Cats are obligatory carnivores, so they usually like to stick to meat. But sometimes cats start eating things that aren’t food at all. You may have noticed that your cat is starting to eat indoor plants, things made of wool, paper, elastic bands, or even plastic.
This urge to eat things that aren’t food is called feline pica.
While chewing and sucking on certain substances is common in cats, eating non-food items is not. Here’s What You Should Know About Pica In Cats, and Why Some Cats May Eat Plastic.
Which cats are likely to develop pica?
Certain breeds of cats are genetically predisposed to develop pica.
Oriental cats, Siamese cats, and Birman cats seem more likely to suckle on wool, which can lead to chewing and eating.
Also, cats that have been weaned too early in life sometimes begin to feed on fuzzy objects, such as wool or stuffed animals. Sucking or breastfeeding may not result in complete consumption of materials like plastic, but it is a precursor.
Although pica tends to develop in younger cats, it can also occur in older cats.
What are the causes?
Pica is still a mystery to most veterinarians, and it doesn’t have exactly any specific cause.
However, there are many possible reasons a cat may begin to eat things that are not food, such as the following:
- Deficiencies in the diet can cause cats to eat strange things. Cats could start eating their own cat litter when they are anemic. Insufficient amounts of fat or fiber in the diet can also cause cats to seek nutrients from unusual sources. Some cats may nibble on grass, and this is pretty normal behavior, but cats who start to eat too much plant matter or chew houseplants may also be trying to make up for a lack of nutrients in their diet.
- Fear or boredom can also cause a cat to eat non-food items. It can be attention-grabbing behavior, especially if your cat notices that you are reacting strongly to it. Chewing and eating can also be comforting things that reduce stress. When a cat is bored and not getting enough mental or physical stimulation, the only way to chew on things is because there is something to be done.
- Medical problems can cause a cat to develop pica. Leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) have been linked to non-food consumption as well as diabetes. Certain brain disorders such as brain tumors can also cause this behavior, and pica can be the result of obsessive-compulsive disorder.
When is it a problem?
If a cat easily suckles or breastfeeds on fuzzy objects such as blankets or stuffed animals, it is usually not a problem. This behavior is actually quite common.
It’s also somewhat common for cats to chew on plastic bags, which may contain gelatin. A cat can occasionally chew grass with no problem, as long as the grass has not been treated with fertilizers or weed killers.
The problem occurs when cats start ingesting non-food items or chewing dangerous items.
When a cat begins to swallow wool, plastic, or indigestible material, an intestinal blockage can occur. Blockages can cause many problems and even be fatal if left untreated.
Cats that eat grass may eat plants outdoors that may have weed killers or pesticides on them.
If your cat starts chewing your houseplants, make sure you know which plants are poisonous to cats. Daffodils, azaleas, geraniums, and tomato plants are poisonous to cats and many other types of plants.
If your cat chews on plastic, be aware that power cords can pose a risk to both intestinal obstruction and electric shock. Rubber bands, food containers, and other items that are easy to chew and tear apart can pose a choking hazard as well as clogging the digestive tract.
How do you stop
Before you try anything to stop pica, Take your cat to the vet. You will need to work with your veterinarian to rule out medical causes that need to be addressed. Find out what your vet recommends to help curb chewing and eating.
Here are some ways to reduce pica that you might want to discuss:
- Adjust your diet. Your veterinarian may suggest that you change the amount of fiber or fat in your cat’s diet. It is important not to change your cat’s diet without consulting your veterinarian. Too much or too little fat and fiber in your diet can lead to a variety of other conditions, including gastrointestinal problems.
- Mental and physical stimulation. A bored cat can be a destructive cat. Play with your kitten when you are at home and see if you can get any Puzzle toys for her while you are on the go. Make sure your cat has a nice spot by the window for birdwatching or spying on people passing by. This will help relieve boredom and provide mental stimulation. Teach your cat a new trick or play a new game. Keep them busy and challenged, and you may notice a decrease in anxious or destructive behavior.
- Reduce stress. Your cat may be afraid of something and may eat things to cope with it. If you’ve recently moved and changed the cat’s environment, added a new pet to the family, or if there is stress at home that your cat is taking in, it may be the cause of your kitten’s anxiety. Provide your cat with plenty of safe spaces, including enclosed areas like boxes, raised perches for your kitten to keep an eye on, and a safe litter box area. This will help your cat adapt to changes in the environment.
- Remove items she likes to chew. If your cat is chewing on items like clothing or blankets, put them in drawers or closets that will stay closed while you are away. Keep dirty laundry in a laundry basket that can be closed tightly. Wrap up all of the power cords and stow them away when not in use. Lock cupboards that your kitten can open. If you have indoor plants, it may be time to find a place for them outdoors or put them in a room that will be closed during the day.
- Make items less appealing. It’s non-toxic Cat deterrent sprays This can safely keep your cat away from power cords or other items that you can’t always put away. Substances with a strong smell or bad taste can also work, such as citrus sprays or hot sauces.
- Provide safe alternatives. Provide your cat with safe, chewable cat toys Goodies Indoor or puzzle toy that deals with them. Instead of allowing your cat to nibble on grass or houseplants, try growing a catnip or catnip alternative that your kitten can safely chew on. Just make sure your cat doesn’t eat the potting soil.
- Consult a behaviorist. A professional can work with you, your veterinarian, and your cat to address some of the problems and causes of pica. You can try a more personalized approach to your individual cat that you may not find elsewhere. If it keeps your cat safe and healthy, it’s worth it.
Above all, don’t give up. There is no quick fix to the problem. It’s a behavior that will take time to work with.
Be patient as it won’t fix it overnight. It could be weeks, months, or even years before your cat stopped chewing non-food items and started holding onto them.
Has your cat ever eaten anything unusual? How did you correct your cat’s behavior? Let us know in the comments below!
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