What Is Pica in Cats?

Pica is the behavioral urge to eat nonedible materials. In cats, these items most often include fabrics, elastics such as hair binders, cardboard, paper, and plastic. Young cats are more likely to suffer from pica syndrome. The cause of pica is unknown, but experts speculate that it could be due to a number of causes such as being weaned too young, dietary deficiencies, genetics, boredom, compulsive disorder, or stress. The onset of pica can be as early as 3 months of age and some cats are able to grow out of it by 1-2 years of age.

If your cat suffers from pica syndrome, it is important to pay close attention to their eating habits and energy levels to monitor for signs of an intestinal blockage.

How do you treat pica in cats?

Remove targeted items . The easiest solution may be simply to hide the clothes, plants, or other items your cat loves to chew on..Give your cat something else to chew. ….Play with your cat. ….Make appealing items unappealing. ….Get rid of dangerous plants. ….Talk to an animal behaviorist.

How do you know if your cat has pica?

General listlessness..Constipation..Diarrhea..Drooling..Oral ulcers or redness..Vomiting..Decreased appetite.

What is the cause of pica?

What causes pica? There’s no single cause of pica. In some cases, a deficiency in iron, zinc, or another nutrient may be associated with pica. For example, anemia, usually from iron deficiency, may be the underlying cause of pica in pregnant women.

Is there medication for pica in cats?

Bitter sprays are designed to have a foul taste, which may deter your cat from eating specific objects. In severe cases, medication may be necessary. Your veterinarian may prescribe antidepressants to help reduce your cat’s anxiety level and manage pica.

Many cats will nurse on wool, says Arnold Plotnick, DVM, a veterinary internist and feline specialist in New York. Oriental cats “are predisposed to that,” he says.

And some cats move on to eating stranger items such as shoelaces, paper, plastic goods like grocery bags and shower curtains, and even electrical cords, says Nicholas H. Dodman, section head and program director of Animal Behavior at Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. And although nibbling on a bit of paper or occasionally chewing on a plastic bag — some of which contain gelatin, which cats can sense — could simply be a harmless little quirk, “Its hard to know,” Plotnick says.

This habit can be dangerous because many houseplants, such as lilies, tulips, chrysanthemums, and English ivy, are poisonous to cats or can cause gastrointestinal upset. The experts at the William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at University of California, Davis, as well as other vets and animal behaviorists, suggest the following actions: Applying strong-smelling substances like citrus air-freshener or foul-tasting things like hot sauce, Bandguard, or Bitter Apple to items like power cords can cause a cat to steer clear.

If your cat continues to eat non-food items and you know its not a medical issue, look for a certified applied animal behaviorist (CAAB), suggests Moon-Fanelli. Dont wait for a life threatening intestinal blockage or an underlying medical problem to come to the fore before talking to your vet about your cats unusual cravings. Nicholas H. Dodman, section head and program director, animal behavior, Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, author The Cat Who Cried for Help.

A feline with a mild case of pica may suck or lick on inedible objects, but not actually consume said object. However, in severe cases of pica, the feline will consume the object entirely, posing a risk for intestinal blockage, tearing of the digestive tract, toxicity, and electrocution. Common target objects for feline pica include: Plants, electric cords, phone cords, wool, fabric, string, or yarn. The cause behind pica is unknown, however, disease and behavioral disorders are thought to be the underlying cause behind this unusual behavior. Oriental cat breeds, such as the Siamese cat, are more commonly affected by pica and there is believed to be a genetic disposition.

However, in severe cases of pica, the feline will consume the object entirely, posing a risk for intestinal blockage , tearing of the digestive tract, toxicity , and electrocution . If your cat licks, sucks, or consumes objects around the home that are not food, she could be suffering from a condition called pica.

Pica in cats is the act of eating objects that are not food. Eating non-food items can be very dangerous to a cat, as chewing on electrical cords can cause a feline to be electrocuted, and plant consumption can be toxic. Other inedible objects, such as clothing and plastic, can block the intestine and prevent food from passing.

Pica is a serious behavioral issue that can become fatal if not addressed by a veterinarian. Compare top pet insurance plans. Pica in cats only has one clinical sign and that is consumption of inedible objects.

Common target objects for feline pica include; plants, electric cords, phone cords, wool, fabric, string or yarn. Secondary symptoms of pica in cats may include: Research is still being conducted to find the exact cause of pica in cats, but veterinarians have linked the behavioral condition to several possible causes including:

Feline immunodeficiency virus Feline leukemia Hyperthyroidism Dental disease Anemia Brain tumor Diabetes Learned behavior Attention-seeking Boredom Stress Anxiety The diagnosis of pica in cats begins with an exchange of information between the veterinarian and the pet owner.

As pica can be caused by stressful or new situations, it is important to recall any new change in your schedule that may affect the feline. (Move to a new home, work schedule change, etc.) The doctor may also ask for a urinalysis to detect the possibility of underlying disease that may be causing pica in the feline.

As tumors of the brain are believed to be a possible cause of pica in cats, the veterinarian may likely conduct radiographs or a CT scan of the felines brain if other tests are inconclusive. The treatment for pica in cats is variable, as it lies dependent on the underlying cause and the results from diagnostic exams. If the veterinarian has found an underlying disease, the treatment will be specified by the veterinary medical professional, but if your feline has received a clean bill of health, treatment may include:

Keeping household plants, blankets, clothing and electrical cords out of your cats reach will remove the temptation to eat them. Cat toys and safe plants like catnip can detour the felines behavior to a more appropriate chewing object. Boredom is a common cause for pica, so structured playtime and exerciser with the feline can prevent boredom and fulfil the need to be active.

Malnourished felines may chew on inappropriate objects if their diet is lacking in adequate nutrients. Your veterinarian may supplement the required vitamins and minerals through medications or suggest an alternative cat kibble. The prognosis for cats displaying pica behavior is guarded.

Some felines will grow out of the inappropriate behavior, whereas other need continuous treatment. If your cat does not improve with the treatments recommended by your veterinarian, he or she may refer you to a veterinary behaviorist. may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page.

Compare top pet insurance plans. Kittens often groom litter mates as a form of bonding and because it comforts them and is hygienic. We may also find some kittens to be extra ‘licky’ when itchy, so do ensure there is no signs of parasites or skin disease.

He will chew on boxes, pee and poop everywhere, chew on cords,claw on the sofa and a playpen, and even he will job in the playpen with my daughter and including on the counter and the kitchen Table He may be having a problem with parasites that is affecting his bathroom habits, and It would be best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them and see what might be going on, and get treatment if needed. Compare top pet insurance plans.

Have you ever caught your cat munching on houseplants or gobbling up thread from the couch? This craving for non-food items is a disorder known as pica, and although it may seem like a silly, harmless habit, it can cause harm to your pet if it isnt examined.

In some cases, kittens or young cats start by sucking on different materials and ingesting them in the process, or they progress to chewing and swallowing them. Pica can become a danger to your cats health because it can cause blockages in their intestinal tract.

A lack of environmental stimulation, like enough playtime or social time, can cause cats to turn to this compulsive disorder to have fun, relieve some stress, or get your attention. They can stem from many sources, like changing life stages, a health condition, or a poor, imbalanced diet. Some cats will naturally turn to other items as potential food sources to try to fill this nutritional void and the cravings it creates.

Feline immunodeficiency virus ( FIV ): This common disorder attacks and weakens a cats immune system and can give them the urge to eat inedible objects. Hyperthyroidism : When the thyroid is not functioning properly, your cat may feel hungry, and that can lead to eating non-food items . One potential reason that young cats start eating non-food materials is that they were weaned too early.

If the kittens leave their mothers before 12 weeks, they may develop a habit of sucking on things, then chewing, and finally eating. The late onset of the problem usually has a medical cause, like an underlying health disorder or stressful situation. How can you spot pica, so you can adjust your cats diet and lifestyle to combat the disorder?

Seeing your cat eating non-food items is a clear sign that pica is present, especially if the behavior is consistent. A sudden lack of appetite in an otherwise normal and healthy cat is a sign there may be a problem. If your cat isnt acting like their usual self, they may have a behavioral condition that is causing pica.

If you suspect your cat has a medical problem or unhealthy habit, always start by consulting your veterinarian. Use an engaging toy with a mouse or feather on a string or a laser pointed to amp your cat up, raise their energy levels, and reduce stress. You can even stuff their toys with low-calorie cat treats (or hide them around the house) to help keep their interest.

Since nutritional deficiencies are a potential cause of pica in cats, make sure youre choosing a healthy food option. The Honest Kitchen has human grade cat foods with a taste your pet will love. Leilani Alvarez, DVM, CVA, CCRT, CVCHM is an integrative veterinarian, utilizing both conventional and holistic modalities and is employed at the renowned Animal Medical Center in New York City.

Dr. Alvarez is the director of The Tina Santi Flaherty Rehabilitation & Fitness Service at NYCs Animal Medical Center.

Pica Syndrome

Pica is the behavioral urge to eat nonedible materials. In cats, these items most often include fabrics, elastics such as hair binders, cardboard, paper, and plastic. Young cats are more likely to suffer from pica syndrome. The cause of pica is unknown, but experts speculate that it could be due to a number of causes such as being weaned too young, dietary deficiencies, genetics, boredom, compulsive disorder, or stress. The onset of pica can be as early as 3 months of age and some cats are able to grow out of it by 1-2 years of age.Although many young cats will chew or tear apart items during play, a pica sufferer will grind the object repeatedly along their back molar teeth before swallowing. This behavior is highly rewarding for susceptible individuals, and they will go to great lengths to seek out material. Oriental breeds are believed to be more likely to suffer from pica due to their predisposition to wool sucking behavior. Wool sucking is when a cat simply sucks on bedding, but this behavior can become addictive and quickly transform into actually ingesting the materials.

Personal Experience

My own cat has pica. Her onset for this behavior was about 4 months of age. Her most favored item to chew is fleece and other soft materials. She is 2 years old now and has ingested many blankets and clothing items over that time. One day I came home for lunch and noticed she didn’t eat her morning meal and had no interest in eating, which was alarming for a cat that never misses a meal. I went up to the cat’s room to find many large piles of vomit. I brought her in for radiographs and it was apparent there was material in her GI tract. It was uncertain if the material would be able to pass on its own with a little time, but as the day went on she became less comfortable and more lethargic. Repeated radiographs at 10pm showed the blockage was not going to budge and needed to be removed surgically ASAP. The incident was unexpected and escalated quickly. It was devastating for both me and her. An unexpected incident like this could cost around $1000 or more to treat! Pica syndrome is serious and can end up in surgery or death. Management is critical to reduce the risk. Consult with your veterinarian for suggestions to curb this behavior.

What To Do

Mental/physical stimulation can be helpful if stress is the trigger to self-soothe. A bored cat will look for something to do and that could include chewing and ingesting non-food items. For my cats, I bought them a chicken coop to keep in the back yard. The cats like to lay outside watching the birds for a few minutes each day to occupy their mind. Other ideas to keep cats busy include but are not limited to: puzzle feeders, scratching posts, and interactive toys. Hiding kibbles around their accessible areas can be helpful as well.Removing all materials that are preferential may be necessary to curb the behavior as well. Sometimes dietary modifications may be beneficial such as an increase in fiber content or larger kibble. Consult with your veterinarian to help find a suitable diet.

Strange Things Cats Eat

The urge to eat nonfood items — called pica — can be pretty common in cats.Many cats will nurse on wool, says Arnold Plotnick, DVM, a veterinary internist and feline specialist in New York. Oriental cats “are predisposed to that,” he says.That habit also may appear in cats that were weaned too early. The younger a cat is weaned, the stronger its drive to nurse and the more likely the cat is to suck on wool — or its owner’s arms, earlobes, or hair. Although some cats may only suck on such fuzzy items as wool, fleece, and stuffed animals, others progress to eating these fabrics.And some cats move on to eating stranger items such as shoelaces, paper, plastic goods like grocery bags and shower curtains, and even electrical cords, says Nicholas H. Dodman, section head and program director of Animal Behavior at Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine.

Continued

“I wish I knew the answer to that one,” Plotnick says. Cat pica may be caused by many things, including:

When Cravings Become a Problem

If a cat simply sucks on wool or other soft and fuzzy items, that’s usually not a problem, say the experts.And although nibbling on a bit of paper or occasionally chewing on a plastic bag — some of which contain gelatin, which cats can sense — could simply be a harmless little quirk, “It’s hard to know,” Plotnick says. “If your cat is eating something odd, it should first be seen by a vet.”Not every cat will progress from sucking wool to eating rubber bands, but some do. Moon-Fanelli says, “It is a concern” once they start ingesting inedible materials. That’s because indigestible items could lead to intestinal blockages, which. Moon-Fanelli says, could be extremely costly and even deadly.What about grass? While many people think cats eat grass to stimulate vomiting and relieve hairballs, for some cats, grass-eating may eventually progress to chewing on houseplants. This habit can be dangerous because many houseplants, such as lilies, tulips, chrysanthemums, and English ivy, are poisonous to cats or can cause gastrointestinal upset.

Environmental Causes: Stress, Boredom, or Loneliness

Boredom, loneliness, and stress in your cat’s life are common culprits with pica. A lack of environmental stimulation, like enough playtime or social time, can cause cats to turn to this compulsive disorder to have fun, relieve some stress, or get your attention.

Nutritional Deficiencies

Nutritional deficiencies, especially vitamin or mineral deficiencies, can also be one of the causes of pica. They can stem from many sources, like changing life stages, a health condition, or a poor, imbalanced diet. Some cats will naturally turn to other items as potential food sources to try to fill this nutritional void and the cravings it creates.

Genetics

Several medical issues are linked to pica. These include:

Pica Signs and Symptoms

Pica is very common in young cats, and it can show up as early as three months, right around the time the cat moves into a new home. Many cats outgrow the disorder by about two years.In one study showed how pica becomes less likely as cats mature:One potential reason that young cats start eating non-food materials is that they were weaned too early. If the kittens leave their mothers before 12 weeks, they may develop a habit of sucking on things, then chewing, and finally eating.Pica can also occur in older cats. The late onset of the problem usually has a medical cause, like an underlying health disorder or stressful situation.

Vomiting

Seeing your cat eating non-food items is a clear sign that pica is present, especially if the behavior is consistent. Some items they may consume according to International Cat Care include:Don’t assume that chewing is always pica. Cats may chew on things, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they’re eating them, so keep an eye on them.

Lack of Appetite

Cats who have an intestinal blockage or who fill their bellies with non-food items may not want to eat their food. A sudden lack of appetite in an otherwise normal and healthy cat is a sign there may be a problem.

Behavior Change

Cat behavior problems are often one of the first clues owners get about underlying health issues. If your cat isn’t acting like their usual self, they may have a behavioral condition that is causing pica.

1) Start By Seeing Your Veterinarian

If you suspect your cat has a medical problem or unhealthy habit, always start by consulting your veterinarian. They’ll be able to look for any underlying problems or conditions.

2) Provide Your Cat With Environmental Enrichment

If you suspect boredom is the problem, add mental stimulation to your cat’s day. Doing so will keep them engaged and eliminate the desire to chew and eat items the cat shouldn’t be eating.

4) Play With Your Cat

Cats need (and want) socialization with their owners and sometimes other animals. So, schedule regular playtime with your cat. Use an engaging toy with a mouse or feather on a string or a laser pointed to amp your cat up, raise their energy levels, and reduce stress. You can even stuff their toys with low-calorie cat treats (or hide them around the house) to help keep their interest.

5) Consult an Animal Behaviorist

If all of these tips don’t work, consider working with an animal behaviorist. This professional can help you determine why your cat is struggling with pica and provide helpful advice to curb that behavior.