If you have a cat that eats inedible objects like strings, plastic, wool, etc. we feel for you. Cats with PICA can be difficult to control. In all my experience with this issue, both personally and professionally, each situation is a bit different.
According to Wikipedia, “The term originates from the Latin word pica (“magpie”), from the concept that magpies will eat almost anything.”
Cats aren’t dogs and we don’t want them eating inedible items. When cats chew or play with things like cardboard or even strings that’s normal. When they ingest these things, however, it can be dangerous.
While there’s not a lot of conclusive research on cats with PICA, we believe that this is both nutritional and behavioral at it’s core. Some cases are more on the behavior side and others on the nutritional side… but addressing both can only help your kitty.
How To Help Cats With PICA
- First, and most importantly, you must be diligent about removing the wanted items. Our cat, Friday, likes to eat a certain type of plastic. She goes for the thin plastic like the shrink wrap on new products. We used to just lay down this type of plastic while opening up a package or product, but now we have to throw it away immediately. She also likes small strings, so those are not allowed out of a drawer unless in use.
- Next we want to address the nutrition. Dr. Karen Becker, DVM says that 99% of the cases of PICA she’s dealt with in her practice had a GI imbalance. This makes sense as to why a cat would eat random objects because they’re looking for nutrition that they aren’t getting in their food. Rebuilding the gut is important for all kitties, but very important for cats with PICA. A species appropriate diet and supplemental care for the digestive system can help greatly. Another great idea is microbiome restorative therapy (a fecal transplant) to rebuild the gut microbiome quickly.
- Finally it is important to keep your PICA kitty active. The behavioral portion of this is often anxiety related, so having your cat on a routine playtime several times per day will help naturally reduce that stress. Playtime can fix so many behavioral issues in cats, and this is a case in which it is worth it to set aside a few times per day from your schedule to keep your kitty moving and distracted!