Common Health Problems affecting Dogs and Cats

Veterinary advice from John Burns BVMS MRCVS

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Fabric eating in cats

PICA is the term used for the craving of unusual articles. In animals it is characterised by licking, chewing or sucking foreign materials. A study in 1992 by Neville and Bradshaw showed that of 152 cats which ate fabric, 55% were Siamese, 28% Burmese and 11% were cross breeds. Wool was the most favoured material followed by cotton and then synthetic materials.

Theories why they eat fabric:

I. The cat is over-dependant on the owner eats fabric when separated from them
2. The cat is kept indoors and denied the opportunity to hunt
3. Stressful events may trigger the behaviour
4. It is caused by boredom, lack of stimulation
5. It is a compulsive disorder, similar to" those seen in humans

How do you treat the situation?

Sometimes denying the cat access to the fabric for as little as a few weeks is enough to break the cycle. Letting your cat outside to hunt can reduce or halt the problem, this can also stop them from becoming over attached to the owner.

However, if this does not prove successful or is not practical, providing the cat with objects to stimulate it may help. Chewing and sucking wool and other fabrics is a stereotypical behaviour, which may occur from lack of stimulation and boredom.

To prevent your cat from being bored, a playmate may help! Alternatively, hiding the food under objects and around the house means they have to forage for food. Many cats will also like toys and chews to occupy their time.

Soaking the fabric in products containing menthol, eucalyptus or lanolin (e.g. hand cream) can put many cats off eating fabric for life.

Many people believe that fabric eating is caused by a lack of fibre in the diet. This is unlikely, however if you do want to test this theory it is not advisable to add bran. Bran increases the fibre content of the diet but it can affect the absorption of other important minerals, causing deficiencies. Try adding vegetables, cooked or raw instead.


Common pet health problems
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