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Cravings Gone Wild: Understanding Pica in Cats and How to Treat It

Understanding the Causes, Symptoms and Treatment Options for Pica in Cats

As a cat owner, you may have caught your beloved feline chewing on something they shouldn’t be. While it’s not uncommon for cats to gnaw on objects such as plants or paper, when this behavior becomes compulsive, it may indicate a condition known as pica.

Pica in cats is a behavioral disorder where they obsessively crave and consume objects that are considered inedible. In this article, we will explore the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for this disorder.

What is Pica in Cats? Pica is a term used to describe an abnormal and often compulsive behavior where a cat has a persistent and intense craving for non-food items that would otherwise not be considered part of their diet.

These objects may include anything from plastic or rubber bands to paper clips, plants, and even soil. Ingesting these non-food materials can pose a significant health risk to your cat, leading to vomiting, diarrhea, gastrointestinal blockage, or even emergency surgery.

Symptoms of Pica in Cats

If you notice your cat chewing or ingesting non-food items, this could be a sign that they have pica. Other symptoms of pica in cats include pawing, digging, and scratching at objects.

You may also notice your cat attempting to eat objects that are not typically considered food, which is a clear indication of compulsive behavior that may have underlying health issues that require medical attention.

Causes of Pica in Cats

Pica in cats can have many potential causes, ranging from behavioral conditions to early weaning and teething-related difficulties. Some cats may develop this behavior due to a genetic predisposition, while others may develop it due to environmental factors or lack of proper socialization.

Other underlying health issues like gastrointestinal discomfort or nutritional deficiencies may also contribute to this behavior. Identifying the specific cause can, therefore, be challenging, which is why a thorough physical examination, including blood work, urine testing, and stool examinations, is required for proper diagnosis.

How Veterinarians Diagnose Pica in Cats

If you’re concerned that your cat may have pica, your veterinarian will likely start by performing a physical examination to assess your cat’s overall health. Tests may be conducted to determine whether your cat has any underlying health issues that could be contributing to their behavior.

They may also review your cat’s medical history to determine any potential environmental or behavioral factors that may be affecting their behavior. In some cases, your vet may recommend a comprehensive screening test that includes blood and urine tests to help diagnose any underlying medical conditions contributing to pica.

Treatment of Pica in Cats

The treatment for pica in cats depends on the underlying cause of the condition. For instance, if there are underlying health issues like nutritional deficiencies, the vet may put your cat on a specialized diet or supplements.

If the pica is related to behavior issues, then medication, environmental enrichment, and exercise, reducing stress, or natural remedies like herbs or calming pheromones may be recommended. In cases where the cat’s behavior is more severe and poses health hazards, deterrents or blocking access to items they tend to consume may be necessary.

Surgery may also be needed if a gastrointestinal obstruction is present.

Recovery and Management of Pica in Cats

While there’s no guaranteed cure for pica in cats, recovery and management are possible with appropriate treatment, patience, and persistence. Prevention is key, particularly understanding your cat’s behavior and monitoring their environment to prevent access to non-food objects.

Redirecting the cat’s attention to more acceptable forms of play and providing regular exercise routines and calming activities like play therapy can help alleviate the compulsive behavior. As the owner, it’s vital to provide a safe and anxiety-free environment for your cat to reduce stress and anxiety, which can trigger pica behaviors.


In conclusion, pica in cats is a serious condition that requires prompt medical attention when detected. The condition can lead to significant health risks that may put your cat’s life in danger.

Understanding the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for the condition can help you take appropriate steps to get your cat the help they need. With the right diagnosis, treatment, and preventative measures, you can manage your feline’s pica behavior effectively and maintain a loving, healthy relationship with them.

Pica: Causes and Symptoms in Cats

Pica is a behavioral disorder that may lead cats to compulsively chew and ingest non-food items. Although some cats may only occasionally chew on plants or other non-food items, the condition becomes more serious and potentially life-threatening when the behavior becomes persistent.

In this article, we will delve into the symptoms and causes associated with pica in cats.

Symptoms of Pica

Chewing non-edible materials

One of the most common signs of pica in cats is the act of chewing on non-edible materials, such as plastic, rubber bands, plants, and fabric. These materials are oftentimes unsuitable for consumption and can lead to various health complications.

Sucking inappropriate materials

In some cases, cats may suck on or lick inedible objects, such as blankets or clothing. This behavior may also be a sign of pica, and it’s essential to seek veterinary attention if the issue persists.

Ingesting inedible materials

Cats with pica may binge on non-food items, resulting in significant amounts of material being ingested. This behavior can lead to gastrointestinal issues such as vomiting, constipation, and even blockages.


Felines with pica may develop vomiting as the act of ingesting non-edible materials can irritate the digestive tract. This symptom can also indicate issues with the gallbladder or liver.

If your cat is vomiting frequently, it’s crucial to seek veterinary attention promptly.


Pica in cats can also cause changes in bowel movements, such as diarrhea. This symptom may occur due to the ingestion of materials that irritate the stomach lining, leading to digestive issues.

Lack of appetite or thirst

Cats that exhibit signs of pica may also experience changes in their eating habits, such as a lack of appetite or thirst. These changes may indicate underlying health issues that require prompt medical attention.

Constipation and straining to defecate

Cats with pica may experience constipation due to the ingestion of non-food items that are difficult to pass through the digestive system. This symptom may also lead to straining when defecating, prompting a veterinary examination to prevent further complications.


A general lack of energy or enthusiasm may also indicate the presence of pica in cats. Weakness and tiredness can occur due to the discomfort and stress associated with pica.

Causes of Pica

Behavioral conditions

Stress, anxiety, and boredom may lead to the development of pica in cats. Compulsive behavior is often the result of underlying stressors, and eliminating these stresses can help reduce the incidence of pica.

Early weaning

Kittens that have been weaned too early or have received inadequate socialization may develop pica as a result. Therefore, suitable socialization and interaction with humans are essential in a kittens early stages of development.

Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) and worms

Infections caused by FIP, worms, or other parasites can often lead to cats developing pica. Eliminating these infections through the use of antiparasitic medications under the veterinary guidance can help end the behavior.

Endocrine diseases

Endocrine conditions like diabetes mellitus, hyperthyroidism, anemia, and liver disease can also lead to pica in cats. Therefore, controlling the underlying medical condition is essential in treating the behavior.

Poor diet or malnutrition

A lack of nutrients in a cat’s diet can lead to pica. Incorporating a balanced and high-quality diet with adequate nutrients can resolve the cravings associated with the disorder.

Pyruvate kinase deficiency

Pyruvate kinase is an essential enzyme in red blood cells that help with energy transport. Deficiency of this enzyme may result in persistent anemia, which may lead to pica.

Teething difficulties

When a kitten undergoes teething, it may experience pain that it tries to soothe through chewing on objects, including inappropriate things. Offering chew toys, alternating cold and warm compresses on the kittens gums, and veterinary-guided pain relief medication can help alleviate teething pains.


Specific cat breeds such as Siamese or Burmese are more susceptible to developing pica. Cats with a genetic predisposition may require lifelong management and veterinary attention.

In conclusion, several factors may contribute to pica in cats, including genetic predisposition, behavioral conditions, certain medical conditions, and nutritional deficiencies. Identifying the underlying cause of the disorder is essential in treating the behavior.

Additionally, seeking veterinary attention promptly when noticing any of the discussed symptoms is crucial in keeping your feline companion healthy and safe. With the appropriate management and veterinary-guided care, it’s possible to manage and treat your cat’s pica behavior successfully.

Pica in Cats: Treatment and Management

Pica in cats is a behavioral disorder that can be caused by various underlying factors. If left untreated, pica can lead to serious health complications, including gastrointestinal blockages, malnutrition, and chronic vomiting.

Therefore, early diagnosis and treatment are essential in managing pica in cats. This article focuses on treatment options and recovery strategies for cats with pica.

Treatment of Pica in Cats


Dietary deficiencies may lead to pica; therefore, providing a balanced and nutritious diet is essential in treating the condition. Feeding your cat with a commercially prepared cat food containing appropriate amounts of vitamins and minerals, such as Royal Canin or Hill’s c/d MultiCare, can help alleviate nutritional deficiencies.

In some cases, a prescription-based food may also be recommended. Consult with your veterinarian about the best diet plan for your cat.


Cats exhibiting compulsive or anxiety-related behavior may require prescription drugs, dewormers, supplements, prebiotics, or probiotics to help treat pica. These medications may help in restoring proper body function, such as those associated with the digestive system, which may help alleviate the symptoms of pica.

Enrichment and Exercise

Several enrichment and exercise strategies can help manage pica by providing an outlet for the cat’s energy and attention. Teaching a cat to walk on a leash, playing with the cat using toys, and providing feeder puzzles can help promote mental and physical stimulation.

For outdoor cats, catios – enclosures that allow access to the outdoors in a safe environment – can also provide ample stimulation.

Reduction of Stress

Stress and anxiety are common contributors to pica in cats. Moving furniture, creating separate spaces for cats, offering plenty of litter boxes, positive cat-to-cat interactions, providing calming products, and pheromone sprays like Feliway can help reduce stress levels and promote healthy feline behavior.


Since some cat-safe objects can still be harmful to cats, preventing the access of inappropriate materials to your cats should be a priority. Pica-proofing your home by closing trash cans, cupboards, and using baby gates or a harness and leash while supervising your cat can help avoid harmful ingestion.


If avoidance or prevention efforts are insufficient, bear in mind that you can also use no-chew sprays, canned air, loud noises or shaking a can of rocks as effective deterrents to prevent your cat from chewing harmful objects.

Recovery and Management of Pica in Cats

Redirecting Behavior

During physical activity, cats may release an endorphin-like chemical that makes them feel euphoric. Offering a favorite, healthy treat or chew toy during activity can redirect your cat’s attention from inappropriate items.

Blocking Access

Preventing your cat’s access to inappropriate materials may also help manage pica behavior. Blocking access to household items, keeping important materials out of your cat’s reach, and pica-proofing your home can reduce the risk of ingestion.

Gastrointestinal Obstruction

Intestinal blockage can be life-threatening and potentially costly. If ingestion of non-food items has led to gastrointestinal blockage, surgery may be the only viable option to restore normal gut function.


In severe cases of pica, surgery may be necessary to remove ingested objects from the cat’s intestines.

Surgery may be necessary when there is a persistent blockage that can’t be managed through other means.


Cats with pica require patience and multiple strategies for treatment to manage the condition effectively. Working closely with a veterinarian can help ensure that the chosen treatment plan is successful.


With effective management, kittens can grow out of the behavior, and adult cats can maintain healthy eating habits. Maintaining vigilance, monitoring your cat’s diet and behavior, and providing a conducive home environment can help in the successful management of pica.

In conclusion, pica in cats is a serious behavioral disorder that requires prompt veterinary attention to manage effectively. Treating pica often involves a combination of dietary changes, medication, enrichment, and exercise programs.

Redirecting behavior, blocking access to non-food objects, surgery, and patience are all crucial in treating and managing pica in cats. By identifying the underlying causes of pica and working closely with a veterinarian, it is possible to achieve a successful outcome and maintain a healthy, happy cat.

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