Some cats have a bigger appetite than others; however, they are naturally carnivores so all of them stick to eating meat. When you begin to notice that your cat is gorging on plastics, wires, and other non-food items, is that already a cause for concern? This urge is called Pica.
While chewing on furniture and carpets is a normal behavior, actually ingesting household items is not.
Which breeds are predisposed to developing Pica?
Birman, Oriental, and Siamese cats are more likely to develop this urge. They seem to be more likely to suck on wool fabrics, which could eventually lead to chewing and swallowing. Moreover, kittens that were weaned earlier and separated from their mothers tend to nurse and suck on stuffed toys. Though sucking and nursing on inanimate objects doesn’t guarantee that the cat will develop pica, it is still a precursor.
What causes Pica?
The causes behind Pica are still a mystery to most veterinarians but the following could cause this urge to develop:
1. Diet deficiencies – When your cat isn’t getting the necessary nutrients from the food you give him or her, this could cause them to start munching on strange things. For example, cats could eat their litter if they are anemic. Inadequate nutrition in their food might make them feed on other items to compensate the deficiency.
2. Anxiety or boredom –If your kitty wants your attention, they might start feeding on household objects, especially if it emits a strong reaction from you. They could also resort to chewing if they are bored, so be sure to provide them with enough mental and physical stimulation.
3. Medical issues– some medical conditions like Leukemia, Diabetes, and FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus) could result to developing pica. Moreover, brain disorders like tumors could also lead to compulsive behaviors and thus, pica.
How do you stop it?
Before you try to curb this behavior, talk to your vet first so you both could work on it and rule out other possible medical conditions. He or she would advise you some strategies to help deter it. Here are some more points that you could raise:
1. Adjusting your cat’s diet – You vet could set up a diet plan for your kitty to make sure his or her needs are met, so they don’t try to feed on other non-food items to compensate.
2. Physical and mental stimulation – as stated above, pica could be because of boredom. Spend some time playing with your cat. And make sure that they have puzzle toys to tinker with when you’re out. Moreover, make sure that they have access to a closed, but clear window so they could people-watch and squirrel-watch when they’re bored.
3. Remove items they like chewing on – consider hiding stuff that they like to chew on. If your kitty likes munching on clothes and blankets, keep dirty laundry wrapped up and kept in a room they can’t enter. Furthermore, put away electrical cords when you are not using them. Also, if you have houseplants, keep them in a room your cat does not have access to.
4. Deter your cat from non-food items – you may purchase cat-deterrent sprays in local pet supply stores. Spray it on the objects that your cat likes to chew to safely prevent them from even coming near it.
5. Consult an expert – a cat behaviorist could work with you, your cat, and your vet to address this behavior in your cat. They would set a more personalized approach to deal with your cat’s issues. Sure, they’d cost more, but if they could provide a long term solution for your cat, it’s worth it.
Has your kitty been chewing on stuff they aren’t supposed to munch on? How did you react?