Bazel and the Plastic Bag

I wasn’t going to blog about this, but Zoom suggested it would be a public service to cat owners and I realized she was right. Bazel’s story must be told.

We came home late Saturday afternoon with some shopping. As we’re putting the shopping away, our cat, Bazel was playing in the bags, like he usually does. One of them was a small plastic bag. When I left the room for a moment he somehow got one handle of the plastic bag wrapped around his middle.

Suddenly, he came tearing out of the room at breakneck speed, sheer terror permeating every fibre of his little kitty being -eyes wide, ears flattened, plastic bag flapping.

He raced twice around the living room, bouncing off walls and furniture, knocking over a lamp, smacking his head on stuff, tipping over a table. I finally managed to grab him and get the bag off him.

But too late. He’d managed to break off all the claws on his back paws in his desperate attempt to survive the plastic bag attack. Two of those claws were broken off right at the flesh; the others half-way down the quick. And ya, there was a fair bit of blood.

He still hasn’t recovered completely from the mental trauma of the incident. He hasn’t said a word in almost five days and he’s usually a very, very vocal chatty cat. Also, he suddenly wants to be cuddled all the time and he never allowed any cuddling before.

I didn’t know how bad the broken claws were until a day later when I noticed they were getting infected, so I took him the vet. They cleaned up the wounds. They poked him a bit and then took him away to the back room for the next three hours.

They gave poor Bazel a shot of antibiotics, some pain killers and a head cone. And I was $230 poorer. And I have to bring him back next week to have the paws checked.


Having his claws ripped off like that is the human equivalent of having your fingernails pulled out. It’s not like getting  a cat surgically de-clawed. That’s the human equivalent of having your finger cut off at the first knuckle. So Bazel’s claws will grow back they tell me.

Meanwhile, he has to wear the head cone for two weeks so he won’t lick the paws. He had a nice small one first, but turns out he’s leggy and bendy enough to still lick his paws with it on. So I had to go back and get him a bigger one.

The vet got all huffy and didn’t want to sell me a bigger cone without me bringing the cat in for a proper fitting. I pointed out that they’d had him in yesterday and had their chance to fit him properly and blew it. Also, they only had one other sized cone, so I don’t know what the huff was all about.

Anyway, the cone is totally disorienting for him because he can’t hear properly; he can’t balance himself right without his whiskers guiding him; he keeps banging the cone into stuff.  And it’s very unpleasant when he tries to rub up against my bare legs in the morning.

I take the cone off him so he can eat, but I have to sit by and watch so he doesn’t sneak in a paw lick. And I’ve rigged up a water bowl so he can drink during the day with the cone on.

I know there is a humorous element to all this… cats aren’t very bright… and there’s the cone and everything… BUT, from what the vet told me and what I’ve heard elsewhere since this happened, there are apparently many, many cat-plastic bag related incidents every year.

Cats love to play with and chew on these bags, but sometimes they swallow and choke on chunks of plastic. Like Bazel, cats often manage to get themselves caught in the handles and it always freaks them out. The lucky ones are just mentally traumatized for a while – hiding out, not eating, hissing at everyone. Others have violent diarrhea or vomiting for days and sometimes weeks afterward. Others do all sorts of physical damage to themselves.

I mean, who knew getting tangled up in a plastic bag could frighten them so badly? Not me. I don’t know if the same thing happens to dogs? I assume they’re not as skittish. Still, it’s probably best to keep these lethal things away from all pets.

If anyone has any other tips on seemingly innocuous things (i.e.: head cones) that could freak cats out and/or make them crazy and/or harm them please let me know. Thank you.

big cone

And yes, we do get HBO on this thing.


If you have a moment, check out my new Anonymous Rants page (see tab at top of page). The other day a commenter was bemoaning the fact that  she couldn’t blog about her coworkers on her blog and I suggested that she send me her coworker rant and I’d post it here. I also invited anyone else who felt the need to rant anonymously to email me their rants at Someone did.

28 responses to “Bazel and the Plastic Bag

  1. Well this makes me feel terrible because we always used to let our cats play with the bags for a while after a grocery store trip and once in a while one would get tangled and run around like a loon and we laughed and laughed. I had no idea they could actually harm themselves. Our cats showed no side effects either. Just that usual cat embarrassment thing. Since we no longer have cats in the house, it is no longer an issue. I’m so sorry to hear about poor Bazel. I hope he gets well soon.

  2. That happened once with my cat and a paper bag with handles. I couldn’t catch him. Finally he got behind my washer and it came off. I’ve never given him plastic bags-I’m very glad I didn’t now.

  3. I think they should outlaw those stupid plastic bags for destroying the environment and traumatizing kitties and everything. At least Bazel is learning that cuddling feels good. Duncan sends a sympathetic purr his way.

  4. Our little calico, Ramona was forced to wear a cone for nearly two months in an attempt to get a wound on her front leg to heal. She was depressed the whole time.

    By contrast, when cancer was finally diagnosed and we opted for amputation, she was happy, purry and content from the moment her drugs wore off.

    All to say Bazel’s dislike of the cone is typical.

  5. Geewits – Cats are weird. They’re happily wrestling, crawling in, gnawing on the plastic bag one second and the next it’s their mortal enemy. Bazel’s getting no more bags of any sort to play with, that’s for sure.

    Linda – We always had cats on the farm who lived outside/in the barn. I can’t imagine how they survived with all the stuff that seems to scare cats to death.

    Zoom – The stupid thing is that I almost never have plastic bags around anymore. He usually likes to crawl into the cloth bags and just sit there. This is the first time in ages there was a plastic bag in the group and that’s what he picked. They really are very, very bad. Imagine all the critters that get harmed by the bags laying around in landfills and by the side of the road?

    Grace – TWO MONTHS? Do they forget how to do stuff like grooming themselves after a while? That would be a tough decision to make – to have to amputate a kitty’s foot. Is she okay now? No more cancer? She can get around okay on 3 legs?

  6. I lived in place in my university days a few years ago where one of the people had a cat for a few months.

    It was kind of scary how quickly that cat moved when while digging in the closet he got a plastic bag wrapped around his head.

    He went flying up the stairs, banged into people and lamps, but luckily no wrecked claws or blood.

    I’d never seen that cat move so fast!

  7. Oh boo hoo! Poor kitty indeed. Plastic bags don’t hurt cats. Cats in plastic bags hurt cats.
    Lets face facts you have a defective kitty.
    Being on fire is the only good reason for running around so hard you hurt yourself and I hear even then it’s not recommended.

  8. I had a cat who, rather than get tangled in plastic bags would eat the damn things. Oh, how he loved the crinkly ones… No matter how often I’d tell visitors NOT to leave plastic bags out they wouldn’t believe me until they came back to a 1/4 bag.

    Luckily he never choked and would poop it out the next day. Dumb cat.

    I have a co-worker whose story is pretty awful. His golden retriever stuck his head in an empty chip bag that the kids had left lying around and suffocated. They came home to a dead dog…

    And the damage plastic bags do to marine animals!!! Don’t get me started.

  9. Mine got her neck trapped in the handles of a handbag once and went tearing backwards through the kitchen with it trailing after her. She was looking for her lipstick.Oh the vanity!

  10. Justin – It was damn scary how fast the cat was tearing around the place. My cat has claw issues anyway. The two he lost were really thick and I don’t think he can retract them so they were just hanging out there vulnerable for breaking. What happened to the cat they only had for “a few months”???

    Dr. Monkey – I know. It’s heartbreaking to see him plodding along with his big cone thinking this is his life from now on – pain, discomfort and disorientation.

    Bandobras – Well, harumphf… maybe when you’re old and feeble you’ll get stuck in a plastic bag and hurt yourself and then you’ll see what it’s like.

    Jazz – That’s a horrible story. We’re always so careful not to leave anything around he could hurt himself on. The bathroom doors are always closed. All cleaning products are kept in the bathroom. No plants within reach, windows only open so far so he can’t accidentally fall out. My daughter’s room is always closed because of the riot of earrings, elastics and other kitty-appealing bits laying around, cords are all out of reach and/or unplugged. One moment of inattention…. do I feel guilty? You betcha. And yes, like I said to someone previously — imagine the damage these bags could be doing in the wild.

    MisssyM – Oh no! You let your cat wear lipstick?? That’s so slutty. You have only yourself to blame if you have tomcats trailing along behind her wherever she goes.

  11. Soooooooooooo sorry about Bazel. I hope he’s okay soon. And your anonymous rants Idea is HILARIOUS!!! Love it. Going over there now to check it.

  12. This would never happen to a dog!

    (But then again, Tipper was so scared by thunder, she ran away for 24 days, and couldn’t find her way home, 5 km away).

  13. Poor Bazel!

    Rabbits freak out in similar fashion. We’ve heard of people putting harnesses on them and the rabbit works so hard to get the stricture off their body (prey animals hate to be restrained, after all) they get a back leg caught in the thing and break the bones.

    Hearing what other pets do helps me pet-proof for my own fuzzy guys. Our dogs have eaten some weird stuff but so far the zipper (caught on xray!) came out in the poo and no one has needed surgery.

    Definitely have a few rants for the new page.

  14. Noha – Thanks I hope he’s better soon too because he’s just really sad right now.

    LoLa – He’s just kind of going through the motions right now. I hope he doesn’t have to wear that cone for long. It’s really cramping his style.

    Friar – Not a big dog, anyway. What about the dog Jazz talked about that suffocated in a chip bag? A lot of little dogs seem just as, if not more, skittish than cats sometimes.

    Amy – Hi Amy. Can’t wait to see your rant! I forgot to mention for people to please paste them right into the email – don’t send attachments. I’m always leery of opening email attachments.

  15. Poor Bazel. The harm done to his claws *and* his dignity. I’m hoping he heals soon and stops all that sucky cuddling and goes back to his usual attack cat status.

  16. I agree with Zoom! I hope Bazel feels better soon, how terrible! Plastic bags filling the guts of whales, tearing out kitty toenails, creating islands in the ocean, pouring estrogen mimickers into our water supply. They should be outlawed as the menace they are. Back in the day when groceries came home in paper bags cats had it good, remember how they loved those?

    Lunatic says cloth shopping sacs do not have the same play value as paper bags and I sacrifice the occasional paper bag (I want them too!) to her need for bag play.

  17. Alison – Yes, he’s been very hang-dog (for a cat) the last few days, dragging that damn cone around. When I take it off him so he can eat the first thing he wants to do is groom his smelly self – before food! He’s always been a very clean cat and probably can’t stand his own funk anymore. I try to help out with brushing, but I guess it doesn’t have the same tongueability.

    Cedar – You should think about becoming a nanny.

    Mudmama – Well, let’s hope we are seeing a steady decline in the use of plastic bags and maybe even other plastic stuff. Our lives are lousy with plastic.

  18. So sorry about Bazel. Give her/him lots of cuddles.

    Irritating little Chihuahua is so afraid of everything that she would never attempt to enter a plastic bag.

    However, we cannot allow my mother to have one within arms reach. She insists on rubbing the two plastic layers with thumb and index finger until I threaten to take her toy away. It is truly amazing how much that noise can bother you when you are driving.

    My sympathy is with Bazel. Plastic bags should go! Buy cloth.

  19. Aw, poor Bazel. I’m so sorry to hear about his troubles. Nails ripping out are not fun. You know, that look on his face is the same depressed look cats get when they get the “lion cut” at the groomers’. It’s the sad, sad look of a cat who knows other cats are going to laugh at him.

    Brings up memories of mine getting so worked up while I was trying to leash train him many years ago (he didn’t like the feel of the harness on his back and belly) that he ended up tightly wrapped in the leash, with it choking him — I had to scramble to cut him out of it. It happened so fast. Needless to say, no more leash after that.

  20. Sheryl – We do almost always use cloth –just happened to have a plastic one this time as well. I wonder if the same thing could happen if he got trapped in the cloth bag?

    Nat – Ya, since yesterday he seems to be regaining some of his spunk and his paws look and smell pretty good.

    Louise – Hey! Where have YOU been? Nice to hear from you again. I tried the leash thing a few times, too and it worked out about as well as it did for you. He seems to be adjusting to the cone finally. He’s found a way to get on and off things without smashing the sides of the cone into his neck every time and he isn’t spending all his time sleeping on my bed anymore. He’s taken some interest in the outdoors again and has been following me around. Another week and he should be able to lose the stupid contraption. (Don’t be a stranger)

  21. How terrible! I don’t have a cat but I’m glad you posted this so that others who do have cats will know what could happen. I hope Bazel gets better soon.

  22. Poor Bazel.
    Mine is only allowed to play with paper bags. Cats love these just as much.
    Mine walked around for ages with a plastic bag caught on her back haunch. She found it annoying, but not terrifying enough to do any damage to herself or the bag or my lamps. I think she actually came into the kitchen to get me to take it off her. She knows who is the responsible one in this household.

  23. Betsy – Thanks. He’s doing a lot better already – he’s not too happy about the cone, but it should only be another week until he’s free.

    Violetsky – That’s apparantly very unusual. The vet and others have told me that cats really freak out when this happens. Yours must be an uber-cool cat!

  24. I know I’m almost 3 years too late to the discussion, but my cat got a plastic bag handle caught around his neck last night and ran around frantically, as you described. It was terrible. He was banging into walls and furniture. I’ve never seen him run so fast. He ran under a bed and was in a corner before I could get to him. I took scissors and cut the bag off of his head. When we got him out, we found that he had wet himself. He was strange for the rest of the night. Hoping he normalizes a bit. We will NEVER leave handled bags out for our cats to play with EVER again. It was traumatic for our cat and us.