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Unusual Eating Habits in Pets
By Sherry Woodard
Cats and dogs will sometimes eat non-food items
such as rocks, dirt, clothing, rubber bands, or string.
This condition is called pica. Once ingested, some
of these items can produce life-threatening
blockages in the animal’s intestines and surgical
removal is sometimes necessary.
The cause of pica is unknown. These unusual
eating habits may be the animals’ attempt to
obtain nutrients lacking in their diet or may be
related to anxiety, boredom, or frustration. If you witness pica in your pet, speak
with your veterinarian. He or she will need to rule out medical causes and may have
recommendations for how to deal with the problem.
Since pica may be caused by boredom, offer your pet a wide variety of appropriate
toys, and try to prevent access to inappropriate items. Cats are often attracted to string,
rubber bands, and tinsel – all of which can be detrimental to your cat’s health if she
ingests them. Also, make sure your pet gets plenty of social interaction; some people
believe that pica may be a cry for attention.
Another type of pica behavior is stool-eating, called coprophagy. Coprophagy is fairly
common in dogs, but is rarely seen in cats. Dogs have been known to eat their own or
other dogs’ feces, and some dogs find cat feces quite delectable. Again, the causes are
unknown. There are some techniques that have been tried to eliminate this unsavory
behavior, but none seem to be consistently effective in resolving the problem.
One preventive measure is to pick up daily after your dog to minimize his opportunity
to eat his own feces. The dog’s food can be treated with MSG or commercial products
such as ForBid or Deter, which make the dog’s stool taste bad. Before using any food
additives, schedule a visit to your veterinarian to check for any medical cause and to talk
about the dog’s diet. Supplements or a diet change may help.
If your dog is eating your cat’s feces, install a baby gate in