Pica is the abnormal
appetite for non-food materials, such as wool, fabrics, cat litter, houseplants
or licking concrete or stones.
It can arise as a behavioural problem or can
be the result of an underlying medical problem such as anaemia.
Behavioural pica often is a long standing problem in healthy
cats or in playful kittens. They are usually seen at a clinic for vomiting and reduced appetite due to an intestinal obstruction with odd objects, or toxic substances. Behavioural pica may also increase
during times of stress (e.g. new pets and moving house).
Siamese and related breeds are particularly prone to fabric
eating and this is often a chronic problem starting at a young age. It is
presumed that there is a genetic component to the habit and , although
incompletely understood, it is thought that the endorphin release the cat
experiences makes the habit addictive. Some cases are very difficult to manage
and consulting a veterinary behaviourist is highly recommended.
Pica due to medical
Pica can be seen in cats with chronic anaemia or intestinal
problems – they consume excessive amount of grass or plant material and
consequently vomit, have diarrhoea or lose weight.
ingestion in cats
Grass eating is common in cats. The reasons for this is not
fully understood but it is suspected that grass has some beneficial effects on
the stomach and intestines, including easing nausea. Grass eating is not
problematic unless the is also showing symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhoea or
eating a toxic plant (i.e lilies). Some owners grow grass on trays indoors for
their cats to eat – this may discourage houseplant eating in indoor cats.
Steps can be taken to prevent cats from eating odd things:
Behavioural pica can be challenging to manage; a thorough
examination and consultation with a veterinarian will help rule out common
causes and allow prompt treatment.