December 03, 2021

The One Where Duck Needed Surgery

This picture is from last year; see if you can spot Duck in the Christmas tree ;)

(The title of this post is a Friends reference, in case you think it's an odd title!)

I'm posting this early today (Friday) because I'm super worried right now, and I'm actually looking for some reassurance from any of you that may have dealt with this situation before.

As if yesterday wasn't already a bad day, it went from bad to worse during the night. At around 4:00 AM, I heard Duck retching like he was going to throw up. (Anyone who has a cat knows that very distinct noise!) Duck never throws up, and I was immediately worried. Yesterday during the afternoon, Noah told me that Chick threw up spaghetti. I was totally confused--where on earth did he get spaghetti? (We'd actually had spaghetti for dinner the night before, so I was wondering if he got it from the trash or something.)

When I went to clean it up, I noticed it was actually white yarn. Immediately, I knew what it was from... the night before (on Wednesday night), I noticed that Duck had actually gone in my closet and took a small ball of yarn from a pillowcase that I keep it in. I never would have guessed that he would have found it like that! When I saw he had the yarn, I took it from him. It didn't look like he'd eaten any of it--the ball looked the same size as the others (they are tiny balls of yarn--10 grams--that came in a big pack of different colors).

I don't let the kittens play with yarn or rubber bands because they like to eat them. Obviously, I don't want them getting an intestinal blockage, so I keep those things put away. (Oh, and dryer sheets! I had to stop using them because Duck would dig through the clean laundry to find them and eat them.)

I didn't think about the yarn again until Chick threw it up yesterday afternoon. I was so glad he threw it up instead of it getting stuck in his intestines. He and Duck seemed totally fine all day yesterday. Duck was super playful and we played fetch a few times (his favorite game is when I crumble a piece of paper into a ball and throw it for him--he brings it back to me, over and over).

Actually, yesterday morning his paper ball went under the couch. I took out the swiffer to do a quick sweep under there to get any other cat toys--and look what I found! Hahahaha.

Early this morning, when Duck was retching I got up and noticed that there were several spots where he'd thrown up bile. He didn't come when I called him, which is VERY unusual for him. When I took out the treat jar--which he usually senses and is at my feet in half a second flat--he didn't even come. I tried giving him ham (he loves to eat) but he didn't even want that. That's when I knew something was very wrong.

Then, he was extremely lethargic. He just laid under the Christmas tree in the corner and wouldn't move. I knew I had to take him to the vet ASAP, so I started getting ready to take him there. The vet opened at 8:00 this morning, and it's about 35 minutes away. I left with Duck before they even opened, hoping that they'd see him right away.

He was completely panicked in the car. I was glad he wasn't lethargic, but he cried the entire drive to the vet. I felt horrible. 

Thankfully, they immediately took him in (because of COVID, I had to stay in the car--they came out to get him). They did blood work and an x-ray. The vet came out to tell me that there was definitely yarn causing a blockage--the yarn can basically strangle the intestines if it gets caught on something and can't pass through. This can cause the intestines to rupture, which can cause sepsis.

As he's telling me this, I'm sobbing and just wanting to know if Duck will be okay. He told me that Duck needs surgery and he wasn't sure how invasive it would be until they saw just how bad the blockage was/where the string was stuck.

He went on to say that the biggest or most common complication usually happens 2-5 days after the surgery--where the incision on the intestine can rupture, causing sepsis. So, they would keep him for 2-3 days to make sure that everything was working okay and he was eating and all that.

Hearing about this stuff made me super worried. I had hoped this was a common occurrence and that the vet would reassure me that Duck would be just fine--that the surgery was no big deal, etc. I just wanted to hear good things, even if he had to lie to me. When I asked him if Duck was going to be okay, he didn't really say anything reassuring even then. He just told me that the most crucial time was in the days after surgery.

He said they would call me to keep me updated. (The bill was $2500!!! Just in time for Christmas, naturally. So I handed over my credit card and told him to do anything that they needed to make sure Duck was okay.)

I sobbed all the way home. I've been home for a couple of hours and I'm dying to hear from the vet. I just figured writing a post would help me to think about it without imagining the worst case scenario. Also, I'm hoping that if this has happened to any readers' cats, you might be able to offer some reassurance that your cat turned out to be just fine. You can comment here or email me if you'd like--katie (at) runsforcookies (dot) com.

(I apologize in advance if I don't reply within the next few days--I don't know what's happening yet and I'm going to be completely CRUSHED if something happens to Duck. I know you're not supposed to have favorites when it comes to pets, but Duck is my favorite pet I've ever had. I don't know how I will handle it if this surgery goes wrong.)

So this is definitely a downer of a post--after the previous two, good grief--so I'm hoping for good news to share later today.

EDIT (3:45 PM) - The vet called and said that Duck did really well during the surgery! I know this next week is going to be really tough, but I'm glad that the surgery is done. The vet said that because I took him in so soon after he ate the yarn (about 36 hours), the tissue hadn't yet started dying. She had to make two incisions in his small intestine to get the yarn out; there were two pieces and she said one piece was over three feet long!

When she sewed the incision closed, she said that the tissue was already showing blood flow and showing normal digestive movement--a very promising sign that he will heal well. They are keeping him overnight to make sure that everything is working as it should and if all goes well, we should be able to pick him up tomorrow afternoon.

I'm nervous to bring him home, but we've had to sequester cats before. I'll keep him in my bedroom and put a litter box in my bathroom. (The purpose of keeping him confined is to keep him from being too active; he needs to rest to allow the incisions to heal.)

Thank you for the nice comments! I am so relieved that the vet said he's doing okay. I can't wait to see him tomorrow.

EDIT (Saturday 9:00 AM) - The vet called and said that Duck is running a fever. She said it's pretty common for cats after surgery, but they are giving him IV fluids and another antibiotic just to be safe. But they said they want to keep him until MONDAY. The big reason for this is because it's the goddamn weekend. If his fever is gone today and he's doing well by tomorrow, normally I'd be able to get him tomorrow. But because it's Sunday, they won't let me pick him up tomorrow.

I miss him horribly, of course, but I am absolutely sure that he is completely stressed out. Duck is scared of everything--I always say he's my spirit animal because he has as much anxiety as I do--and I don't feel right leaving him there for so long out of convenience for the staff. Duck follows me around all over the house and he doesn't even like it when I close a door where he can't be with me. I'm sure he thinks I just abandoned him at an unfamiliar place. And Chick is clearly worried, not knowing where his brother is--he keeps pacing and meowing.

This is super stressful. And naturally, I am a stress-eater. This thing with Duck is something I never anticipated. I had my hopes up all night, thinking I was going to see him today.

I hate this so much. And I worry that he's going to be a completely different cat when he comes home.


  1. Oh no!!! Poor little Duck! I'm praying that he'll be just fine! I hate that feeling in your gut when something is wrong with a pet or family member. I hope you hear back soon from the vet!

  2. Hang in there! You did the right thing taking him in ASAP. Duck sounds so much like our Cola, mischievous super friend black cats that get into everything and play fetch! She had a similar scare last year after eating a hair tie, I don’t know how she even found it since I try to get them locked in a drawer. She chews through anything string like, I have to cut the tails off her mice toys or she’ll eat them. We narrowly avoided surgery but they had to keep her for observation and do several x-rays to watch the partial blockage. The waiting was so hard. I’ll be thinking good thoughts for you and Duck!

  3. I'm sorry to hear about Duck - I hope he recovers quickly :(

  4. I hope you get good news soon, and that Duck has a smooth recovery. I'm sorry that the vet didn't have a more caring and reassuring "bedside manner", but from my experience, the less "personable" vets are often the absolute BEST with animals. In other words, I feel like Duck is going to get excellent care. I hope you can keep busy with a puzzle or project as you wait for the call. PLEASE keep us posted as you're able, there are legions of us who care about you and your family.

  5. Oh Katie, I am so sorry to hear this! Poor little Duckling! I don't have cats but I have a dog and I know that feeling of just feeling desperate to help them! Please keep us all updated when you can. I am sending all my positive and healing thoughts towards Duck right now <3 He will be okay, we are all manifesting the best for him!

  6. Thinking good thoughts for Duck! He's young, so he should heal quickly after the surgery.

  7. I'm thinking good thoughts for you, it didn't happen to a cat, but a dog. Our bill was $5K. The dog lived and had some of his intestine removed, his daddy finally stopped putting fabric bedding in his crate.

  8. and our pup had stopped eating for a few days and was throwing up. It was probably day three of throwing up and a sunday, so off the emergency vet for us. Guess I should led off with that when I told it was 5K. I'm very sorry and hoping for the best.

  9. My friends cat had something similar happen. The hardest part was keeping him quiet in the days following the surgery. He is fine now a year later!

  10. So sorry to hear about Duck! I don’t have cats but this similar situation happened to my dog. He healed well after the surgery and was completely fine. As you mentioned, reducing his afterwards is key. Also, preventing him from licking the incisions will also be important. Fingers crossed for a swift recovery. I know it is scary.

  11. Good to read your update that surgery went well; it sounds like you have a good plan to keep him calm and quiet as he recovers.

  12. this might help keep Duck from bothering his stitches!

  13. I’m so glad surgery went well. My cat,Cluseau, ate some thread that had a sewing needle attached to it!! I was too poor for surgery so we waited 2 days and she pooped it out. I have the X-ray where the needle was at the beginning of its journey and one later almost at the end! It was the worst feeling ever. But she survived and lived to 19!

  14. He's young, it was worth the cost, it's why we have credit cards. You're a great cat mom, knowing right away something was wrong!

  15. Sending lots of love your way. our greyhound, Chick (Fish n Chicks), ate part of a t-shirt and her intestines intussuscepted. She had a few feet of intestine removed and bounced back just fine. She was 3 when it happened and lived to 12, which is good for greyhounds. Sounds like surgery was successful and recovery will hopefully be as well.

  16. Sending prayers and good thoughts for Duck!

  17. I’m so sorry your kitty (and you) are going through this. Prayers and positive thoughts coming your way.

  18. It's hard to hear, but be glad he is staying with them a little longer. I just had a terrible week with my cat - he kept needing to be catheterized and then the vet would remove the catheter and send him home and he needed to be catheterized 12-18 hours later. After the third catheter a new vet finally said he needed a surgery. He's been home since Wednesday and is doing great. Like you, this is my favorite pet...

  19. I hope Duck is doing ok. I have a cat that likes to get into things, and I am so sorry you're doing through this. It's evident how much you love your pets. They are part of your family and I enjoy reading about them. I hope you can post and update as your internet friends are all worried about him, too. Take care and be kind to yourself.

  20. Sending all the good vibes. If you need a go fund me to pay for the surgery or something else, just give a holler. I know I'll pitch in and I'm pretty sure others will too.

  21. So glad to hear that the surgery went well for Duck! It stinks that he has to stay at the vet's, but hopefully they'll also give him a light sedative and he'll just sleep most of the time. That will let him get the healing process started.

  22. My Ariel is the same way, so I know what you mean as far as being super scared of everything and stressed to be away from home. When she was younger, before I realized the way she was, I boarded her while we were away, and when I picked her up, she followed me around for about an hour meowing at me like she was giving me a piece of her mind. Then she was attached to my side for weeks. After that she got back to normal. I'm sure that Duck will be happy and relieved to be home. The important thing is that he got the treatment he needed. Hope he continues to improve and is home soon!


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