Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Pica and Other Cat Eating Problems

By Kate Tilmouth

Most cat owners will notice from time to time that their cat decides for no apparent reason that they just don't like their cat food any more and won't eat it. This often completely puzzles a cat owner, as usually their cat just can't get enough of their so-called favourite food.

Everything a cat does, even if it is the strangest behaviour you've ever seen is always caused by something. It is never because they are being awkward or naughty and the secret to finding out why they no longer like their food is to look at it through the eyes of the cat. This way the cause is often much clearer.

The two most obvious reasons a cat may no longer want its food, is firstly has the food gone bad. Sometimes cat food can become tainted in its packaging, check to see if the can has any dents in it or if there is damage to the packaging in any way. Smell the food your self and see if there are any unusual odours or any mould on the food. Secondly, is the cat ill in any way? Sometimes bad teeth can cause problems or they have a stomach bug. A vet should check out any suspicions of illness immediately.

Other reasons why your cat won't eat its food are:

Getting food elsewhere - your cat may be catching its own meals if you live in an area where rodents are prolific. Or a neighbour could be feeding them. Cats have fairly small stomachs and need time between meals to digest their food. So a non-hungry cat may just be full.

Mating season - female cats when in season will go off their food naturally. So if you have a queen who stops eating but starts to display normal mating behaviour this is probably the cause.

Changes in situation - cats are renowned for being very fussy about change and they generally like their world to remain consistent. So even something as small as changing their feeding bowl or area can cause them to feel insecure about eating. Look around for little changes that may be causing your cat some concern.

Over feeding - In the wild cats choose to hunt and eat small rodents and birds. When you consider how much of a small meal this is, you may begin to realise that by providing your cat with a large bowl of food, you are providing too large a meal all at once. So when you see your cat eat a little then walk a way it's not that they are "off their food", it's because they want time to digest what they have just eaten. Unfortunately if the rest of the food is left to sit in the bowl all day it is likely become less appealing and the cat will not eat it. Most cats will self regulate their food intake like this but in some cases you will get a greedy cat who will stuff themselves with a large bowl of food leading to an overweight kitty. As a rule it's best to feed your cat small portions of food throughout the day to avoid overeating and wastage.

A less unknown fact about a cats appetite and feeding habits is that they have an inbred instinct to change their diet from time to time. This is a survival mechanism to prevent starvation in the wild if a particular food source disappears. This instinct is still present even in our domestic cats that have no worries of this. So from time to time a cat that normally loves to eat, say fish may suddenly only want chicken. From an owners point of view this is not only inconvenient but may also cause concern if their cat just won't eat it normal food. A solution is to always have some other flavour of food in stock for these occasions so that worries of ill health can be eliminated from the owner's minds.

A more serious eating problem known as Pica that some cats suffer from is a rather unusual condition where a cat will choose to eat non-food items. The most common substances are rubber, electric cables, fabric and wool. The cause of this unusual eating behaviour is unknown, although it is thought that it may be caused by under stimulation, in other words boredom. This is because most cases are reported amongst indoor cats, who do not have the normal cat stimulus of hunting, exploring and climbing etc.

At present there is no cure for Pica but as it is quite dangerous for cats to eat these substances, the main treatment is to make the substances they crave either inaccessible or taste very unpleasant. Whilst at the same time making their environment more stimulating and interesting, with toys, climbing frames and games. One such game is to hide small treats inside tubes or boxes, so that the cat has to seek them out and has to put some effort into retrieving them.

More cat health and cat care tips can be found at our site, a feline friendly community full of helpful advice and fun things to do to make sure you have a happy cat and a happy you.

Copyright 2007 Kate Tilmouth

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