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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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Kitty, I am so sorry you were sick. You are a beautiful cat with a wise, sensitive face. I am so glad that Robert got you the special care you desperately needed. I hope you recover completely and go home very soon. Robert is a very loving and caring person. You are lucky to have each other.


I understand what Scott is talking about I too was motivated by the Sarah McLachlan singing "in the arm of the angels" it got me to donate and I too get a lot of mail and can seem like harassment. But I also have seen what great work the ASPCA does in disasters for the animals and for the sick and abused. I try to give to my local animal rescue first as they need the money more than the sizeable ASPCA but I try to gove to both. Great organization with great people!

ASPCA Moderator

Thank you for the kind words, John! We truly appreciate your help. Please feel free to call us anytime at (800) 628-0028 to adjust your mailing preferences. Thank you so much again for your support!

Joyce Wood

Yes, everywhere I turn I see advertisement for ASPCA. However, that is a wonderful thing. It does motivate people to join the fight against animal abuse and cruelty everywhere. I once had to call your 800 line to change the credit card being used for my monthly donation after having to close a card and get a new one. I told your operator I would be happy to continue my donations if they didn't make me watch the television ads because they make me cry every time I see them. I still donate. I still watch the ads. I still cry. We have to care about animals. They can not stand up for themselves. I am disabled, on social security and donate to ASPCA and 4 other farm animal sanctuaries that educate people and rescue farm animals. My only regret is I can not do more for animals. Thanks for all you all do. I am happy to help the fight in my small little way! God Bless you all.

S. O. Rooney

Joyce, I so agree.I, also, have very limited income at this time of my life, but I do all I can to donate to animal welfare orgs. I wish so much I could do more. When I see an ad or email from any of these organizations it makes me happy, thinking that maybe more people will become aware and sensitive to the problem of animal welfare. I get a ton of email every day, but I don't mind if it will help save animals in need.

alex howard

I only wonder how the Doctor removed the penny. It was not mentioned in the article, and I wondered if they were able to do it non-surgically.

Hopefully, you folks will update this story in an upcoming email newsletter.

Keep on helping those little beasties we all love; you're all angels for what and how you do what you do!

Jennifer T

The story states that the coin was surgically removed. "Dr. Anna Whitehead, who performed surgery on Kitty the same day..."

La Marca Monique

Aspca makes a good job, they help a lot for animals. We must continue to give them money.

Connie Swanson

Thanks for letting me know my local animal shelter needs help more than Aspca although will still help both when possible.

Connie Swanson

Thanks for letting me know my local animal shelter needs help more than Aspca although will still help both when possible.