By tooth and nail, indoor cats can cause tremendous household destruction. Some cats nosh on house plants and eat inappropriate materials such as dirt, leather and wool—a habit referred to as pica. Others resort to that old feline classic—using the furniture as a scratching post and the curtains as a jungle gym. Feline destruction can be handled by managing the problem, offering the cat more palatable options, and making former choices less rewarding. A combination of all three will solve most problems.
Taking the Bite Out
The first step in dealing with pica is a veterinary exam to rule out a physical problem such as a metabolic imbalance. After getting the go-ahead from your veterinarian, consider the following options for plant protection:
- Hang tabletop plants or put them in an off-limits solarium.
- Spray leaves with an anti-chew agent for plants, and attach balloons or double-stick tape to planters. Cats avoid sites of loud noises (popped balloons) or surfaces that are tacky to the touch.
- Satisfy your kitty's craving for fresh vegetation by making flats of catnip and wheat grass available to him/her.
The first line of defense with a cat who eats or chews non-plant items is to keep these objects in drawers, closets or closed containers. Distract the cat with plenty of his or her own playthings. Chewing inappropriate items may signal boredom and isolation, so try to increase exercise sessions and rotate toys every few days. Introducing a second cat as a playmate might also alleviate this problem, but this is only an option if you truly want a second cat. Bringing additional cats into a household can initially stress the existing occupant, and fighting, inappropriate litter box habits, nocturnal behaviors and even stress-related health disorders such as Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease can result.
You can also try combating pica by attempting to retrain the cat through dietary measures. Feed a premium-quality dry food with adequate fiber or a raw diet, and no other supplements or treats. At the same time, remove the former pseudo-food items for at least two weeks. After the requisite time period, douse the items with an anti-chew spray and reintroduce.