"Ask the Dog Guy" with John Wade

"Ask the Dog Guy" with John Wade

Puppy and Obedience Training Without Food or Fear

Pussy Pica

– Posted in: Columns

Dear John,

I have a three year old Siamese Cat who is eating his way through my house and closet. As a kitten, he chewed shoe laces and all the strings on the blinds in the house.  He has now graduated to flannel sheets, cotton sheets, towels, clothing, anything and everything he can get his teeth into.  He not only chews all these materials, he eats, swallows and digests them.   When I have visitors if I do not supply them with bags to put their shoes into, when they leave their shoelaces are chewed and eaten by this little fellow.  I am at my wit’s end.  He may live to be 20 and just the thought of another year of this behaviour is overwhelming. – D.R.


Dear D.R.

Pica is a behaviour aberration found in humans and animals. Essentially it means the eating, perhaps ingestion is a better word, of the inedible.

The majority of cats that display this behavior are Siamese and and related Asian breeds. There are lots of theories as to the why but nothing definitive. The better breeders figure if nothing else it has a genetic component and are diligently trying to breed it out of the breeds. If your breeder hasn’t been checking in regularly to see if her blood lines have this or other issues you didn’t get one of the better ones.

One theory as to why this might happen is related to weaning. Left to their own devices, oriental breeds tend to have a longer nursing period than other cat breeds. If the breeder isn’t aware of this and weans between six and seven weeks of age as is done with other breeds it’s possible that outside of the nursing component that suckling in itself plays a role in a kittens mental development and a problem develops for the Orientals later in life. This behaviour has also been found in other breeds that coincidentally were also prematurely weaned. Some cats outgrow it.

I’ve heard of a myriad of approaches for discouraging this behaviour. Spraying water at the cat, making the fabric of the day taste bad etc. I think if these worked it was because the cat was just being mischievous, not truly suffering from pica. When it is truly pica or wool sucking as it is often called treatment is rarely that simple. If I were you I’d be looking at a two pronged approach. First stimulation. Get that cat’s brain and body in gear every day. There are tons of cat toys that you can interact directly with you cat with. There are others that will entertain the cat on its own. Do so often, make that kitty clothes hound tired. Set up a scratching post in the high traffic areas of the house. I’d also visit the veterinarian and investigate pharmacological intervention. Your vet will likely be familiar with this condition and know some of the drugs but just in case do a little research of your own or write me for more details and you can go in armed with enough data to give the process a kick start. Don’t expect results overnight either. Chart your progress over a 12 week period and these sorts of drugs often take that long to kick in. A lot of pet owners are resistant to providing drugs to their pets for behaviour problem. I’m not even a big fan as I see far too many pets on behaviour modification drugs unnecessarily but if it is necessary I would no more deny my pet relief for this sort potentially life threatening problem then I would antibiotics for an infection of some sort.

Pawsitively Yours,

John Wade the Dog Trainer

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