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What is Pica?

A feline with a mild case of pica may suck or lick on inedible objects, but not actually consume said object. However, in severe cases of pica, the feline will consume the object entirely, posing a risk for intestinal blockage, tearing of the digestive tract, toxicity, and electrocution. Common target objects for feline pica include; plants, electric cords, phone cords, wool, fabric, string, or yarn. The cause behind pica is unknown, however, disease and behavioral disorders are thought to be the underlying cause behind this unusual behavior. Oriental cat breeds, such as the Siamese cat, are commonly affected by pica and it is believed to be a genetic disposition. 

If your cat licks, sucks, or consumes objects around the home that are not food, she could be suffering from a condition called pica. Pica in cats is the act of eating objects that are not food. Eating non-food items can be very dangerous to a cat, as chewing on electrical cords can cause a feline to be electrocuted, and plant consumption can be toxic. Other inedible objects, such as clothing, can block the intestine and prevent food from passing. Pica is a serious behavioral issue that can become fatal if not addressed by a veterinarian.

Pica Average Cost

From 426 quotes ranging from $200 - $300

Average Cost

$250

Symptoms of Pica in Cats

Pica in cats only has one clinical sign and that is consumption of inedible objects. Common target objects for feline pica include; plants, electric cords, phone cords, wool, fabric, string or yarn. Felines with a mild case of pica may not consume the object, but chew, lick or suck on said inedible object. Secondary conditions of pica in cats may include: 

  • General listlessness
  • Constipation 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Vomiting 
  • Decreased appetite 
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Causes of Pica in Cats

Research is still being conducted to find the exact cause of pica in cats, but veterinarians have linked the behavioral condition to several possible causes including: 

Feline Disease

  • Feline immunodeficiency virus
  • Feline leukemia 
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Dental disease 
  • Anemia
  • Brain tumor
  • Diabetes 

Genetic Disposition 

  • Oriental cat breeds
  • Siamese cats 

Behavioral Disorder

  • Learned behavior
  • Attention-seeking 
  • Boredom 
  • Stress
  • Anxiety 

Dietary insufficiencies

  • Hunger 
  • Lack of fiber
  • Mineral deficiency 
  • Vitamin deficiency 

Weaning a kitten too early

Idiopathic 

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Diagnosis of Pica in Cats

The diagnosis of pica in cats begins with an exchange of notes between the veterinarian and the pet owner. You will be asked to explain the behavior your cat has been exhibiting, what he or she seeks out as a target to consume, and the duration of this behavior. As pica can be caused by stressful or new situations, it is important to recall any new change in your schedule that may affect the feline. (Move to a new home, work schedule change, etc.) The veterinarian will then proceed to diagnostic examinations. He or she will want to conduct blood tests, including a complete blood cell count, blood smear, and biochemistry profile. The doctor may also ask for a urinalysis to detect the possibility of underlying disease that may be causing pica in the feline. As tumors of the brain are believed to be a possible cause of pica in cats, the veterinarian may likely conduct radiographs or a CT scan of the feline’s brain. 

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Treatment of Pica in Cats

The treatment for pica in cats is variable, as it lies dependent on the underlying cause and the results from diagnostic exams. If the veterinarian has found an underlying disease, the treatment will be specified by the veterinary medical professional, but if your feline has received a clean bill of health, treatment may include: 

Removing inedible target objects

Keeping household plants, blankets, clothing and electrical cords out of your cat’s reach will remove the temptation to eat them. 

Providing chewing alternatives

Cat toys and safe plants like catnip can detour the feline’s behavior to a more appropriate chewing object. 

Structured play

Boredom is a common cause for pica, so structured playtime with the feline can prevent boredom and fulfill the need to be active. 

Attending to dietary needs

Malnourished felines may chew on inappropriate objects if their diet is lacking in adequate nutrients. Your veterinarian may supplement the required vitamins and minerals through medications or suggest an alternative cat kibble. 

Consult a veterinary behaviorist 

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Recovery of Pica in Cats

The prognosis for cats displaying pica behavior is guarded. Some felines will “grow out” of the inappropriate behavior, whereas other need continuous treatment. If your cat does not improve with the treatments recommended by your veterinarian, he or she may refer you to a veterinary behaviorist.

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Pica Average Cost

From 426 quotes ranging from $200 - $300

Average Cost

$250

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Pica Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Luna

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Balinese

dog-age-icon

18 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Stress

I have a cat that is about a year and a half old. She was found up inside the underneath of my car and I took her home. The vet guessed she was about 10 weeks old at the time. She has always tended to chew on cords (phone chargers) and strings (shoe strings, draw strings in pants), the last couple of weeks she randomly stopped using her litter box and has used the bathroom on the dirty towels in my bathroom and once has gone in my bed while I was sleeping (fun way to wake up) she has also been hiding in the corner of my closet. She is still just as friendly and loveable as she always is and let’s me pick her up and let her like normal if I remove her from the closet and close my door she will sit there and meow and look panicked until I let her back in. This is very odd behavior for her and I am worried...

Sept. 19, 2018

Luna's Owner

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Apollo

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tabby

dog-age-icon

11 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Vomiting

My cat is eating paper, rug, lint from his cat condo peeling paint chips off the wall eating those, oh and his favorite he loves to eat plastic. I wake up to him throwing up at night what to do.

Aug. 20, 2018

Apollo's Owner

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recommendation-ribbon

3320 Recommendations

It can be difficult to determine whether the consumption of non-food objects is due to boredom, other behavioural issues, nutritional deficiency among other causes; try to limit Apollo’s access to these items and don’t leave him unsupervised, also visit your Veterinarian to check for any underlying conditions. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 20, 2018

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B

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Bombay Cat

dog-age-icon

3 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Excessive Crying, Biting Boyfriend

My boyfriend recently moved in about a month ago and that was the same time I noticed one of my cats began chewing on everything plastic in the house. No matter where it is he always seems to find something plastic to chewing on and if it’s small enough he will injest it.

July 26, 2018

B's Owner

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recommendation-ribbon

3320 Recommendations

Stress may cause some undesirable behaviour to exhibit itself in some cats, I cannot say whether your boyfriend moving in with you is a stressful event or not but you should try to prevent B from consuming nonfood items and possibly placing B in a crate when not supervised. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 27, 2018

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Harley

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I dont know

dog-age-icon

4 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Swollen Mouth
Rapid Breathing And Heart Rate
Crackling
Cant Eat Or Drink

My cat doesn't have pica but I have a different question. I have absolutely no money for a vet. My about 3-4 month old cat was electrocuted. Is there anything I can do 4 her? I'm letting her rest and she appears to be getting better and better. But, she does still have a rapid heart rate even though it's a lot better than it was. Her mouth is swollen I went and got her a kitten lickable food. She's very interested in it and starts drooling but she won't eat or drink. She is walking uses the litter box even tries to play but u can tell her mouth is in a lot of pain. What can I do to make her comfortable and should I use a child's medicine syringe to give her water and food? Right after it happened she had 1 eye that would roll to the side and crackling noises in her lungs and rapid heart rate. Thank you for your time. Is there any people otc pain medicine I can give her?

July 18, 2018

Harley's Owner

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recommendation-ribbon

3320 Recommendations

Do not give any over the counter human medicines as they are toxic and can cause kidney failure even at low doses; the biggest concern is fluid accumulation in the lungs which can be difficult to control. I do understand that money can be tight, but not everything can be treated with over the counter medicines; you should visit a Veterinarian regardless of cost due to the severity of the symptoms. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM https://wagwalking.com/cat/condition/electrical-injuries www.vets-now.com/pet-care-advice/electric-shock-in-cats/

July 18, 2018

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Lily

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Tortishelle

dog-age-icon

1 Year

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

I have a very sweet tortishelle cat and she was a normal sweet cat up until she gave birth and she now is trying to eat non edible objects idk if this has anything to do with it but she also has a weird bald spot on her tail on the top on it close to her back but a little before half the length of her tail I heard it could be stud tail but idk she also is losing fur around her back legs idk if it’s from licking them or not please help

July 17, 2018

Lily's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

recommendation-ribbon

1611 Recommendations

Having kittens can be hard on cats, physically, and the stress can cause problems with skin sometimes. Since I can't see Lily, it would be a good idea to have her examined by a veterinarian to see what is going on with her, get her any treatment that she may need, and make sure that she is okay.

July 17, 2018

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Kadan

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Bengal

dog-age-icon

2 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargy
Vomiting
Pica

My male Bengal eats rubbery objects. We try our best to keep all these items locked up but with 2 kids it's impossible to keep all of these items put away 100% of the time. He will hunt them out, dig in bins looking for them in bins with lids he becomes obsessed with trying to open them. We've managed by pure luck to avoid surgeries but there has been one emergency ultra sound and numerous vomits with pieces of rubber. Unlike our other cat his vomit stinks. We can even smell it from another room. It's not from being bored, he has another cat, human companions around all day and a ton of toys (none of which he is interested in). He has a great appetite until he finds one of these objects then it's days of vomit, lethargy and on 2 occasions I've had to force feed him. He is on a raw cat food diet with vitamin supplements.

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Athena

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Long haired,calico,tortoise

dog-age-icon

3 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Licks Furniture,Planters,Chews Cord

Every morning once my husbands alarm goes off it like she sits and waits, then she jumps up on the bed starts purring and constantly starts licking furniture, head boards and my husband,she also chews phone cords.

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Kitty

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Long haired tabby

dog-age-icon

14 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Licking Cement And Litter

I have a 14 yr old male tabby. 2 months he started a little vomiting (twice a week) and noticed constipation. Then he started licking the cement outside. Took him to the vet and she saw constipation but xrays didn't show any particular item clogging him. Blood tests show no pica. Today I caught him eating litter. I know there are many variations as to "why" and no I'm not getting him a brain scan. The question is what is the next step...do I just change the litter to pellets (or other). Can I give him vitamins for pica if I have no proof he has it? I just know that eating that litter can't be good. PLEASE if you have any advise I'll take it.

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Piper

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Tuxedo

dog-age-icon

6 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Consumes Clothing, Sheest,Pill
Consumes Clothing And Bedding

I have talked to my get about this but I don't feel they really understand the severity. I do not want to do a bunch of testing just for the sake of testing. If there are specific tests that would be the most helpful I'm all for that. I got Piper when he was anywhere from 6-8 wks old and he was found abandoned at a gas station. He is a naturally high-strung, anxious kitty but loves me very much and I think he may also get separation anxiety (if that's a thing). I also have an 11 1/2 yr old cat that I had about 8 months before I got Piper. have had them both since 2013. They tolerate eachother but I'm quite sure they dislike each other which obviously adds to stress in the household. I do have feliway, scratchposts that get used, cat trees with view out window, which get used, high areas that Piper can get to, feed them in separate rooms. They would both have a fit if they were locked out of my bedroom but I don't know what to do with the sheet and pillowcase eating. Ugh. I'm very concerned about his consumption of things though he does not seem to be having digestive issues...thank the Lord. BTW...this has been going on at least for several years when I found he was eating my clothes...I now am careful to not leave clothes out...but now it's bedding.

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Sadie Mae

dog-breed-icon

Tortie

dog-age-icon

3 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Chewing On Wrought Iron, Washing

Have had my cat for a year She is a three year old rescue cat She had been spayed so she was not feral We get along well and I love her very much But she seems very unhappy being forced to be an inside cat And has begun chewing, teething, on wrought iron and rebar To let her outside subjects her to all kinds of dangers Yet I am often away for much of the day and she is alone ...although I do have a very cat friendly home, sun, cat perches, windows with bird tv I yelled at her tonight and that is not right I don’t know what to do

Pica Average Cost

From 426 quotes ranging from $200 - $300

Average Cost

$250

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