Eating non-food materials is called Pica. Every cat I’ve known has been inclined to sniff around and eat fuzz off of the carpet. Some cats go further and eat shower curtains, blankets, dirt, and other household items.
Why do cats eat non-food items?
There are different theories about why cats eat non-food things.
Weaned too early or quickly – This explanation is given for many unexplained cat behaviors, although it is a possible reason for pica.
Stress or anxiety – It is thought that chewing and eating non-foods is a possible reaction to stress or anxiety; perhaps as a way to “act out” their nervous energy or as an attempt to soothe themselves.
Boredom: If your cat is bored he may be tempted to eat strange things around your home. Provide your cat with toys and maybe a cat tree to occupy him. Actively play with your cat for 20-30 minutes per day.
Diet deficiency: Sometimes cats will eat non-foods because they are lacking a nutrient in their diet. Consult with your veterinarian if you think this is a possibility.
I personally believe that curiosity also encourages cats to eat weird stuff. Oooo, look at this piece of fuzz on the floor, doesn’t smell bad, I’m gonna eat it! This shower curtain is fun to chew, I guess I’ll swallow it!
Is pica dangerous?
As I mentioned, I think that all cats will occasionally eat weird, non-food things. However, pica becomes a problem if the materials your cat eats are toxic, are likely to cause an intestinal obstruction, or are consumed in large amounts. Even too much fuzz from the carpet can contribute to hairballs and stomach discomfort in your cat.
What can I do to stop pica?
- Deter your cat by spraying him with water each time you see him eat a non-food material (with a gentle squirt bottle.)
- Use bitter spray to make commonly chewed or eaten items unappealing (purchase at pet stores.)
- Increase your cat’s physical activity and play time.
- Help your pet to relax by making sure their environment is calm and feels safe to him.
- Grow cat grass for your cat to chew and eat.
- Remove the temptation by vacuuming thoroughly and put often chewed or eaten things out of reach.
- Talk to your veterinarian if you believe your cat’s pica is resulting from a dietary deficiency or if none of the above solutions improve your cat’s behavior.
Jennifer Kean is a writer and pet-lover who owns two rescue kittens (lifetime cat owner too!) and has a 40 gallon fish tank!