Why Does My Cat Eat Weird Things?

If you share your home with a cat, you’ve no doubt seen some weird things. And you’ve seen your cat eat something that doesn’t even slightly resemble food. From tin foil to pieces of clothing to poop, there’s a cat out there who’ll eat it.

It’s called pica.

Why do cats eat weird things?

Maybe you’re not feeding your cat enough and it’s pure hunger. Probably not.

“Hunger isn’t usually a factor,” said Emmy Award-winning veterinarian Jeff Werber, also known as Dr. Jeff.

In an interview with Care2, he explained that most of the time, it’s purely behavioral. “Just check the food bowl and chances are there’s food in there.”

Okay, so maybe a cat that chews on pebbles, sand, or dirt is lacking in minerals. Again, probably not.

“The truth is that nobody knows why they do it. It may be pacification in some regard. It may simply be a bad habit,” he continued.

According to Dr. Jeff, it’s a problem seen more often in puppies and young dogs than in cats. A puppy might go so far as to eat your underwear and socks. In some cases, adult dogs do it, too. Dr. Jeff’s own 15-1/2-year-old golden retriever — far from a young pup — will occasionally visit the cat’s litter box to help himself to a snack.

“In cats, we know they eat certain things because they’re intrigued. It’s play. For example, they’re playing with a piece of string. They have no intent to eat it, they’re just having fun and get carried away and ingest it.”

Perhaps pets eat grass because they know it will make them vomit.

“My theory is they eat grass because it’s sweet and wet. They like the taste and find it soothing,” he said.

According to Dr. Jeff, most cats who eat weird things are perfectly healthy. Blood tests, X-rays, and other tests can confirm that.

“They’re just inquisitive beings and they love to explore. Cats really are curious. Personally, I think it starts as play or a form of boredom, not necessarily a nutritional need or hunger. In the process they eat things they toy with.”

Are there any health risks?

That depends on what they swallow. In some cases, it’s downright dangerous. Certain household plants can make cats sick and swallowing strings or other foreign bodies can sometimes lead to emergency surgery. If you think your cat may have swallowed something dangerous, seek immediate medical attention.

It’s also a good idea to bring your cat in for a checkup if you think there’s a health problem behind the behavior.

What can I do about it?

If you have a cat that’s eating potentially dangerous things, you will have to take action.

The problem is, pets won’t connect their actions to unpleasant consequences that don’t happen immediately, Dr. Jeff explained.

“If vomiting takes place more than half an hour later, which it usually does, they don’t make the connection. Aversion therapy has to be immediate. Even if they have surgery to correct it, because that event is often days later, the cat won’t learn a lesson.”

The real solution is to limit their access to potentially dangerous items while providing an outlet for their curious nature and stimulation to satisfy their need for play.

If your cat tends to eat weird things, Dr. Jeff likens it to having a baby in the house. You have to anticipate — what could this cat possibly get hold of — and remove it. Even dental floss in the trash can is fair game for a bored cat.

“To change the behavior of a cat like that, you need to enrich their inquisitive nature with things that are safe to play with and remove that which is unsafe. They want to play, so give them things to occupy their attention,” he advises.

More Care2 Tips To Keep Your Pet Safe:

Image Credit: Thinkstock

192 comments

Renata B
Renata B19 days ago

One of my cats used to make confetti withthe paper he found. I always joked that living in a library it would have been his dream. I do have lots of books, but since they are tucked up on shelves fortunately he didn't attack the,. But if he found some sheets of paper around ... no hope. Even discussing the matter with our vet we came to the conclusion that it was a game. Fortunately he didn't ingest it (with all the ink it wouldn't have been good for sure).

SEND
Marion F
Marion F19 days ago

If cats chew on plastic & other weird materials this is called pica syndrome, my Angel Sisi always chewed on cardboard or on wood (on my night table f. ex., or on my mum´s living room cabinet she did), it´s not sure WHY some cats do it, some even eat that stuff, which can eventually lead to an intestine blockage, please never leave any plastic stuff or other stuff in reach of your cats when you leave your home!!! Okay, I couldn´t remove my night table & my mum whose cat Angel Sisi´s been for about 8 years before couldn´t remove the living room cabinet, but Angel Sisi never ate the wood or cardboard, always spit it out...

SEND
Ann B
Ann B19 days ago

interesting--they never eat the moles they bring in?????just a play thing i guess lol

SEND
michela c
michela c20 days ago

Thanks

SEND
Ruth S
Ruth S20 days ago

Thanks.

SEND
Ruth S
Ruth S20 days ago

Thanks.

SEND
Peggy B
Peggy B21 days ago

Noted

SEND
Carole R
Carole R21 days ago

Good to know.

SEND
Marie W
Marie W3 months ago

Thank you for posting

SEND
Lesa D
Lesa D8 months ago

MEOW!!!

SEND