Sparkle Balls: A Dangerous Toy For Kitty?

Many pet parents who have cats feel they really don't need to worry much about the safety of the toys they bring home for kitty. As long as its not poisonous, no worries, right? Everybody knows its those goofy dogs that end up in the hospital from their toys!

Unfortunately, that is not the case. There are a number of types of toys that may be hazardous to your cat, and today IMPS wants to bring "sparkle balls" to the attention of pet parents.

A typical sparkle ball consists of a small core (foam or yarn are common) with threads of various kinds, including colored tinsel, pulled through the core with ends left exposed. Think of a sea urchin and you have a pretty good idea of what one looks like. Or you can just look at this example on Amazon as it is pretty typical.

So what is the problems with sparkle balls? Principally ingestion of the toy. Though it is possible a cat may only be interested in pulling off the 'sparkles,' there are numerous cases of cats swallowing an entire sparkle ball.

Unlike hair balls, cats may or may not vomit up an ingested sparkle ball. If they do not, the cat's internal systems treat the sparkle ball as food, moving it through the digestive system until... it gets stuck.

An intestinal blockage caused by a sparkle ball is likely to require surgery to remove the toy, assuming the symptoms are correctly identified. Pet parents with sick pets do not always consider that a toy may be the source. As sparkle balls are usually sold in packages containing up to a dozen balls, owners may not even notice that one is missing and now a potential cause of their cat's illness. Symptoms of an intestinal blockage may not manifest for a day or longer, further complicating a diagnosis of why your cat is not well.

IMPS Safety suggestions: As many a feline has enjoyed countless hours playing (safely) with sparkle balls, IMPS does not wish to say "no, never buy!" However, IMPS does have a few guidelines pet parents can follow for the purchase and use of sparkle balls:

  • only use balls measuring at least 2.5" in diameter to reduce risk of ingestion
  • do not leave your cat playing unattended with a sparkle ball,
  • only allow them to have at most one at a time,
  • never give sparkle balls to kittens!

Following these simple points permits the pet parent to quickly see that there is either an immediate problem (from choking) or that the toy has gone missing (and may have been ingested). Keeping these toys away from kittens, given their proclivity for mischief, is also important.

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