Emergency vets say three-year-old Harvey’s dangerous habit almost cost him his life

A family were horrified to discover their seriously ill cat had secretly been eating hair bands.

Three-year-old Harvey was rushed to Vets Now in Glasgow after becoming so ill he could barely walk and was dragging his legs behind him.

Our vets were left stunned when an operation to remove the ‘foreign bodies’ in his stomach revealed Harvey had chewed and swallowed up to a dozen hair bands.

One had perforated his intestines – leaving him at risk of potentially fatal peritonitis.

Nichola Girvan, 24, granddaughter of Harvey’s owner, Wilma McGory, said: “I took Harvey to the hospital for my gran because she was so worried about him.

“We hadn’t noticed what he’d been doing so when he first became unwell we thought he’d a hairball or something like that.”

Nichola explained how, initially, she’d taken Harvey to her local vet in Glasgow where he was given medication.

He seemed to perk up after that but within a few days, his condition began to deteriorate.

Nichola said: “Eventually Harvey started yelping like he was in pain and when he tried to get up he wasn’t walking well and was dragging his back legs.

“That night my gran phoned me in a panic so, as it was out of hours, I rushed Harvey to Vets Now. The staff were really good and took him in straight away for an x-ray.

“When they realised the extent of his condition they told us they’d need to operate.”

an X-ray image of the inside of Harvey's stomach, filled with hairbands. For Vets Now article on cat ate hair band
An X-ray showing the hair bands in Harvey's stomach

Vets Now staff are trained in specialist emergency and critical care medicine and provide emergency cover out-of-hours for thousands of veterinary practices and hospitals nationwide.

The two-hour operation to remove the hair bands from Harvey’s stomachs was complicated by his perilous condition. He was severely dehydrated on admission and had a tear in his intestine that came with its own associated risks such as pancreatitis.

But Nichola says mischievous Harvey quickly recovered from his ordeal and has since bounced back to his normal, playful self.

Now she’s warning other cat owners to be on the lookout for hair bands lying around.

“We’d no idea they could be so dangerous,” she said. “We have a big family and there are always a lot of people at my gran’s house, but we are all being really careful around the cat now.”

An image of a biohazard bag containing the hair bands removed from Harvey's stomach
The hair bands removed from Harvey's stomach

Vet Marie-Philippe Bussieres works at Vets Now in Glasgow and performed surgery on Harvey.

She said: “Thankfully we were able to help Harvey in time, but it was still a tricky operation with a lot of risks.

“He was in a critical condition when he was admitted and we had to delay surgery until he’d been stabilised.

“We see all sorts of cases of pets eating things they shouldn’t, but it’s unusual for a cat to swallow this number of foreign bodies. Some cats have a penchant for things like hair bands, ribbon, shoelaces and tinsel so it’s worth keeping these items out of harm’s way.”

An image of Harvey, the cat who was treated for eating hairbands, for Vets Now article on Cat ate hair bands
Harvey was admitted to Vets Now in Glasgow after eating hair bands

The Vets Now pet emergency hospital in Glasgow – where Harvey received treatment – is regarded as one of the finest facilities of its kind in the UK.

It’s one of three Vets Now hospitals across the UK that are open 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week, to treat any pet emergencies that may occur.

All of Vets Now’s 58 clinics and hospitals have a vet and vet nurse on site at all times.