Most cat owners have asked themselves this question. Cats chew on anything they can get their teeth on, from plastic bags to houseplants. This compulsion to eat nonfood items is called pica, and it is caused by a variety of reasons.
Is it Pica?
Pica describes the actual consumption of nonfood objects. Sometimes cats will suck on nonfood objects without actually consuming them. Cats who exhibit this behavior generally suck on soft or fuzzy objects such as wool blankets and even their owners’ hair. It arises in cats who were weaned from either their mother’s milk or a bottle too early, and it is not directly associated with pica. However, cats with this tendency must be monitored. They may begin to actually consume these inedible objects.
Chewing alone can be a routine feline activity. Cats are adventurous creatures, meaning that many chew objects out of pure curiosity. Many cats, for example, chew on plastic objects. This may become a habit. However, a habit of chewing plastic may eventually develop into pica depending on why the cat exhibits this behavior.
The best way to determine whether your cat has pica is to catch them in the act of eating nonfood objects. However, this may be difficult. Look out for changes in your cat’s digestive health. These include constipation, vomiting, fatigue, decreased appetite, and diarrhea. Any of these symptoms may be a result of pica.
A cat may develop pica in response to their environment or lifestyle. They may be experiencing dietary deficiencies. This is especially true in cases where cats consume litter or plant material; they are looking to add more sustenance to their diets. They may also be affected by their environment. Cats who lack stimulation may turn to chewing as a fun hobby. Playing with them and making sure that they have exciting toys is a great way to keep your cat happy. A happy cat will be less likely to develop pica. Cats may also chew nonfood items as a way to relieve stress and aggression. This is common after a move or when a new pet has been introduced into the home, but every situation is unique. Ensure that your cat’s needs (proper diet, clean litterbox, etc.) are fulfilled in order to limit any stress your cat may be feeling.
Something More Serious
The reasoning behind this behavior is sometimes more complicated. If an improved diet and stress-free lifestyle is not helping your cat, consider a trip to the vet. The behavior of eating nonfood items may in fact be its own compulsive disorder. It may also be symptomatic of diseases such as feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus.
Claws N Paws owns and operates a full-service dog and cat grooming salon as well as a cat boarding facility, both located in Fountain Valley, California. For more information on our services, contact us at 714-962-1005.