Cats can be finicky eaters, but if your cat has taken to eating objects that aren't edible, your cat might have a disorder. As a pet parent, it's important for you to learn all you can about the problem so that you can prevent your cat from developing serious secondary problems. Read on to learn more about the disorder that causes unwanted eating behavior, what threats it poses, and what you can do about it.
What Is Pica
Pica is the name of a disorder in which cats and other animals try to consume things that aren't food. Generally speaking, cats tend to be most interested in objects like string, wool, hair, and fabric. While some cats will only pick up the item and chew on it, others will actually swallow them.
What Causes Pica
Veterinarians and scientists aren't entirely sure what the root cause is behind pica, but they do know that some cats are more susceptible to it than others. For example, Oriental and Siamese breeds tend to be afflicted with pica more often than other types of cats. If your cat is one of these breeds, you may notice them trying to eat things that they shouldn't.
The Problems Pica Causes
Obviously, your cat won't gain any nutrition from eating random objects that aren't food. However, the biggest problem that pica can cause is gastrointestinal obstructions in the body.
When a cat eats something like string or fabric, the body often isn't able to digest it. As a result, the the bulk of the object builds up in the intestines, causing a blockage. This can cause extreme pain for your cat, but worse still, it can also prevent your cat from eating or defecating. Unfortunately, the only resolution for this problem is surgically removing the object, and without medical care, your cat could die.
How to Prevent Problems
There is no known cure for pica, so the only thing you can do is help to prevent your cat from finding things to eat. If you've witnessed your cat trying to eat non-edible items, make a list of what it is they're interested in. Some cats might like string, while others prefer power cables. Go through your home and clean up all of the items your cat might be interested in. Keep them off the floor and away from areas where your cat likes to eat, sleep, or play.
It's also worth pointing out that scolding or punishing your cat for eating something they shouldn't isn't very effective. Pica is like a nervous habit, and your cat will likely do it whether you punish them or not. Trying to punish your cat is unlikely to stop the habit, but it will damage your relationship, possibly making your cat fearful of you or aggressive.
If your cat is eating things they shouldn't, make sure to visit your veterinarian. They may have additional advice for treating pica. In addition, they can run some simple tests to make sure that malnutrition isn't causing your cat to eat things they shouldn't.