Many of you have seen Chris Jordan’s recent heartbreaking photos of dead albatross chicks on Midway Atoll with bellies full of plastic.
Most recently, beached whales have been found with plastic in their bellies.
People see these images or read these stories, maybe feel sad for a minute, and then go on about their lives. Albatrosses and sea turtles are creatures most of us don’t encounter on a daily basis. Their fate is sad, but it doesn’t directly affect us. Well, I want to show some photos and relate a story from the Terry-Stoler household that brings the issue of harm to animals a little closer to home.
My cat eats plastic. I’ve said this before. Arya eats big holes in polyester fleece blankets:
You should have seen how she went for the polyester Snuggie my dad sent for Christmas last year. No sooner did I open the box, then she was upon it, snarling and hissing and biting. When I couldn’t find anyone to take the Snuggie, it went to Goodwill. Right away.
But while eating plastic fleece meant damage to blankets, thus far, it didn’t seem to harm the kitty. It just came out the other end. Red poop. That’s what we were scooping out of the litter box for a while, confused until we figured out what was going on.
Then, while displaying my plastic collection for a friend, Arya pounced on a plastic wrapper and started chewing away.
I managed to get that one away from her. But not this one:
It’s a cheese wrapper coughed up in a hair ball. So why was there a cheese wrapper in our house? Don’t forget, I am not the only one who lives here or comes into our house. I’m just saying. And yeah, I know it’s a gross picture. But I think it’s important to show.
Thus far, the incidents with plastic had been minor. The cheese wrapper hair ball was surprising, but apparently not a cause of lasting damage.
But a few months ago, Arya got very sick. She had diarrhea and was vomiting all over the house. We took her to the vet and found she even had a little fever. We spent over $200 on tests and medication for her. But the blood tests were inconclusive and the medicine didn’t seem to help. We were worried as hell. Until one morning, she vomited up the final hairball. It was full of plastic. Plastic from a piece of a disposable dry cleaner bag that had been hanging in a closet.
After the plastic purge, Arya was fine. No more diarrhea. No more vomiting. At all. It was amazing and frightening and ironic that in our household, one in which less plastic waste is generated than probably any other household in America, this could happen. And that we would be the ones with a cat who loved to dine on plastic.
But we are not the only ones whose kitty thinks plastic is nom nom nom. After this incident, I Googled, “Why does my cat eat plastic?” and came up with a whole host of results:
From Askthecatdoctor.com: Cat Eats Plastic Bags and Vomits
From Catster: Is it bad for my cat to chew on plastic?
From the Snopes.com message boards: Topic: Why does my kitty try to eat plastic?
From Askville: My cat tries to eat plastic bags of any kind like its an addiction. Has anyone seen this happen? Why does he do this?”
From Yahoo Answers: My cat eats plastic, what should i do?
The most popular answer to these questions is “Keep plastic away from the cat.”
My question: How much harder would it be to keep plastic away from this cat if our home was actually full of plastic like most are?
Plastic is a problem for animals of all kinds. They eat it; they get tangled up in it; and they get sick from the toxic chemicals associated with it. But humans are the ones who create this plastic. We bring it into our environment, even if the environment is inside the walls of our homes. We allow it to harm animals that don’t understand that plastic is not food.
But unlike other animals, humans have the power to do something about it.
A version of this post appears on Blogher.com.