Some animals have amazing habits! Your cat eats paper, plastic or even cardboard ? Have you lost count of the book covers punctured by small feline teeth, or the missing post-its? The packaging boxes are crunched like pieces of Swiss cheese that would have crossed a mouse? As for the plastic bags full of small holes, there are many of them in your home… Your cat may have pica syndrome an eating disorder that also exists in humans or dogs.
What are the symptoms, how to deal with them and is it dangerous? We answer your questions about the pica of the cat.
What Is Pica Syndrome In Cats? What Are The Symptoms ?
THE pica syndrome is an eating disorder which causes the cat to eat inedible items. It can swallow anything, be it fabric, electric wires, paper, wood, wool, stones… The word comes from the Latin, pica meaning magpie, this bird having the reputation of eating anything.
Pica is OCD, obsessive compulsive disorder, and usually appears around 6 months, during sexual maturity. Usually this behavior disappears when the animal becomes an adult. However, it happens that some cats continue and it can become dangerous. Indeed, depending on what they eat, this habit can lead to digestive disorders, even intestinal obstruction and possibly the death of the animal.
It seems that this disorder concerns more certain breeds such as the Siamese, the Balinese, the Burmese or the Oriental Shorthair, without it being possible to explain the reason yet. Generally, 5 to 10% of cats, all breeds combined, are affected.
Why Does My Cat Eat Anything?
As when it occurs in humans, the cat undergoes an impulse that pushes it to ingest non-food items, without there being any rational reason. Specialists assume that this is a way for the animal to manage anxiety, relieve tension.
The causes of this anxiety can be multiple: too early weaning, for example, or a stressful environment in which your little companion lives, the arrival of a baby or another animal, a move. It can even be the result of moving an object around the house. Indeed, most cats are very attached to their routines and do not like change or novelty. When they are particularly sensitive, they trigger behavioral problems of which the pica is a part.
In addition to anxiety, recent studies have found a link between this syndrome and digestive disorders chronic conditions, such as IBD (Chronic Inflammatory Bowel Disease), as well as dietary or absorption deficiencies and stomach irritation.
Other diseases that can cause PICA:
- Pyruvate kinase deficiency (PKDef);
- Hemolytic anemia;
- Neurological disorder.
Is Pica Dangerous For Health?
Pica can be very dangerous, it all depends on the substance on which your cat has set his sights. The consequences can be mild, with mild vomiting or short-lived diarrhea, or more serious:
- Excessive salivation (ptyalism);
- Prolonged diarrhea;
- Intestinal obstruction (completely clogged digestive tract leading to death).
Is There A Treatment For Pica?
Anything that contributes to relax and relax the cat may have a beneficial effect when the pica stems from anxiety. A visit to the veterinarian is essential in first intention because it is necessary to determine the causes. The call to a feline behaviorist can be complementary to benefit from the best advice.
Whether the origin is behavioral, you will have to stimulate your cat because physical exercise is excellent against stress. Play more with him, set up calming routines, break up his meals, find him sources of distraction.
Pheromone sprays or diffusers have an effect on some cats, but not all. The longer the pica is installed, the more difficult it is to cure. An affected cat tends to return to it after periods of calm. It is therefore necessary to accompany it when it intensifies.
If the syndrome comes from a dietary deficiency you will have to change your pet’s diet, and adapt the quality and quantity of its kibble on the advice of your veterinarian.
Also remember to regularly give your little companion fresh catnip, which can be found in pet stores or garden centers. Attention, it must be indicated “catnip” because some plants and flowers are toxic for our animals, even fatal. Our cats love to eat the grass and at least it turns out to be full of benefits.
If you haven’t done it for a long time, deworm your cat, it happens that being infested causes a desire to eat anything. Similarly, give her hairball paste or pellets, a cat bothered by a trichobezoar can develop pica.
Finally, there are chew toys they can replace the paper, cardboard and other fabrics that your cat usually nibbles on.
If your cat prefers to attack your plants and eat them, read our sheet on how to prevent it.
There is therefore no no specific treatment for pica but aids to overcome it, to be adapted according to the cause.
What Should I Do If My Cat Swallows Plastic Or Fabric?
If your cat has swallowed a piece of plastic or fabric, the consequences can be serious. A foreign body can be life-threatening for the cat. So it’s a veterinary emergency. Indeed, the object can obstruct the intestine which blocks the transit. It can also cause bowel perforation. Often (but not always), the cat then begins to vomit, stops drinking and eating and its general condition can deteriorate rapidly. It also happens that the cat feels pain and is prostrate, a sign that he is in pain somewhere.
Do not try to recover the swallowed object yourself, you risk hurting your cat more. Take emergency appointment at your veterinarian. This one will proceed to a palpation then will certainly make an X-ray or an ultrasound. He will then prescribe the appropriate treatment or proceed to an operation depending on the situation.
My Cat Eats Paper Or Cardboard, Is It Serious?
Paper or cardboard isn’t the most toxic, but you can’t let your pet eat it. Not only does their ingestion bring no benefit to your cat, but in addition, these materials contain inks and solvents which, if they do not kill it immediately, can have serious health effects, including carcinogenic, in the medium or long term.
To note : a small piece of paper swallowed inadvertently is not a veterinary emergency. It will be evacuated in the litter and should not pose any particular health problem.
Furthermore, the digestive system of a carnivore is not adapted at all to this type of inedible substance. Cats lack the enzyme that digests cellulose, which is what paper and cardboard contain. Digestion is therefore difficult and can lead to gastrointestinal disorders.
Did you know ?
There is an animal that eats paper and particularly likes to devour books! It is the gray silverfish.
My Cat Eats My Food, Is It Dangerous?
Some foods intended for humans are not dangerous. It’s not uncommon for cats to be attracted to the smell of the shrimp or salmon you eat. Similarly, dairy products often attract their greedy little snout.
Note however that the dairy products can cause digestive problems diarrhea type. They are therefore not recommended.
Cats have fun eating green beans, salad and other vegetables… feline curiosity makes them rather funny and, if they are content with very small quantities, it does not matter.
Beware, however, of certain foods that are dangerous for the cat while they are perfectly suitable for humans. This is the case with onions, avocados, chocolate…
Pica is therefore a syndrome that concerns both dogs and cats. Whatever the cause, it is important to identify the inedible objects that your little companion eats and hide them until you have found a solution.
Be aware, however, that a kitten, or even a cat that is not yet an adult, can indulge in this activity without it lasting all its life. In any case, if his behavior takes hold over time, a visit to the veterinarian is in order.