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Q: Pica ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   5 Comments )
Subject: Pica
Category: Family and Home
Asked by: bisque-ga
List Price: $20.00
Posted: 08 Dec 2005 13:06 PST
Expires: 07 Jan 2006 13:06 PST
Question ID: 603334
I think my cat might have Pica. She gnaws on a wood table and a metal
lamp, and yesterday I saw her licking the tv screen! I would like to
know more about this condition and what, if anything, I can do to stop
this behavior. Is it a vitamin/mineral deficiency?  I really want to
know the answer, so I?ll add a $10 tip when I get a response from a
Subject: Re: Pica
Answered By: umiat-ga on 08 Dec 2005 14:51 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hello, bisque-ga! 

 I am providing some helpful references on Pica and cats. There is no
consensus concerning why cats may indulge in inappropriate eating
habits. Nutritional and behavioral needs (such as separation anxiety)
are one theory, and medical disorders must also be ruled out. However,
if this behavior becomes worse, please take your cat to the vet for a
thorough check-up. If you suspect your cat has actually ingested
something that could cause digestive trouble or poisoning, it is
especially important to have your pet examined. Please be mindful that
electrical cords can be very hazardous, so if you notice your cat
chewing on wires, you need to cover them or place them out of your
cat's reach.

 The following articles should contain all the information you need,
including symptoms of Pica, potential causes, helpful treatment
suggestions and advice on seeking professional care. Certain
medications might also help if the behavior becomes out of control,
but there are plenty of treatment suggestions you can try as a first


"Pica: The Un-finicky Feline."

"Pica is the act of eating non-food items. In less serious cases, cats
may chew or suck on objects, but not actually swallow them. Common
targets include yarn or string, fabric, wool, phone or electric cords,
and plants. Any object may be a potential target, however."

read further...


"Pica: When your pet eats things that aren't food."

"While pica generally isn't dangerous, it can cause intestinal
obstructions if your cat eats too much. It also can mean the
destruction of blankets, clothing, furniture, and more if it's not

"Pica is defined as an abnormal compulsion to eat things that aren't
usually eaten. It occurs rarely in humans, usually kids who eat the
occasional handful of dirt. It's also a relatively rare phenomenon in
dogs. Some cats, however - particularly Oriental breeds like Siamese
and Burmese - will repeatedly chow on everything from phone cords to
shower curtains, though their most common snack is wool and other


"There are several theories on why cats like to chew on wool and other
materials. Some behaviorists and veterinarians believe that it starts
when kittens are weaned too early or too abruptly. The kittens then
suck on fabric to soothe themselves; the sucking gradually turns into
chewing. Other veterinary specialists think that dietary deficiencies,
such as a lack of fat or insoluble fiber, drive cats to seek the
missing nutrients in strange foods. Eating inappropriate things may
also be a result of stress, anxiety, or boredom. Neurological
disorders and illnesses such as pancreatitis can also cause this
behavior. Pica may even be caused by a combination of two or more of
these factors."


INCLUDING WOOL SUCKING." Prepared by Kingstowne Cat Clinic

1. Ensure that the cat is receiving an adequate, complete feline diet
(most cats are). Rule out any medical disorders, including intestinal
parasitemia, dental disease, small intestine or large bowel disease,
and so on.

3. Prohibit the cat from access to the objects it is inappropriately
ingesting. This may mean keeping a spotless house or putting the cat
in a large crate with food, litter, and toys during times when direct
supervision is not an option. When the cat is not in the crate, it
should be continuously monitored. Put a bell on its collar or attach a
harness and leash to the cat and monitor its behavior. If the cat
begins to show any intention or appetitive behavior toward an object
it would suck or ingest, correct the cat by startling it in a manner
sufficient to abort the behavior. After the cat has calmed itself,
engage it in another activity that the cat enjoys and that is directly
competitive with the ingestion behavior. (See steps 4 to 6 below.)

read further..


From "DESTRUCTIVE BEHAVIOR," by Gary M. Landsberg, D.V.M.  

"Cats with pica may be extremely destructive to the owner's household
and possessions. Providing alternative oral stimulation in the form of
dog chew toys or bulky, dry, or chewy foods might satisfy the desires
of some cats. Booby traps and taste deterrents may also be helpful.
Some of pica cases may be compulsive disorders so that therapy with
clomipramine, paroxetine, or fluoxetine at 0.5 mg/kg daily may need to
be considered."


Read some questions and answers concerning "Chewing and Licking
Behavior in Cats."


From "Feline Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders," by Diane Frank. World
Small ANimal Veterinary Association World Congress. 2001

"Behaviours evinced as a result of feline "stress" or anxiety include
changes in appetite (decrease or pica), changes in grooming, changes
in elimination (spraying and non-spraying marking), changes in social
interactions (rubbing, bunting, vocal communication), and changes in
activity (degree and location). Some examples of obsessive-compulsive
disorders in cats listed in the literature include over-grooming,
barbering, feline hyperesthesia, self-mutilation, tail chasing, pica,
wool and fabric chewing, and wool sucking. Not all authors agree that
these conditions are truly obsessive-compulsive disorder."

"In some cats, the onset of pica (ingestion of non-digestible items)
is triggered by a stressful event, for example, moving from the
breeders to a new home or the addition of another cat to the

See Treatments....


From "Household Destruction by Tooth & Nail."

Involving pica - "the cat should be examined by a veterinarian to make
sure he is not suffering from any sort of physiological problems. If
there are none, try keeping objects that the cat is attracted to in
drawers or closets."  (Hard to do with your television, lamps and

"Also try distracting the cat away from desired objects by providing
him with plenty of toys. Some experts feel that the chewing of
inappropriate items is a sign of boredom and isolation. Increasing the
amount of exercise the cat gets and rotating his toys just might bring
about a change. Attempt to train a cat exhibiting pica behavior
through dietary measures. Put him on a premium quality dry food with
adequate fiber in it. Feed only that food and no other supplements or
treats and keep the cat away from his former pseudo-food items for at
least 2 weeks. The introduction of a second cat as a playmate may also
alleviate the problem, but this should only be considered if you truly
desire second cat. (Adding a cat to a household is stressful to the
existing cat and numerous misbehaviors such as fighting and household
soiling may result."


Additional articles:

"Displacement Activities and Stereotypes." (scroll down to factors and


You might be interested in the following section from the Pets Hub Cat Forum:

"Cats going through chewing phase


 I hope these references provide some useful information - both for
you, and your cat!



Search strategy

cats AND Pica
bisque-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $10.00
Thank you, you provided all the information I was looking for.

Subject: Re: Pica
From: pinkfreud-ga on 08 Dec 2005 13:45 PST
Pica in animals is sometimes called "cribbing." It can be related to
various nutritional deficiencies. Has the cat been examined by a
Subject: Re: Pica
From: markvmd-ga on 08 Dec 2005 15:33 PST
Thanks, Pink, for voicing what the FIRST step should be. Umiat's
posting mentions this but does not stress it. Pica can be complex to
treat and can be caused by minor problems or complex, difficult to
diagnose ones. There is no one-size solution and a trained clinician
must examine the pet.

And be grateful the cat isn't into eating poop. I hate getting dogs
that are into that.
Subject: Re: Pica
From: umiat-ga on 09 Dec 2005 15:58 PST
Thank you very much, bisque-ga, for you kind comments and generous tip.

In response to the comment by markvmd, I believe my first two
paragraphs, as well as every article that is referenced, advice
getting the pet checked out by a veterinarian. However, I also feel it
is important for the pet owner to make sure she is observing all
behaviors before simply running off to the vet without a thorough
ability to provide information on what is normal or abnormal behavior
for her cat!

First paragraph: "Nutritional and behavioral needs (such as separation anxiety)
are one theory, and *** medical disorders *** must also be ruled out...
Second paragraph: "and advice on seeking professional care."

One of the reasons I believe it is very important for a pet owner to
read up on available information rather than just taking the pet to
the vet first off is due to my own experience with animals.

For a recent example: My dog was acting very strangely a few months
ago. She woke up, would not eat, was lethargic and totally out of
sorts. Because I had not seen her vomit, and had known she was not out
at night eating anything out of the ordinary, I decided to take her to
the vet. (This is a dog I have spent every day with for the past 12
years, so I am very familiar with her habits). I definitely decided to
make a visit to the vet to make sure she was okay.

After 2 x-rays, the vet assured me she had a large tumor in her
abdomen and made an emergency appointment with the animal hospital.
She assured me my dog "might" live another several months if I had the
surgery. We raced my dog down there, only to have the surgeon look at
the x-rays and question whether there was any tumor at all. However,
they did several ultrasounds and took a biopsy of what "appeared" to
be a liver cyst, and then sent us home with several antibiotics while
they awaited a culture of the fluid.

Over $1,000 later (all spent in one day!)....nothing showed up from
the culture, and my dog was fine the next day.

This is why my FIRST step is NOT the veterinarian, but to read and
examine all the potential problems in the literature BEFORE going to
the vet. Then, the veterinary visit becomes a choice made out of
knowledge and thought, as opposed to mindless rushing to the doctor
every time the pet exhibits something a bit out of the ordinary!
Subject: Re: Pica
From: markvmd-ga on 09 Dec 2005 18:34 PST
Umiat, I just wanted to be sure that a visit to the vet is stressed
rather than just one item on a laundry-list of things to consider.
Assuming this is not a mere lick or nibble on a table, lamp, or TV,
the cat does not appear to be exhibiting normal behaviour.

I see far too many animals treated by well-meaning but uninformed,
misinformed, or just plain idiotic folks than I care to think about.
In the last month I have had the cat that "looked like it was in pain
so I gave it an aspirin" that actually turned out to be four aspirin
(after some period of frustration on my part as to why the animal was
dying horribly in front of me); the orphaned kitten that must have
been in unimaginable pain from burst intestines because the "rescuer"
didn't think it was important that the kitten wasn't producing urine
or feces for five days; the Spaniel who "just had a few chocolates we
gave her"; the Pom that the owner thought had fleas so she "sprayed
her with Black Flag"; and the badly matted longhair cat the owner
rubbed Lysol on "because she smelled funny," mostly because the owner
never bothered to groom it.

Every one of them brought in far too late.

I am very pleased your pet is fine and sorry you feel you acted too
hastily. Had the situation indeed been critical you would have been
very harsh on yourself for delaying, I suspect. Please understand that
a surgery that might give your pet a few months of life is usually not
critical and can wait for a second or third opinion, which is what the
surgeon provided. Sometimes with people they have to do an MRI, CAT
scan, or even exploratory surgery, too.

The average veterinarian tries to be an all-around expert but, quite
frankly, is little more than a very general practitioner. You would
not expect a human ear specialist or dentist to be as good as a
radiologist at interpreting a whole-body survey (and that's usually
what the regular vet does, rather than a highly focused high
definition x-ray), so it is small wonder that the surgeon-- who has
probably seen more x-rays in a year than you regular vet sees in
twenty years-- had a different and more cautious take on the matter.
This is precisely why I always refer to specialists.

You are absolutely correct that an understanding of the pet's
condition is important. A diagnostician will have a number of
questions that need answering and not knowing the answers almost
always costs you money... as it does in the emergency room of my
county hospital.

When a layman begins mucking about with diet, nutriceuticals, salves,
nostrums and the like, it can make the vet's job much more difficult.
Puh-leez let the vet set up a sensible course of treatment to follow
early on in the course of a problem. It's the best type of intelligent
design there is!

I've read a lot of your answers here and have a healthy respect for
your ability along with your remarkable restraint, as evidenced in
your give and take over the answer about economic costs of chubby kids
becoming chubby adults last month-- I woulda smacked the asker of that

I certainly would not cast aspersions on your excellent work.
Subject: Re: Pica
From: umiat-ga on 09 Dec 2005 18:53 PST
"I am very pleased your pet is fine and sorry you feel you acted too

Actually, I don't feel I acted too hastily. I would obviously go to
great lengths to help her and keep her healthy. I am just amazed at
how quickly the vet "outlined" the large tumor on the x-rays,
continued to outline it and describe the seriousness of it while I sat
there, sobbing, and then sent me off to the surgeon who said it simply
looked like a somewhat enlarged spleen.

But all that aside - I love my dog, and I willingly gave up a month's
wages to make sure she was okay! My husband and I continue to rub her
shaved tummy and shower her with love while chuckling over our "costly

No hard feelings concerning your comments. I was simply trying to
present a thorough picture about the various behaviors and treatments
associated with Pica.

Now...if you are listening, bisque-ga, make sure you take that cat to
the vet for a checkup!

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