were removed, the surgeon examined the rest of the GI tract and the abdomen. Everything looked good and no more hair ties were found!

Cost of the emergency surgery for the cat

Let’s talk about the cost, pet insurance, and everything in between… Below is the claim summary for our cat emergency. The total includes the diagnostics, surgery, hospital stay, fees, and so on.

The total amount came to $4,538.77 (Canadian dollars).

We paid: $252.55 for the emergency consult fee (our insurance doesn’t cover that part), $600 deductibles, and $428.62 which is 10% of the bill. The total comes to (hefty) $1,280.84 (Canadian dollars)

It was/is a lot of money but it could have been more, if not our insurance

Our insurance is through Trupanion. I highly recommend them!

This table shows how much emergency cat surgery cost us, and how much our insurance covered


Chumka was able to come home fairly early after the surgery. He is a very anxious cat and wasn’t doing well at the clinic. About 12 hours post surgery I picked the kitty up, so he could rest in a quiet and familiar home. Normally the vets like to keep the pets for about 24 hours post surgery to observe the animal in case there are any complications etc. Thankfully we live really close to the hospital and I have a first aid training (for pets) in case something did happen. Once our kitty was home, he made really fast recovery.

Chumka was discharged with lots of pain killers. He took 5 doses of pain medications a day. I am happy that I was able to stay home and look after the kitty. He was quite “beat up”.

When I posted on Instagram that Chumka was going to have a surgery, someone reached out to me and recommended to get some probiotics for the cat. I believe that person went through something similar with their cat, and the cat suffered from some GI problems afterwards. I already include probiotics in my cat’s meals but I went and got some more. Stay tuned for a post on natural probiotics/ natural products to help your pet heal from injuries 😊

It’s been a week since the surgery. You would not believe that our cat had a surgery – he made such huge progress with recovery. Of course he has a shaved belly with a big incision – but he is fully back to himself. It’s like we have a kitten again!

Final words

This whole situation has been a huge lesson for me, as a pet owner. I hope that my expensive lesson can help someone to avoid a similar situation.

Please give your pet(s) some love from me 😊💛

I want to say this one more time: this is my personal story. For any specific questions or concerns regarding your pet’s health, always seek professional guidance from a licensed veterinarian.

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Picture of Paulina, Chumka's Mom

Paulina, Chumka's Mom