Hey Pet Parents & Pet Lovers,
As you may already know we used to really struggle with Beau and his Pica, but I’m happy to let you know that Beau hasn’t chewed on anything abnormal in months! Let me give you a rundown on Pica, how you can spot it & what you can do to prevent your little one from eating your clothes and other foreign objects that may cause problems with the health of your kitty!
What is Pica?
Pica is the urge to eat non-food objects and is more common in cats than you would expect. Cats with Pica tend to be most interested in soft materials such as wool, but have been known to eat materials such as plastic and even litter.
How can I tell my cat has Pica?
Well with Beau it was obvious almost the second we got him. The first week I had Beau I noticed he would try to eat his litter, and I immediately started researching why he may be doing this and if it was going to be hazardous to his body. Luckily, the litter we were using was all natural, and although it was a priority to get him to stop eating his litter we were reassured that we wouldn’t face major consequences.
It’s not always clear that your little one is eating foreign objects, for example, Beau started eating tissue papers and the tassels off of our carpets (the carpets looked almost the same after he gave them a little trim) so I would highly recommend that owners look into their little one’s poop. It’s very obvious that your cat has eaten a foreign object as it will most commonly be visible (as your cat won’t be able to digest it.) Most cats with Pica will also “wool suckle” which is something Beau still tries to do and is believed to be the case for cats who have the urge to nurse since they were weaned too soon.
Are there any medical issues related to Pica?
Not to worry you, there can be some medical issues related to Pica. And before you read this next part, I recommend getting a thorough checkup with your vet, because chances are it’s related to boredom, stress, anxiety or just a learned behaviour.
Anemia, when put simply, is when tissues in a cat’s body don’t get enough oxygen to them due to due to insufficient red blood cells circulation. Anemia can be caused by a number of variables including kidney failure, Feline HIV, Feline Leukaemia, Cancer, poor nutrition, and starvation. In relation to Pica, it’s easily spotted when your little one is eating litter. Again, this is not 100% fact that your cat is Anemic, but it can be a warning sign. (For example, even though Beau has eaten litter in the past, he was not anaemic, but it was the first thing we checked for.)
Surprisingly, the amount of cats with diabetes is currently 0.5%-2%, but vets assume this is because many cats go undiagnosed or don’t have routine checkups. Diabetes is most commonly caused by the food you feed your little one and doesn’t always correlate with energy levels and the weight of your cat. I would recommend staying away from most foods with fillers such as Meow-Mix and Cat Chow and look for higher grade food such as Now Fresh, Weruva and Vet Specific Food like Science Diet or Royal Canin (if your little one has other health issues.) Remember, feeding your little one a more expensive food will mean fewer vet visits (aka fewer bills), a better life expectancy, a healthier life, and a happier and stress-free pet owner. Do your research on foods! Ask questions to representatives. A lot of companies are transparent about their foods such as Primal or Natural Balance and make sure you think of it like this: Would I eat something labelled “insert ingredient name here” or do I know what “ingredient name is?” Research is your best friend, and a vet will always be able to explain why one food is better than another.
This one is scary, and again please go see a vet before you freak out and think your little one has a brain tumour. Brain tumours are fairly easy to spot. The most common sign of a brain tumour is a seizure (although they most commonly happen at the age of 5.) Other signs of brain tumours include a change in behaviour, head pressing, sensitivity to being touched in certain areas (such as the neck), bumping into inanimate objects, vision problems, and uncoordinated movement. Cats have also been known to mew more frequently and may not purr as much. Again, Pica isn’t always related to brain tumours, but it’s good information to know in case you notice other habits changing.
What are some non-medicals reasons for my cat’s Pica?
Oftentimes cat’s aren’t stimulated as much as they need to be. This can be easily solved by playing actively with your cat, or if your cat is the type to play by themselves, you may be in luck with some passive toy suggestions.
Active Toys We Love
Passive Toys We Love
- Dart Automatic Rotating Laser Toy
- Compressed Catnip Teeter Egg
- Foam Balls
- PetStages Tower of Tracks
- Spot Springs
Feeder Toys We Love
- Slim Cat Ball
- Catit Senses 2.0 Digger for Cats
- DIY Cat Feeder Toys (All You Need is a Carboard Box!)
- Catit Design Feeder Tower
- Pyrus Pet Intelligence Paw Puzzle
- Trixie 5-in-1 Activity Center
Stress & Anxiety
Remember, your little one is so much smaller than you, so lots of noise can bother them. Make sure your little one has space for them to hide or “chill” when things get too loud. We built Beau a hut and a “man cave” for this reason. Playing soft piano music also does a great deal to help calm anxiety and stress. Actually, as soon as I found out Beau is very reactive to music, I started writing him my own music which I hope to share with you all once it’s ready!
When we first got Beau he had a great amount of separation anxiety and his Pica would spark the most when we weren’t home or were asleep. When we’d get back we’d find towels, pillowcases, blankets and tissue papers eaten. This is when we started to take advantage of feeder toys. Leaving a bit of kibble for him to nibble on while we were gone, but making sure that he couldn’t swallow them quickly and letting him pace through the food throughout the day.
Another tool vets use is called Feliway. I personally haven’t used Feliway because I’m still a bit sceptical, but it is meant to release the pheromone that mother’s produce to help calm kitties down. When Beau was in the Emergency they hooked him up with one of these bad boys, and they said he really enjoyed it, but since it wasn’t a first-hand experience I can’t confirm or deny. It’s always worth a shot, but I would definitely take a look at reviews before purchasing.
Unfortunately, cats with Pica may have learned to chew on things such as plastic bags because when they were strays there would potentially be meats inside of them. At first, I didn’t make the association, but it completely makes sense. Think about it… how often have you poured yourself a bowl of cereal and your kitty comes running to the kitchen? Or now that we feed fully wet, whenever we open a can of sauce Beau prances to the kitchen thinking he’s getting fed. Take note what objects your kitty is getting their paws on and move them to a place that isn’t reachable. Although many people don’t think cats can be trained, try to come up with a sound or a word that means “don’t touch that” and let your cat know that it isn’t okay to eat. We’ve actually trained Beau to drop objects or to come out of rooms he’s not allowed in by using some training words/sounds we wouldn’t commonly say in the house. (Just so he doesn’t think he’s being scolded when we’re talking casually.)
Other Tactics We Found Effective
Feeding Wet Food
It was a really big struggle to get Beau to eat wet food, but on days where he ate even 1.5 oz he didn’t seem to chew. Wet food may not be ideal for the teeth, but foreign objects in your kitty’s tummy is definitely the larger of the two evils. Beau was more interested in wet food with a higher fat content such as La Isla Bonita made by Weruva. Wet food is also a great way for you to supplement water and I even mix extra water into the food to make sure Beau gets his full intake for the day. If your cat is prone to Urinary Tract Infections wet food is a great route to take or else you may be in for a nasty surgery, especially if they are male.
Feeding Small Frequent Meals
I know, I know… I’m too busy or at work to feed my cat more than twice a day! Again, it’s not ideal, but I would highly recommend 4 feeding sessions. They don’t have to be spread out equally, but it does give your kitty less time to get hungry or worry that they aren’t going to get fed. This was one of the changes we made in Beau’s life that really got him to stop eating random things. There are also plenty timed automatic feeders you can purchase for a decent price. Remember, if you can get your cat to stop chewing on foreign objects, you’re gonna save more on vet bills AND the bills to replace the objects in your house. I have so many photos of toys Beau at the faces off of, and the 5-bed sheets he ate, and dozens of towels, clothes and cloth he ate. I’m so glad it’s all over now!
No Chew Deterrent Sprays
I’ll admit, I personally haven’t used any deterrent sprays with Beau because he doesn’t mind bitter tastes, but when I still worked at the pet store and I had customers come in saying that their little ones were still aggressively chewing and I recommended some really great deterrent sprays. I would always recommend deterrent sprays as your last resort since I’ve actually tasted a few of them on myself, and let me tell you… they’re not tasty and some made me want to hurl! The most aggressive one I’ve tried is Vet’s Best Bitter Cherry Spray, with Grannick’s Bitter Apple, Bitter Lemon Spray, and NaturVet Bitter Yuck! closely after. Off the bat, the most popular was Bitter Apple (for both cats and dogs) and I’d say for every 10 customers that came in with this problem 9 were happy with the results. Each little furball is going to have a different palate, so some of these sprays may not work with your little one. For example, Beau eats cranberries which is highly unusual for a cat, so you may have to test some different ones out. Let me know if any work for you and if you have any better ones to recommend!
So Pet Parents, let me know what you did to try to help! What worked and what didn’t? Pica is such an odd thing to deal with, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t help each other out to find solutions!