Cat with pica chewing on furniture

Key takeaway

Pica is a condition where cats may eat non-food items, whether they’re eating fabrics or ingesting paper. This may be caused by several factors, including nutritional deficiency and anxiety. Treatment options for pica include changes in diet and environment. If your cat is exhibiting signs of pica, you should talk to a vet about the severity of their condition and your treatment options.

If your cat is eating non-food objects around the house, such as fabrics and paper, they may be experiencing pica. Pica is a medical condition that exists in cats, dogs, and humans, causing them to crave and eat non-food items. This might not seem like a big deal at first, but pica in cats can eventually lead to serious medical issues, especially if your cat has stopped eating their cat food.

Like dog chew toys, it’s not unusual for cats to play with non-food items. Your cat might pounce on a toy and pick it up in their mouth, emulating the hunting patterns they know instinctively. This isn’t considered pica and it’s nothing to worry about, but you should start worrying if you notice your cat is eating the toys they’re playing with. If you see your cat eating fabric or their toys are missing chunks of fabric, they may have pica. Keep in mind, your vet is the only one who can give you an accurate diagnosis.

Pica in cats may be caused by cat anxiety among other things. Getting a diagnosis from a vet is important because it allows you to start focusing on a treatment plan. This means making dietary and environmental changes so your pet isn’t tempted by non-food objects. If you want to learn more about how to treat pica in cats and what the symptoms are, check out this guide.

What Is Pica In Cats?

So, what is pica in cats exactly? Simply put, pica is a medical term for the persistent chewing and ingestion of non-food objects. The specific non-food objects your cat enjoys will vary, but fabrics and paper are both common choices for cats with pica. It’s important to keep in mind that it’s normal for cats to play with toys, but you might want to see a vet if your cat is eating their toys.

Signs of pica in cats

Symptoms 

The easiest way to tell if your cat has pica is to catch them in the act. Pica in cats can be fairly difficult to diagnose if you don’t see your cat eating a non-food object, so try to keep an eye on your cat if you think they may have pica. 

You can also tell if your cat has pica based on other symptoms they’re displaying, which may include diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, decreased appetite, and lethargy. However, it’s important to remember that these symptoms can also result from lots of other medical conditions, so it’s up to your vet to determine if your cat has pica.

Causes of pica in cats

Causes

When it comes to pica in cats, there are several potential causes. Determining the cause of pica can help you decide on the best treatment plan for your cat, whether you choose to feed your cat different food or keep them away from non-food items they’ve been eating. Here are some of the potential causes of pica in cats.

Nutritional Deficiency 

If your cat isn’t getting proper nutrition from the food they’re eating, they may eat other things as a way to supplement their diet. The problem is that it’s not healthy for your cat to eat non-food items, and they’re not actually getting the nutritional value they need. If your cat isn’t getting enough nutrients, you can talk to your vet about making changes to their diet.

Lack Of Enrichment

Your cat might be eating non-food objects simply because they’re not getting enough enrichment on a daily basis. If your cat is bored all the time, they may start chewing and eating things around the house to combat boredom. The good news is, you can help your cat stop eating household objects and toys by making sure they have a good scratching post and plenty of playtime every day.

Anxiety

Cat anxiety can also lead to pica in cats. Anxiety can cause lots of odd behaviors in cats, including chewing and eating things they’re not supposed to. If your cat suffers from anxiety, you can talk to your vet about what you can do to relieve cat anxiety and make your cat feel a little more comfortable at home. Your vet may prescribe medication or recommend environmental or behavioral modifications to help keep your cat calm.

Teething

Cats teeth just like humans do, which means there’s a period of time where it’s common for cats to chew on things. You might notice your cat chewing on a blanket or stuffed toy when they’re teething, which is completely normal. If your cat continues this behavior well after the teething period, that’s when you should think about calling a vet.

In general, teething occurs in cats between the ages of 10 weeks and 6 months. If your cat is teething at a much older age, that could be an indication that they suffer from pica or have an oral health problem.

Early Weaning 

Cats who are weaned off of milk too early may exhibit symptoms of pica. If you’re raising a small kitten, it’s important to consult a vet before you make any weaning decisions. Your vet can give you tips for weaning and tell you when it’s time to wean.

Compulsive Disorder 

Sometimes cats develop pica as a result of a compulsive disorder. If this is the case, you should talk to your vet about medication and other treatment options for compulsive disorders in cats.

Treating pica in cats

How To Treat Pica In Cats

The good news about pica is that there are treatment options. Oftentimes, you can stop your cat from eating non-food items by making sure they have a healthy diet and plenty of toys to play with. Make sure your cat is getting proper nutrition in their diet as well as at least 30 minutes of playtime each day. Consistency is key when it comes to treating pica in cats.

When To See A Vet 

Pica may not seem like a big deal, but it’s an immediate medical concern that requires a trip to the vet. If your cat won’t eat its food or is eating a non-food item that could be toxic or otherwise harmful, you should take your cat to the vet right away.

If your cat has pica and is vomiting or showing other signs of ingesting a toxin, you might consider taking them to an emergency animal hospital.

Assortment of cat toys

Pica: Frequently Asked Questions

Why is my cat eating weird things?

Your cat might be eating weird things because of their diet, but it could also be a result of anxiety, boredom, early weaning, teething, or a compulsive disorder. It’s up to your vet to determine what’s causing pica in your cat and what the best treatment option is.

How do you know if your cat has pica?

You can tell if your cat has pica by catching them in the act. If you aren’t around your cat for several hours each day, keep an eye out for vomiting, diarrhea, and other signs of pica, as well as toys and other non-food items that look chewed or eaten. If you think your cat has pica, you should go to the vet.

Do cats grow out of pica?

While some cats are able to grow out of pica as they get older, that’s not the case for every cat. Medical intervention is important if you want to stop pica as soon as possible and minimize the negative effects of pica in cats, so talk to your vet as soon as you can.

How do you treat pica in cats?

Treating pica in cats involves treating the underlying condition, which means making dietary and lifestyle changes or giving your cat medication. Before you decide on the best treatment option, make sure you consult with your vet.

Cat playing with toy

Final Notes

Pica is a fairly common condition in cats, especially cats who weaned early or are teething. Fortunately, pica can often be treated with simple dietary and lifestyle changes, and your vet can help point you in the right direction. If you need help finding a vet to take care of your cat with pica, Dutch can help. Dutch provides telemedicine for pets, so you can connect with a vet online and have prescriptions sent to your door. With Dutch, finding a vet for your cat has never been easier.

References

  1. Unusual Eating Habits - UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. https://www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/sites/g/files/dgvnsk491/files/inline-files/Unusual_eating_habits.pdf