Tabitha, the Tonkinese cat who got her head stuck in a crisp bag.

Maia and Tasiana live close to one another, often visiting each others’ houses. Maia’s cat, Tabitha, enjoys the company of the two girls, often joining in with them for games. She allows herself to be picked up and cuddled, and she even comes back for more. She’s been put in a toy pram, carried in a sling like a baby and she’s always being hugged.

A few weeks ago, when Tasiana called around to Maia’s house with her mum, there was no-one home: the front door was locked. They were about to leave when Tasiana spotted some movement through the main living room window. When she looked closer, she couldn’t believe what she was looking at: a crisp bag was moving from side to side, all on its own. She peered through the window, trying to see what was going on: was there some strange air current? Could it be a haunted crisp bag? Then she realised what was going on: Tabitha was dashing around the room with a crisp bag stuck on her head, unable to get it off.

Tasiana’s mum had a key to the house, so they quickly let themselves in and rescued the poor animal. Tabitha must have had her head stuck for some considerable time: she was all sweaty and bedraggled. It was fortunate that they had come past: if Tabitha had been stuck like that for several more hours, she could have got herself into serious trouble. Animals have been known to die of suffocation after getting their heads stuck in plastic bags.

It was easy to work out what had happened: Maia had headed out for the afternoon with her mother, leaving an empty packet of crisps on the table after lunch. Tabitha had been left in the house on her own, and being a curious creature, she’d jumped up onto the table to explore. She’d discovered the crisp bag, and found that she enjoyed the cheese-and-onion taste on the inside. There must have been a few crumbs at the bottom of the bag, so she’d pushed her head in, deeper and deeper. However once she’d finished, when she tried to back out, she found that it was more difficult than she’d expected. A cat’s head can be streamlined when moving forwards, with the ears flattened down and the neck extended. But when moving backwards, the ears go up like barbs on a fish hook, and the fur is all bristly, like a dog being brushed in the wrong direction. Tabitha would have tried pushing the bag off with her paws, but without the opposing thumbs that allow humans to grip objects tightly, she just couldn’t get a hold of the bag to pull if off her head.

It’s common for cats and other animals to get their heads stuck inside food containers. Youtube has dozens of videos showing cats in this type of predicament. It’s a much more serious risk for wild animals who don’t have owners to rescue them. McDonalds had to change the design of their original McFlurry containers after pressure from a Hedgehog Supporters Society. The original packaging was wide enough to allow hedgehogs to get their heads into discarded McFlurry containers and there had been reports of hedgehogs getting stuck. The new packaging has a narrower opening which is “hedgehog safe”.

A crisp bag – or any other similar type of food packaging – may seen like a harmless object, but if you have animals around the house, you need to remember that there’s a small risk.

The message? Tidy up after yourself at the time: don’t leave it till later. Tabitha the cat may enjoy playing with crisp bags, but she certainly didn’t enjoy the consequences.

Tips

  • The curiosity of cats like Tabitha often gets them into trouble
  • Empty food containers often attract animals to put their head inside
  • It’s safest to avoid leaving any such objects within reach of pets

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