Your cat is eating what? Plastic bags, milk rings, string, rubber bands, kitty litter, electrical cords? The term used when cats eat non-food material is ‘pica.’ In some cases, this is simply curious and strange. In other cases, eating non-food items can become extremely dangerous and may lead to abdominal surgery or death. In all cases, it is best to find out why your cat is engaging in pica and change the behavior as soon as possible to keep them safe.
If you find that your cat is developing a pica habit you should take her to the veterinarian for a complete physical. Your vet may also recommend some bloodwork. Your cat could be exhibiting this strange behavior because they are unwell. Feline Leukemia Virus and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus and brain tumors have been identified as causes of pica. Another medical cause of pica can be traced back to a nutritional deficiency. For instance, cats suffering from anemia may be prone to eating kitty litter.
If your cat gets a clean bill of health from the veterinarian, it is time to look elsewhere. Genetically, Oriental breeds are more susceptible to wool-sucking pica than other breeds(For more information on wool sucking see my article in The Catington Post http://catingtonpost.com/ask-the-vet-my-cat-sucks-on-his-blanket-is-something-wrong).
Finally, cats that are physically healthy but are stressed or bored will chew and eat non-food items. So, it’s not just what your cat is eating, but what’s eating your cat that is important!
What can you do to help?
- Remove the objects that your cat is chewing and eating. In some cases, this may be impossible.
- Give your cat the opportunity to spend its day hunting and eating small meals the way that it would in nature (www.NoBowlCat.com.)
- Provide active play with your cat multiple times during the day with fishing pole toys.
- Place a cat tree in front a window to give your cat a bird’s eye view of the outdoors.
- Make sure your cat has plenty of cozy hiding places and beds to rest in and feel secure.
Finally, you may need to seek the help of a veterinary behaviorist to understand what is causing your cat’s pica and how to help.