Unlucky Penny: Cat Swallows One Cent Piece, Recovers at the ASPCA Animal Hospital

Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - 11:30am
Black and white cat recovering at animal hospital

Robert M. knew something was wrong when his 1-year-old cat, Kitty, began vomiting and stopped eating. But what he didn’t know was that Kitty had somehow swallowed a penny.

Earlier this month, Robert drove Kitty from his home in Bellmore, Long Island to the ASPCA Animal Hospital in Manhattan. X-rays revealed what looked like a shiny penny lodged in Kitty’s small intestine, having already passed through her stomach.

“It was the worst day ever,” says Robert. “She is such a wonderful cat and she was just so sick.”

Dr. Anna Whitehead, who performed surgery on Kitty the same day, has retrieved coins from dogs in the past, but says it’s rare for cats to swallow loose change. 

She also says Kitty was lucky her condition was not worse, because of the penny’s composition.

Pennies dated before 1982 are made of 95 percent copper, and those dated 1983 or later are made of 97.5 percent zinc and coated in a thin plate of copper. The cent's composition was changed in 1982 because the value of the copper in one cent pieces rose above one cent.

“Stomach acid corrodes pennies made of zinc and can cause hemolysis, or a rupturing of red blood cells that leads to life-threatening anemia,” says Dr. Whitehead. 

In Kitty’s case, the penny had turned black from corrosion, making the 1986 mint date barely legible.

“It’s hard to say what happened or how long it had been in there,” says Dr. Whitehead. 

As for the penny, it won’t turn up again. Robert is keeping it as a reminder of Kitty’s ordeal and has taken it out of circulation.

X-ray of cat that swallowed penny

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Glad that Kitty is OK. Thank you to everyone who helped save her.


My cat Cloud swallowed a penny also! She had to have surgery. They told me that if I wouldn't have brought her in she would not have made it much longer. It was almost protruding through her intestines. They told me that the date on the penny was the right date because it could have corroded her insides. I'm so very glad she is recovering and coming home soon.


I'm just very glad that Kitty was able to make a full recovery and that ASPCA could help her so much. Bless all the creatures large and small always.

Sheri H

I adopted a sweet 1 year old female from the Orange County Shelter in Florida in May. She only weighed 3 pounds and was extremely sick when I took her home. We had to force fluids, did IV fluids for 3 days, & eventually did x-rays as I was losing her. They found a dime lodged in her intestine and did emergency surgery. We weren't sure if she was going to recover because she had been in the shelter for over 2 weeks when I adopted her. Her former family gave her up because she stopped using her litter box. The day after surgery, she started to perk up a bit. Now, roughly 2 months later - she is up to 7 pounds and a very healthy and happy kitty who loves playing with her 8 year old brother kitty. They are inseparable and have made my life so happy. My $10 adopted kitty ended up costing over $1600 before all the tests, IV's, & surgery was over. I'll be paying on it for a long time, but she was worth every "dime" - which the Vet gave me back. It too will stay out of circulation.

alex howard

My sis-in-law Helene's cat, Samantha, swallowed a small rock from her so-called Zen Garden.

The vets in Florida had no choice but to cut Sam open, to retrieve the rock.

Samantha has recovered nicely; there is no longer a Zen Garden in Helene's home, as she scoured the house, searching for, and removing, items of interest to kitties, so that nothing could be swallowed again.


Thank you Robert for being a great pet parent!!! Kitty looks beautiful and I wish a very speedy recovery. She is a beautiful cat!! I also am limited financial, but I always make it work to give to the ASPCA every month. Even if it is a little. Their ads make me cry I have to change the channel...I wish we could, "save them all". I give to a lot of animal welfare groups and hope that more and more people will help in the cause to end animal abuse!! Thanks ASPCA for saving them!! Hope you continue the great work.

Bryan Lord

I can most definitely understand the emotional distress and trauma that Robert went through. On May 31 of this year, I noticed that my male cat kept going to the litter box trying to pee, and nothing would come out. After about 3 or 4 trips I said something is wrong. So I first called the CVA 24 hour animal hospital, described the problem to them and they told me I should bring him in ASAP because he had a urinary tract blockage. I said to myself "OMG!"
So after a big fight with Samuel, I managed to get him into the car and take him all the way there. I am very thankful to God that I had the money for them to clear out his tract. I then had to take him to the ASPCA in Manhattan for further testing and treatment. I am so glad and again thankful to God that the ASPCA worked with me because I did not have the additional $350 for further treatment.
I would like to say that I wish I would have gone to them first, but the ASPCA was wonderful (along with the 24 hour hospital and me acting quickly), in keeping my boy Samuel alive and having a playmate for his sister.

Linda Amato

It is a nice reminder of "never say never". I have a Boston Terrier. I also have a very bad hand. He "never" eats pills. So if I drop one near my seat, I don't worry till I have time to pick it up. Well one day I come home, and find a pill, obviously "licked". Turns out my cold tablet had a coating to help the nose clear, some type of menthol or something. Now I am careful to NEVER buy OTC meds with coatings. Both for my dog's sake as well as my Grandson's!

roxane twisdale is better and i learned something new about the penny. God bless u

Aayesha S.

Poor Kitty, if her name was Penny, it would be ironic what an unlucky, yet brave and miraculous Penny she would be ! Wonder Kitty ! Or should I say copper kitty ! I'm more of a dog person, but have had two cats, or the things they can do, fit into, and subsequently get stuck in ! Glad Kitty's all good now :)