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


Lesa D
Lesa D17 hours ago


Vincent T
Vincent T1 days ago

THank you

Elaine W
Elaine W5 days ago

Noted and thank you for the information.

Winn A
Winn A5 days ago


Winn A
Winn A5 days ago


Ellie M
Ellie M5 days ago


Lesa D
Lesa D5 days ago

my Boys have a taste for all kinds of paper & q~tips...

thank you Ann...

Ellen J
Ellen J6 days ago

Good to know. Thanks.

Danii P
Danii P6 days ago

Thanks for sharing

Debbi W
Debbi W6 days ago

The only cat I've had in nearly 70yrs likes to eat thread. I've always kept my sewing machine covered, but she managed to get to the bobbin thread. When I found her eating it she ran down stairs and into the bedroom. I caught her and slowly began pulling the thread out of her. She had swallowed about five yards of thread. She hasn't done that since because I cut off her access to thread, but she occasionally will pick at fabric to loosen a strand of thread. She nine now and thankfully doesn't do that any longer.