A Cat Mystery, with Bat Mystery Digression

We have an unsolved mystery on our hands involving our cat Leo, seen above playing with Ellen’s nephew Zach last Wednesday night. Wednesday was rainy all day, so our visitors couldn’t go to the beach. We played some games instead, and everyone also played with the cats and their many toys. We keep string-on-a-stick type toys up on the top of a tall cabinet where the cats can’t get them on their own because Ellen always says that sort of toy should not be given to them unsupervised, as they might try to eat part of it or otherwise hurt themselves. We forgot to mention this to our guests, though, and at some point those toys were brought down and used when neither Ellen or I were watching. Later they were put back up on the cabinet.

One of those toys is called a Cat Charmer, and is a long, narrow piece of colorful cloth on a plastic stick. We’ve had it for many years, at least 10, possibly 15 or more. All our cats enjoy chasing it, grabbing it and chewing on it, but the cloth is surprisingly strong and they did no apparent damage to it. So, Wednesday evening I took it off the cabinet to play with, and noticed that it was much shorter than usual. MUCH shorter.

“What happened to the rest of the cloth?” I asked, but no one knew, or realized part of it was missing. The end looked chewed to me. We learned that the toy had been on the floor for a while with no one watching the cats, so we figured one of them had finally had the time to chew it apart, removing about two feet from the length. Ellen and I looked around for it, but didn’t see it, so we assumed it was out of sight somewhere like under the couch.

Thursday some time during the afternoon, Leo threw up some food. We didn’t think too much of this because all cats tend to do that from time to time, usually when trying to eject a hairball. In the evening Leo threw up again, and Ellen said there had been no hair either time. She remembered the missing cloth, and we all got very concerned and did a complete search of the house, lifting furniture, and so on, but could not find it. Could Leo have swallowed that long an object and kept it down all this time? It seemed unlikely he could even get it down, but we were beginning to suspect he had.

It was getting late, but Ellen thought we should take him to the 24-hour emergency animal clinic, about 40 minutes from our home. We put Leo in his carrier, and off we went. There were several other animals there ahead of us, and by the time we saw the doctor it was about 11:30 PM. We told our story, and he took vital signs, but Leo seemed fine. Other than the throwing up, he’d seemed fine to us all along. They took an x-ray, which was inconclusive. Cloth wouldn’t show up on it, and while there was some bunching in the small intestine, the doctor couldn’t say whether he’d swallowed the cloth or not. They could have kept him for observation, but we decided to bring Leo back home and Ellen would watch him there (she used to be a Veterinary Technician, so knew what to do). They gave Leo some fluids to prevent dehydration, we paid, and headed home, getting back at the ungodly hour (for us) of about 1:30 AM. We had planned to put Leo with Tigger in their room for the rest of the night, but as soon as Leo got out of the carrier he hid under the couch, where it would be hard to get him out without stressing him further, so we gave it up, left both kittens loose, and just went to bed.

It was a rough night for me. All three cats ended up in our room, and they kept waking me up, so the few hours I had to sleep weren’t restful at all. At 6:30 AM I got up and started to get ready to shave, when from the bedroom I heard Ellen yelling as quietly as she could,


I went back into our bedroom, and sure enough, a small brown bat was fluttering rapidly in circles around the room. Tigger and Leo were there looking like they wanted to chase it, but not sure if they should. Ellen was half-hiding under the covers. I closed the bedroom door, put the kittens in our bathroom, and closed that, then I took the screens off both the open windows on either side of the room, hoping the bat would quickly fly out. Instead, it kept circling and circling. Finally, I grabbed a blanket and started trying to direct it toward the windows. After about five minutes, with continuous quiet exclamations from Ellen and I about what the bat was doing, and why wasn’t it leaving, it finally landed on a windowsill, realized it could go out, and flew away!

We were both wide awake now, and on an adrenaline high. We’ve never had a bat in our house in the 21 years we’ve been there, we found no obvious way it could have gotten in, so it remains a mystery. It was too dark to see it well, but it was probably a Little Brown Bat like the one in the picture I found online above, based on size and color. I’ve darkened the picture, but it was really more of a silhouette when we saw it. The only possible explanation I can think of is that it came into the garage when we came in so late, and followed us into the house, above our heads, unseen. We were very tired and punchy, so it might have happened, but really, we have no idea.

Later that morning Leo threw up again, and in it was a tiny piece of the toy cloth. We were all now convinced he must have swallowed it. Our guests were devastated, and terribly sorry, but it wasn’t their fault, as we kept telling them. We hadn’t warned them, and no one could have expected a cat to eat something like that anyway. It seemed unlikely that Leo could easily throw up such a big thing, or pass it through the other way, either, so it was looking like the only option would be surgery to get it out. But Leo still seemed fine, otherwise, so we decided to wait and see for a while. Our guests decided to go a day early, as Ellen and I wouldn’t be able to do anything much with them anyway. Later in the day Ellen talked to our regular vet, who was also unwilling to believe Leo had swallowed something that long, but otherwise agreed with everything that had been done so far. I researched the toy online (hence the picture at the beginning of this post), and learned that the cloth was Terry-cloth, and most likely made of cotton, so it might even break down inside Leo in time, a good thing. But there was so much of it! Leo threw up one more time Friday afternoon, but seemed fine otherwise. We found a little loose fiber in it. Could it be cotton fiber from the toy? He ate some dinner, and kept that down. His stools were loose, but had nothing unusual in them.

Saturday Leo seemed fine all day. He ate normally, kept everything down, and seemed happy and playful. His stools were getting back to normal. Ellen had been thinking of taking him for another x-ray just to see if anything showed in his intestinal tract, but since he was doing so well, she decided to wait.

Today, Sunday, has been just the same. No vomiting, normal stools. So the mystery is, what the hell happened to that cloth? Is it still in there? If not, where is it? Leo seems completely fine. Ellen is now thinking maybe he DIDN’T swallow it, but we sure can’t find it! It’s all very strange and mysterious. Ellen still wants to get another x-ray, but will wait until at least Monday afternoon now.

I’ll post more about this if we come up with any new information, but for now it remains an unsolved feline mystery. Cats…!

2 thoughts on “A Cat Mystery, with Bat Mystery Digression

  1. kelly

    I know you’re worried but after three or four days I think he would show more serious signs of sickness if he ate the whole thing. Hopfully he’ll be fine, just like with kids things happen!!! Kept us posted. Kelly

  2. Boosterrific

    Wow. That long but interesting post reads about as well as any comic book that I’ve picked up in the past month: an innocent game leads to the possibility of a dangerous medical condition. and while a life hangs in the balance, an unexpected visitor brings further mystery!

    I hope that Leo will be fine. (My brother’s girlfriend’s puppy recently ate the entire stuffing out of a teddy bear. The vet told them to keep an eye out for the warning signs of a distended stomach. But puppy digested or passed most of the stuffing and was none the worse for wear. The same couldn’t be said for the teddy bear.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.