Juliet the cat and her two feline siblings were unceremoniously dumped outside their former home when their humans moved out of state a few weeks ago.
A Good Samaritan realized the trio had no one taking care of them and nowhere to go, and brought the cats to the Charleston Animal Society in South Carolina. After some time, Juliet stopped eating. A scan revealed why: The cream-and-white cat had an amorphous mass inside her stomach, a “seemingly endless bundle of strings” in the words of one veterinarian, which blocked Juliet’s stomach and prevented her from being able to eat or process food.
A vet performed emergency surgery on Juliet earlier this week and removed 38 hair ties.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Leigh Jamison, the shelter’s associate director of veterinary care.
Vet techs monitored Juliet closely and fed her carefully, making sure she got the nutrients she desperately needed without overwhelming her shocked system, which had suffered a buildup of fat in her liver.
They thought Juliet would pull through, but the ailing kitty took a turn for the worse on Friday and died a few hours later, the shelter announced.
“Our expert veterinarians and lifesaving team perform what we think are miracles every single day. Unfortunately, even with the best care, not every animal makes it,” staff wrote in an Instagram post. “Even though Juliet was loved and was not suffering during her last days, she did succumb to this tragic accident. We are all heartbroken.”
Pica, an eating disorder that affects humans, also occurs with cats. Defined as the consumption of items which are not food, pica can manifest in cats as a predilection for things like paper, plastic bags, rubber bands, small pieces of plastic and, as was the case with Juliette, items like hair ties that are made of fabric, wool or synthetic materials.
While there are medical reasons pica can present in felines, it’s also sometimes brought on by environmental stress, and it wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine the kind of people who would abandon their pet cats may not have been good caretakers. No one except her former caretakers know what Juliet’s been through, and they’re unlikely to come forward.
Likewise, adoption isn’t a part time, halfway or temporary thing. Adopting a cat means committing to taking care of the animal for his or her entire life. Despite the stubbornly persistent idea that cats are aloof, solitary animals who are indifferent to companionship, research studies show felines are just as sociable as dogs and form strong emotional attachments with their humans. They care deeply, but they express affection in different and less overt ways. That doesn’t mean they suffer less when they lose their homes and the people they’ve grown to love.