What Is Pica in Cats?

Pica is a syndrome that affects a variety of animals, not just cats. Some sources suggest that it is more common in certain breeds, such as the Oriental, the Siamese, and the Burmese, but the truth is that it can show up in any cat, regardless of the breed.

In today’s article, we’re looking at what pica is, how it affects our feline friends, whether you should be worried and take your feline friend to the vet, and what you can do to prevent it. 

What is pica in cats?

Pica disease in cats combines a variety of manifestations, but almost always involves chewing or eating things that are inedible to cats. Some of the typical items that cats with pica chew on are bedding materials, clothes, sheets, yarn, electrical cords, and plants. 

Cats can chew on these things both because they are curious, but it also happens when they don’t get the diet they need and when they get severely bored. 

Pica is in fact more likely to affect animals that are left alone for many hours in a day or those that have gone through a traumatic or stressful event (such as moving home). 

Pica disorder in cats – Symptoms

Catching your cat in the act of chewing on something that she isn’t supposed to can actually be pretty challenging. If your cat is affectionate and loves to spend time next to you when you’re home, the behavior might happen when you’re not there. 

The most reliable way of diagnosing a cat with pica is to actually see it happen. My own cat sometimes chews on napkins, if I don’t pay attention and leave any within her reach. Needless to say, the paper can have a negative impact on her digestion, and usually, in about 10-15 minutes, she ends up vomiting. 

If your cat has pica and constantly eats stuff that shouldn’t be a part of her diet, she could develop certain digestive issues, in which case you might notice the following symptoms:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Low or no appetite
  • Lethargy

What causes pica in cats?

There are medical causes of pica in cats, but there are also behavioral disorders that can lead to the phenomenon. Cats that are stressed or just bored might develop pica. 

In terms of health problems, pica is more common in animals that suffer from anemia, diabetes, dental disease, hyperthyroidism, and FIV. 

Cats that aren’t fed the right diet, especially kittens, can develop pica early on. 

While humans don’t usually suffer from this problem, we can develop a form to an extent — if we have vitamin or mineral deficiencies or if we don’t get enough fiber in our diet, we’ll feel hungry all the time. And that’s what happens to our feline friends. 

If the kitten was weaned too early, pica can be a way of trying to recover the nutrients that she didn’t get the chance to get from milk. Finally, sometimes pica shows up unexpectedly and for no apparent reason, in which case it goes by the name of ‘idiopathic pica’. 

How to treat pica in cats

Treating this complication can be difficult, but it mostly involves performing several modifications on the cat’s living environment. For example, you can remove all of the objects that your cat seems to be unnaturally interested in nibbling on and provide her with plenty of treats and cat toys that are safer. 

Before you try to do anything, you should take your cat to the vet and see whether there isn’t something wrong with your pet that could be causing this behavior. We’ve already mentioned that some diseases can cause this health issue, and in some instances, it can even be caused by brain tumors. 

A veterinarian can also tell you whether your feline companion has any vitamin or mineral deficiency all thanks to a blood test. Finally, if nothing else works, you can always look for a veterinary behaviorist. 

How to prevent pica in cats

The best way of preventing pica is to make sure that your cat is constantly entertained. Naturally, some cats need more exercise and fun compared to others, but even those that are calmer can sometimes be needy and want to spend time with their human friends. 

If you’re out of the house for 10-11 hours every day, you might have to reconsider your decision of getting a cat. Even though domesticated felines are independent and do well on their own, not all of them are like this.

If you have enough space, try to adopt two cats instead of one — they’ll keep each other company and they’ll be less stressed, especially if they come from the same cat community. 

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