The diagnosis was simple. A lovely, older, intelligent lady who's a nurse, came in with her son and their sick pet. The cat had very recently swallowed some string or yarn, while the owners noted that the cat had vomited up a large piece of string, had bitten off the portion that was brought up, and then swallowed the remainder of it once again.
Regular x-rays demonstrated plication (or folding) of many portions of the small intestine along with pearly gas pockets often seen on x-rays when the pet has a linear foreign body (rope, string, yarn, etc).
The owner called her old fashioned husband who declined to have us perform the life-saving surgery required in this case. They cried, took the cat home, and promised to work on Dad. The cat was sadly discharged with pain medication and the owners were advised that a decision would have to be made by the following morning, lest the poor cat suffer a long, painful death (and remember, veterinarians - in Ontario at least - are obligated to report cruelty and/or suffering, this obligation was firmly planted in my mind should they not return within 24 hrs with some sort of decision.
Happily, the owners called me within ten minutes of arriving home and pleaded, "Can we come back for the surgery right now?" The clinic would be open for less than three more hours... "Of course," I replied.
Surgery was performed by my boss. Pictures speak louder than words:
A portion of the small intestine of said cat with intestine completely plicated like an accordion. This is a typical finding in linear foreign body obstruction cases. The string was found in the entire GI tract, from the stomach all the way down to the colon. The tissue was healthy and bowel resection was not necessary. This cat, as all pets often do, made a remarkable recovery.