Pica in cats is an eating disorder characterized by an appetite for eating non-food items. Cats that suffer from this syndrome may bite and chew plants, lick plastic bags, and obsessively eat rubber bands.
As you may know, this behavior is very risky since it can cause poisoning, choking, or intestinal problems.
So what are the reasons that force cats to eat things they shouldn’t and what you can do to prevent it?
Kittens removed from their mothers too early are very likely to develop a behavior named “wool sucking.” These kittens will try to suck soft fabric like wool, blankets, stuffed animals, and clothing. They may also try to suck their owners’ hair or earlobes.
Wool-sucking in cats is very much like thumb-sucking in kids. It is a way that is harmless which is meant for self-comfort. However, these cats are prone to develop pica and may eventually eat fuzz from the things they nurse on. they may also move on to more dangerous substances like electrical wires or plastic bags.
Why Do Some Cats Eat Non-Food Items?
The majority of wool-sucking kittens outgrow the behavior, and felines that keep it up are in danger if they keep swallowing non-food items for a long time. Unfortunately, you can’t anticipate which cat will get pica, however, you can rely on these theories to understand the causes behind the illness under study:
There are Some Oriental breeds of cats such as Birmans and Siamese that are prone to be wool-suckers more than other cats. As this behavior is mostly a precursor to pica disorder, those cats may have predisposed to the syndrome because of genetic reasons.
Some cats may eat specific substances because of illness or the lack of certain necessary minerals and vitamins in their nutrition. For instance, cats with anemia are very likely to eat their cat litter whereas malnourished kittens may try to feed themselves by eating plants and materials.
Pica in cats can be developed because of many serious medical problems. These are the most common ones according to Fetch by WebMD :
- Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)
- Feline Leukemia
- Brain Tumors
Some cats may eat things they shouldn’t if they are depressed or bored or when they need to get their human’s attention. In such a situation, solving the problem could be so easy and simple. You have to provide your kitty with more physical and mental stimulation.
What Can You Do To Discourage Pica?
Visit a Vet
When your cat is eating non-food items, it is urgent to get rid of this medical issue. If it turns out to be strictly behavioral, the vet may recommend certain techniques like the ones I will list below or ask you to visit an animal behaviorist to solve the problem.
Remove targeted items.
If your cat likes to gnaw on plants, clothes, and rubber bands, just make sure you put those items far from the cat’s reach. So, if you catch your cat going after certain undesirable objects, divert her attention toward something else like a safer toy or a treat.
If your cat eats houseplants, you can grow some catnip or safe grasses that they can chew on without causing any harm. After all, try to know which plants are more dangerous and get rid of them from your home immediately.
Give your cat enough attention.
Cats may suffer from pica because of depression, loneliness, or boredom. Then, It is so important to allocate quite some time daily for your cat’s mental and physical stimulation. Caring for a cat can take many forms: bringing different toys, providing miniature balconies, a window perch for outdoor viewing, in addition to some training like taking daily walks together outside the home.
Make desirable items less attractive.
Cats dislike many smells. Try spraying some of these smells like a citrus air-freshener or lavender essential oil on the objects you want your cats not to approach. Therefore, it very likely that the cat will begin to hate these objects.
It is obvious that serious issues such as pica in cats can’t be solved quickly. It is a problem that you have to keep an eye on for a long time before your kitty gets rid of it. But, what is important is to keep your feline healthy and safe.