Tinsel the Serial Killer

Tinsel twists and tangles within the confines of the contracting intestine

December 22, 2014 (published)


It lurks in the innocuous scent of pine, silver eyes gleaming in predatory glee. Like all good psychopaths, its disdain for life is hidden behind a harmless, even frivolous exterior. All the while, it schemes, plotting the destruction of felinekind.

What is the identity of this master killer? (Insert drumroll or ominous organ music.)


That’s right: those sparkly, clingy strands of holiday decorating whimsy, sometimes called icicles, are secretly scheming to kill your cat.

First they lure kitty in with their shiny fluttering, then they slither into hidden corners, begging him to pounce.

Phase two of the plan relies upon the tendency of cats to prey upon things that twitch. The cat swallows the glittering “worm,” and that’s when our killer makes his move.

(Cue more sinister music and darken the lights.)

As the killer enters the alley (also known as the intestines), he begins to strangle his victim: the intestine itself. The small intestine is basically a soft, narrow tube that moves its contents - ideally food - downstream through a series of carefully coordinated contractions, much like a well-synchronized dance line.

When tinsel strikes, it is as though someone has wrapped a glittering lasso around the ankle of one of the dancers, precipitating a domino-like cascade of tangled limbs and broken stilettos.

The tinsel twists and tangles within the confines of the contracting intestine. Over time, the tangles begin to bunch the intestine along them, like macaroni on a necklace, pulling the loops into tight accordion folds.

As you might guess, this configuration isn’t physiologically ideal. The tinsel eventually will compromise the blood supply to the intestine and even slice through the wall, releasing all sorts of nasty bacteria to assist in its evil plan.

Certain nosy members of dogkind are also likely to partake of the sparkly seasonal delicacy. Size is a factor with tinsel, and felines are wee creatures. The smaller the pet, the smaller the intestines, and the bigger the possibility that the evil menace will play a rousing game of Slice the Intestine; a variation is Slice the Tongue. Sadly, Slice the Intestine sometimes ends in surgery, the kind that tends to keep kitty in the hospital for a few days if all goes well. Unlike surgery to remove a rubber hair tie or sock, a Slice the Intestine repair can fall apart a few days later when other surgeries would be well out of the woods and on their way to Grandma's. Sadly, sometimes evil wins, and even the best tinsel-combating surgeries end in defeat and the sad demise of the tinsel-eater.

If there is no tinsel in the house, there won't be any tinsel in the intestines.


Martha Robbins 
February 26, 2015

Several years ago, I had cats that loved to eat tinsel.  I didn't know it was bad for them, but I knew it wasn't good.  So I stopped putting tinsel on my Christmas tree.  I'm glad to know I made the right call.  Thanks for writing about this hazard.

December 23, 2014

As an Animal Communicator specializing in the medical and assisting people and companions through many issues of what was swallowed-not only tinsel, huge plastic shipping-sheetings off new mattresses, plastic bags, hose pieces, straws. metal toys I am glad for this article and share it to FBk. Thanks for a useful site! --animals like children are so inventive an curious!--It will cost them surgery and issues for life in problems internal damage or scarring, if not death, and will cost you plenty of grief and money. Just avoid it. If your animal is eating weird things anyway, quickly see a vet, and find out about mal-absorption or lack of mineral intake causing cravings.


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