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    Eating or Sucking Materials

    Eating or Sucking Materials

    Cats who love to chew on a blanket or a piece of cloth may be likened to young children who walk around sucking on pacifiers or hugging security blankets. This behavior often occurs in kittens who have been removed from their mothers too young and have not had the opportunity to nurse until their mothers properly weaned them. Soft cuddly fabrics become a substitute for mama cat. The sucking itself is not a problem, but if the sucking turns into chewing and swallowing the fabric, then that can lead to problems such as gastrointestinal obstructions. Thus, it's important to redirect your cat to playing with proper feline chew toys that won't present the same problem (always get rid of a chew toy that has started to fall apart). There are several cat chew toys on the market. They are usually labeled for teething kittens, but adult cats can enjoy them, too. Often the urge to suck on fabrics subsides as a kitten becomes an adult, although many cats will continue to knead your lap the way they knead their mother's tummy when drinking from her (as discussed in the previous chapter) if given the chance. However, the problem chewing can reoccur in adulthood as a defense mechanism for dealing with a stressful situation such as household tensions between cats or separation anxiety. If it persists in older cats, the problem needs to be addressed by a veterinarian who may prescribe an antianxiety medication along with some behavior modification and lifestyle enrichment.

    Pica: That's Not on the Menu!

    When kittens who have been prematurely taken from their mothers suck on fabrics as substitute form of nursing, the behavior is sometimes labeled pica. According to Arnold Plotnick, DVM, however, this is not true pica behavior. In his 2006 article "Pica-Why Cats Eat Weird Things," he explains that pica "is the voluntary ingestion of non-edible materials. . . . The etiology of true pica is not known, although mineral deficiencies or psychological disturbances are often blamed." By contrast, "[w]ool-sucking is a commonly described abnormal ingestive behavior in cats . . . a compulsive, misdirected form of nursing behavior [that] should be distinguished from true cases of pica." Cats with true pica have been found eating clay litter and even licking silverware. True pica is a problem that definitely needs professional attention. Oriental breeds, such as Siamese, are more prone to pica issues than other breeds.

    From The Cat Bible, Copyright by Sandy Robins, licensed through ContentOro, Inc and used by arrangement with I-5 Press

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