My name is Amber, and I work with Freaky Pet. I have a National Diploma in Animal Management from Easton & Otley College in the UK. This included studying animal behaviour and biology. I’ve also worked in multiple animal rescues with dogs, cats, horses, reptiles… You name it.
Oh, and I own a cat that has Pica.
This blog post may be longer than what you usually see here, but that’s because there’s a whole lot to talk about.
Pica is.. Annoying. I get it. Your cat chews, sucks on and eats everything he can get his adorably fuzzy little paws on. Living with a Pica cat can be tough.
Unfortunately, Pica is also scary. Terrifying even. What if Mr. Snuggles eats something toxic, something dangerous. Then you’re going to lose money on vet bills, and even the life of your best friend.
This is why it’s so important to be knowledgable about Pica. But first, you need to change your perspective on it.
Your cat isn’t doing it to annoy you. He’s not doing it make your life miserable.
He’s doing it because he can’t help it.
Pica is an obsessive-compulsive disorder. Your cat has a legitimate, long term problem.
The cause of pica is unclear. The number one theory is that it stems from wool-sucking. Wool sucking is believed to be displaced nursing behavior and is sometimes observed in cats who were weaned too suddenly or too young when they were kittens. Most cats outgrow this behavior as they age, but in some, it becomes a lifelong habit and progresses into full Pica where they start to consume the items they chew and suck. Then there’s stress, mineral deficiency, genetics (apparently it’s more common in Asian breeds like the Siamese)…
So, the big question is, what can I do about it?
Good news: You can do a lot to help it, keeping your cat safe and you stress-free.
Bad news: There is no cure. You can lessen it. Avoid most things. But it’s going to take a lot of dedication, time, love, and patience. But our furry best friends are worth it.
First things first.
Get your cat to the vet and explain the situation. Take with you things that your cat likes to chew to show to the vet, or even pictures with the damage caused. Some cases have been made on the idea of mineral/vitamin deficiency as well as brain and thyroid disorders. But either way, your vet can rule out a physical cause for your cat’s behaviour.
Here is the easiest solution, but the one that people have the most trouble with.
Removing temptation. This means no leaving things out and about for your cat to go ‘om nom nom’. Blankets, cushion corners, sweaters and anything with tassels are know to be some of the worst hit. I know, it sucks, but it’s better this way. Trust me. We love our pets like they are our family, our children. As a mother, I sometimes felt like my child was just trying to find ways to make me have a heart attack. Pets are the same. They depend on us. We need to provide them with a safe environment. Even if it means a few sacrifices like no pretty blankets or pillows on the couch.
Next up, making things unattractive.
This one is pretty simple once you get the idea. Double-sided sticky tape is your best friend for this. Cats hate it. There are other more costly items, such as sprays for your home that are fabic safe, as well as cat safe, but they taste awful to your fuzzy buddy.
This next one is my personal favourite. Providing alternatives.
I know, it’s crazy, but also so much fun. There are a multitude of cat safe plants that they can chew and eat to their heart’s content that is GOOD FOR THEM! Grab yourself some cute indoor plant pots like these ones HERE, and make an edible garden for your feline buddy (and you!). Making an indoor ‘cat garden’ with my 6 year old was a wonderful afternoon well spent.
Be sure to do your homework, but here’s a few to get you started:
Parsley (Parsley can provide a source of potassium and beta carotene, along with vitamins A, B and C for you and also your cat.)
Rosmary (Is a natural flea repellant!)
Catnip (obviously, but did you know that we can put it in tea for a relaxing effect? Bonus!)
Valerian (this one can actually help them sleep!)
Second to last is structured playtime.
Cats are simple. I wake up, I hunt, I catch, I kill, I eat, I groom, I sleep. In that order.
Two times a day, get your cat hunting that favourite toy, and really go for it. 15 minutes at least. You need to get him to a point where he is tuckered out and panting. Remember, if your cat is focused on the toy, then they aren’t chewing. You get them tired enough, they shouldn’t have the energy. It’s not a guaranteed fix, but it will go a long way to help.
If all the above fails, go back to the vet.
It’s should always be the last resort, but sometimes, your vet can sometimes provide psychoactive drugs such as anti-anxiety medication that may be able to help.
Real talk though.
In all the research I’ve done, there is no cure for Pica.
Your cat will always be a chewer, given the opportunity.
But we always accomadate family members. Child locks and baby gates for children. That time you had to make gluten-free pasta for an aunt or cousin. Our cats ARE our family members, and we love them. I think it’s worth picking up some socks and relegating the blanket my mother knitted for me to the closet. For both my cat’s safety and my sanity.