Pica in Cats

Written By hannah hollinger
Published: 11/22/2016Updated: 12/22/2021
Veterinary reviewed by Dr. Linda Simon, MVB MRCVS
Pica in Cats - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

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 more commonly affected by pica and there 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 and plastic, 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.

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Pica Average Cost

From 426 quotes ranging from $200 - $300

Average Cost

$250

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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 symptoms of pica in cats may include: 

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 

Diagnosis of Pica in Cats

The diagnosis of pica in cats begins with an exchange of information 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 if other tests are inconclusive. 

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 and exerciser with the feline can prevent boredom and fulfil 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. 

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Recovery of Pica in Cats

The prognosis for cats displaying pica behavior is guarded. Some felines will ‚Äúgrow out‚ÄĚ 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.

The symptoms of pica can be expensive to treat. To avoid high vet care expenses, secure pet health insurance today. The sooner you insure your pet, the more protection you’ll have from unexpected vet costs.

Pica Average Cost

From 426 quotes ranging from $200 - $300

Average Cost

$250

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Pica Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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calico

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dog-age-icon

Ten Weeks

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20 found this helpful

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20 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
My cat keeps licking my bed sheets & i wonder why she keeps doing it ? How can i make her stop ?

Dec. 11, 2020

Answered by Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

20 Recommendations

As she is so young, this may be 'normal' behaviour. Kittens often groom litter mates as a form of bonding and because it comforts them and is hygienic. She may just be a little confused. It is likely she will grow out of this. We may also find some kittens to be extra 'licky' when itchy, so do ensure there is no signs of parasites or skin disease.

Dec. 11, 2020

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N/A

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about 7-8months

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8 found this helpful

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8 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
Not Using Litter Box And Chewing On Boxes
I don't know my cat breed he is a male cat about 7-8 months old. He will chew on boxes, pee and poop everywhere, chew on cords,claw on the sofa and a playpen, and even he will job in the playpen with my daughter and including on the counter and the kitchen Table

Sept. 27, 2020

Answered by Dr. Michele K. DVM

8 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. He may be having a problem with parasites that is affecting his bathroom habits, and It would be best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them and see what might be going on, and get treatment if needed.

Oct. 12, 2020

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Pica Average Cost

From 426 quotes ranging from $200 - $300

Average Cost

$250

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