Showing posts with label Pica syndrome. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pica syndrome. Show all posts

Tuesday 17 August 2021

Fabric eating by Oriental purebred cats may be due to stress

Dr. Bradshaw who wrote the book Cat Sense discusses the reason why the Oriental breeds have a predisposition to eating wool. Because the Oriental breeds - by which I mean the Siamese and the Oriental Shorthair and associated breeds within the Siamese family - are predisposed to this form of pica, Bradshaw says that it must have a genetic origin. 

Lilac Siamese eating wool. Photo: copyright Warren Photographic
Lilac Siamese eating wool. Photo: copyright Warren Photographic.

And if it does, it is not inherited directly. He did a little survey for himself it seems of 75 kittens produced by seven mothers. Three of the mothers were fabric eaters while four of them were not. One third of the kittens had become fabric eaters. But many had normal mothers i.e. they were not fabric eaters. Therefore, he couldn't explain fabric eating in these kittens on the basis of genetics or their mother's behaviour.


He also found that many of the fabric-eating cats had other forms of abnormal behaviour. These included fighting their owners and excessive scratching. And he found that among Oriental cats the desire to eat fabrics starts within a few weeks of the cat entering a new home. That is an interesting observation because at that moment the cat is going to be stressed and the stress might last quite a long time in the average domestic cat.

Also, the beginning of the desire to eat fabric can occur at around one year of age without a move to a new home. At one year of age a cat is becoming independent which carries the possibility of conflict with other cats. When cats become independent, they want their own home range which leads to this potential conflict. And this conflict doesn't need to happen towards cats in the home. It can also be a problem if a mature cat inside the home sees a strange cat outside the home as they feel that that cat is invading their territory.

Based on these observations, Dr. Bradshaw believes that fabric eating may start "as a soothing oral behaviour that these cats adopt when they feel especially stressed rather like thumb sucking in human infants". Interestingly, you will see kittens sucking their thumbs just like humans on the Internet. This is an alternative to wool sucking.

Kitten thumb sucking an alternative to wool sucking due to anxiety
Kitten thumb sucking an alternative to wool sucking due to anxiety. Video screenshot.

It is possible that domestic cats can slide into anxiety issues quite easily because they have been shoehorned into the human home when mentally and emotionally they are still wild cats.

Monday 14 June 2021

Queensland tabby cat eats 61 hair ties!

A Queensland ginger tabby-and-white cheeky cat whose name is Riker was taken into surgery after they discovered a large lump in his stomach. He had eaten, over a period of time, 61 hair ties which had balled together to create a 7 cm lump. Riker had been taken to the West Toowoomba Vet Surgery in house down, Queensland for a checkup and Michael Burke, the veterinarian, felt a hard lump in his abdomen.

Tabby cat eats 61 hair ties and is not sick
Tabby cat eats 61 hair ties and is not sick. He ate them over time though. Credit: see image.

He rushed Riker into surgery fearing it could be a serious illness but discovered this rather odd ball of hair ties. It is a particularly remarkable case of what cat lovers call Pica Syndrome. This is the eating of non-nutritious objects. Riker has a history of it. A couple of years ago he ate a corncob and had to have that surgically removed as well.

It seems that veterinarians have to remove foreign objects from cats and dogs fairly frequently. Dr. Burke has removed large bones, nectar seeds, underwear and the occasional sock from the stomachs of both cats and dogs.

It makes sense to keep these objects out of reach if your cat is predisposed to eating them! And annual checkups can be useful as in this instance because they were able to spot this huge foreign object. Riker was never sick. He never vomited which is quite remarkable considering the size of the foreign object. He recovered very well.

You probably know about Pica Syndrome. As mentioned, it's the obsessive compulsion to consume non-edible "foods". It is not that uncommon. Remarkably, veterinarians are not sure as yet why cats like to eat non-foods. There may be several causes such as early weaning, dietary deficiencies, inherited predispositions due to their genetics, boredom, stress or as one symptom of a compulsive disorder. It is normally seen first at about three months of age and some cats grow out of it by around two years of age.

How do you treat Pica Syndrome? I think that it is difficult to deal with but clearly keeping an eye on your cat and removing objects that he or she might eat would be a good starting point. Toxic plants can also be removed from the home. You can play with your cat a lot more which I'm sure would help. Stress is often caused by a lack of stimulation so adding fresh stimulation to your cat's life would help which includes enriching the environment. For example, you might train your cat to walk on a lead and take him into the backyard if he is a full-time indoor cat or even further afield. That would be safe stimulation.

Another thing that you might do is to give your cat something to chew on which she can't swallow! That may help. And lastly you might make the sort of objects which she chews on unappealing although not sure how you do that! I'm sorry to be a bit flippant but this is quite a difficult problem to deal with. If, for example, a cat is doing it because of early weaning this kind of behaviour is quite deeply ingrained as all behavioural traits adopted at an early age i.e. in the first weeks of life, are.

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