Author, Professional Pet Sitting Etc.
If you’ve ever watched the TV Show “My Strange Addiction,” you’ve likely seen stories of people who have an unusual “habit” of eating non-food items, such as chalk, mulch, dirt, etc. This “habit” has a name – pica – and it is an obsessive-compulsive disorder that can be experienced by animals, as well as humans, especially cats. If you’ve ever noticed Fluffy devour cotton, paper, shoelaces, or any other item not meant to be consumed, be wary! It can be quite dangerous for your kitty to engage in pica, as ingesting non-food items can result in digestive upset, choking, and intestinal obstruction that could be serious enough to require surgery.
Pica is most common in Oriental cat breeds, especially Siamese, indicating there may be a genetic predisposition in cats who develop the disorder. Many cases of pica in cats are triggered by stress, which may coincide with the Siamese breed’s sensitive nature. But, there are several other causes of pica in our feline friends, including:
- If Fluffy is eating non-food items on a regular basis, visit your vet to explore the possible medical causes, as pica can begin as a medical issue but turn into a habit if left untreated. Some medical issues that can result in pica in cats include:
- Anemia (low iron levels in the blood)
- Brain tumors
- Dental disease
- Immunodeficiency viruses such as feline leukemia
- A common trigger for pica in cats are stressful situations, including:
- Lack of attention (consider pica as a cry for attention)
- Misdirected behavior (your cat may resort to pica when he actually wants to do something else, but cannot)
- Frustration (for example, if Fluffy sees another kitty in your yard who she wants to play with, fight with, etc., she may become frustrated and take that frustration out by eating a non-food item)
- Boredom (pica can be a form of self-stimulation to Fluffy when she’s bored)
- Separation anxiety
- Loud noises (pica can be used as a form of stress relief by some cats when a loud noise such as loud music or construction noise upsets them)
- A move to a new home
Pica can be a worrisome disorder with results that can be confusing and, oftentimes, annoying, but there are ways to treat it, including:
- Desensitizing your cat by redirecting her unwanted behavior into a more positive activity.
- Remove the inappropriate items that your cat eats from his reach.
- Do not react negatively or positively when you see your cat engaging in the pica behavior. Simply remove the item she is eating.
- Redirect your cat to a more positive behavior by giving her an appropriate toy to chew on, or involving her in an activity. Give her plenty of praise or treats when she does redirects her attention successfully.
- Provide alternative activities for your cat to engage in, such as:
- Provide ample playtime – make sure you play with Fluffy at least once per day.
- Provide toys made of rubber or plastic, rather than fabric or stuffed toys, which are easier to eat.
- Try walking Fluffy outdoors with a leash and harness. Not all cats are amenable, so take cues from Fluffy to determine whether or not she enjoys the activity. If she does, regular walks can be a good stress-reliever for you both!
- Offer catnip plants or cat grass to Fluffy as a safer alternative to non-food items.
- Keep Fluffy occupied with a small dog Kong filled with kibbled cat food or cat treats.
- It’s not uncommon for a cat suffering with pica to require medication. Your vet may determine anti-anxiety medication is necessary.
Pica can be a frustrating situation for pet parents, but always remember it is not in your best interest or the best interest of your cat to deal with it using punishment. This will likely make the problem even worse by adding even more stress and anxiety for your cat.
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About the Owner and Professional Pet Sitting Etc
Dorinne Whynott, is a long time animal professional. She is a successful business owner establishing one of the largest pet sitting companies in New Hampshire since 1990. Click to Read her complete History.
Professional Pet Sitting Etc. is a leading business in the pet care field and continues to grow since 1990. It is an AWARD WINNING business, having been awarded the 2015 Best Pet Sitting , 2015 Best Dog Walker, Business of the Year Awards in 1996, 1997, 2006 and 2010. It boasts 30+ amazing pet sitters on staff, over 3000 clients in 38 cities from Nashua to Concord, NH. Hundreds of satisfied client testimonials can be found on their website and more 5 star reviews on their Facebook page, Google+ page and more. They have sustained an A+ rating with the BBB, A rating with Angie’s List and are unmatched in the Pet Sitting Industry in New Hampshire.
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