An animal shelter in South Carolina is warning pet owners to keep an eye on their cats after one of their recent rescues died from eating 38 hair ties.
The cat, nicknamed Juliet by shelter workers, was brought in after her owners moved away and abandoned her, along with two other cats, outside the property in mid-November.
Soon after she was brought in, it became clear something was wrong.
"She wasn't eating and they started monitoring her and then they did the radiographs and found that she had some unusual foreign body in her," Kay Hyman, the director of community engagement for Charleston Animal Society tells TODAY.com.
"It was wild, everybody was trying to guess what they thought that was," she says. "Because we've seen string, we've heard of tinsel from trees, Christmas trees, wrapping paper, ribbon — where a cat will start eating it and then it'll get wrapped in their intestines."
Their vet, Dr. Leigh Jamison, operated and pulled "a seemingly endless bundle of strings" from the little animal around Christmas.
Hyman says they couldn't believe it. She says they've seen dogs who have eaten corn cobs or aluminum foil, "especially around Thanksgiving or Fourth of July." But the hair ties were "a first, for sure."
They "really thought" the cat would make it, she says, because the hair ties had been all in her stomach. But late Dec. 30, little Juliet took a turn for the worse and died from liver failure.
"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," Charleston Animal Society wrote in a Facebook post announcing the cat's death. "Even though Juliet was loved and was not suffering during her last days, she did succumb to this tragic accident. We are all heartbroken."
Hyman echoes those sentiments, telling TODAY.com that she was grateful the cat "knew love" in her last days.
"She was loved and cared for. That's what I have to focus on," she says.
Hyman hopes that Juliet's tragic story will spread two messages:
"Abandoning animals, it would be the one thing that at the start of this, is not OK," she says. "Secondly, when you do have pets in your home, just be conscious of the things that they can ingest."
She suggests storing hair ties and string out of reach from cats and monitoring them more closely to make sure they're staying out of trouble, "Just like you would a child."