If you notice your cat chewing on metal objects such as jewelry, zippers, or little trinkets you leave lying about, this may be a concern due to the associated risk of ingestion, which can cause internal damage to your cat.
Naturally, cats are not supposed to chew on metal objects; they would not taste good, so there must be other reasons for this behavior that you will need to figure out in order to prevent it from happening again.
The most common reasons your cat might chew on metal are feline pica, nutrient deficiency, a behavioral disorder, or predatory instinct.
In this article, we will discuss each of these reasons, as well as how to keep your cat from chewing metal in the future. So, if you are currently experiencing this problem and wish to learn more, just keep on reading.
Why is my cat chewing on metal?
Pica is defined as the desire, craving, or consumption of non-edible objects. Plastic, wool, paper, and metal are all possible materials your cat might crave. This behavior may be used to alleviate pain, relieve stress or anxiety, entertain, or supplement a diet lacking in an essential nutrient.
A cat suffering from pica might consume a wide variety of non-edible items, such as wool, plastic, litter, cardboard, paper, and even rubber. You might find your cat chewing on objects like shoes, or anything else that is lying around.
Pica is most commonly seen in kittens and young cats, but it can occur in older cats as well. It is more prevalent in Siamese cats than in any other breed.
There are several medical issues associated with pica, including behavioral disorders, which means that this could be a habit your cat picks up when bored or irritated, among other things. It could also be associated with certain illnesses, such as hyperthyroidism, leukemia, anemia, and diabetes, which are common in cats. Furthermore, it is believed that this syndrome can be caused by dental issues, in which case the cat may bite hard objects to relieve gum pain.
Even though cat food typically includes a complete range of nutrients for a feline to maintain a healthy, well-balanced diet, it is possible that the food may not provide enough energy to support the activity and lifestyle of certain cats.
Bengal cats, for example, require more protein than other cats because they are high-intensity, high-activity animals. If they do not eat enough of this major food group, they will get insufficient iron and other micronutrients, and this might cause the cat to seek them out in other, non-edible, items. This can result in bizarre cravings and behaviors.
It is also possible that the irregular formulae of commercial cat foods are a contributing factor to nutrient deficiencies in cats. Cat owners rely on pet food companies to provide a well-balanced meal for their cats; however, you may not be aware of the actual processing and ingredients that go into the food you are feeding your cat.
It is important, therefore, that when you select a brand of food, you should ensure that the company is reputable and authentic, and employs nutritional experts.
Your metal-obsessed cat may also be suffering from a compulsive disorder which, if not addressed, can result in unusual and extreme behavior. A cat suffering from such a disorder could be triggered to engage in such behavior by anything – not just metal or jewelry. This behavior occurs for no apparent reason, yet the cat cannot seem to help itself when exposed to the triggers.
If your cat is displaying compulsive behavior, it is always best to consult an expert for appropriate treatment.
Jewelry items such as rings, watches, and other metal objects can make excellent toys, from a cat’s perspective. This may be completely normal: the cat is attracted to these objects because they are shiny and therefore catch his attention.
Cats are naturally inquisitive creatures, so if their interest is piqued by a piece of jewelry or another shiny object, they will want to investigate further. Moreover, the glistening of certain metal objects could even be mistaken for the eyes of prey at first glance, and this will awaken a cat’s predatory instincts and cause it to hunt the object.
How can I keep my cat from chewing metal?
Biting of any sort should be discouraged. Below are some tips you can try to stop your cat from chewing on your jewelry or other household objects:
- Use positive reinforcement, whereby you give your cat rewards whenever it obeys your instructions.
- Use deterrent sprays. These work especially well for biting, which has the potential to be extremely destructive. And, although your cat will hate the smell of these sprays, they are actually quite pleasant to the human nose.
- It is possible that your cat is biting to relieve dental pain. If this is the case, you could try providing chew toys to relieve gum pain and clean the teeth simultaneously. Rubber toys are particularly good for this.
- Correct the cat verbally with a high-pitched reprimand, or, as it is about to bite, to divert its attention away from the object.
- Purchase some interactive toys to keep the cat entertained because cats often bite and chew as a way to pass the time when they are lonely or bored.
- Keep all of your valuables and jewelry out of reach and well hidden.
How can my cat be diagnosed with a behavioral disorder?
When trying to figure out what is causing your cat’s strange cravings and behavior, it is important to be extremely observant of the situation. Pica and other compulsive disorders may present with similar symptoms, but there is a distinct difference between the two.
Pica symptoms in cats typically manifest as more intense or aggressive chewing and biting behavior. It is almost as if they are extremely hungry and are gulping down food. It will appear as though the cat is attempting to fill a need that is not currently being met. The non-edible object will not only attract your cat’s attention and cause it to lick it; the cat will also chew and swallow the item. A number of cat owners have even claimed that they can hear the intense force with which their cats’ back teeth pierce through the objects.
When a cat is bored, stressed, or depressed, it is quite common for behavioral disorders to manifest. These can result from a variety of different circumstances.
You must examine both the patient and the circumstances in order to reach an accurate diagnosis. Look at the cat’s environment, including any dangers, voids, or omissions that may force it to seek coping methods. Changes in the cat’s routine, such as a change in food, mealtime, litter box position, or a lack of food, can be stressful for the cat. Any new additions to the cat’s life, such as new family members, relocation to a new home, or a new sleeping or play area, should also be noted. External stressors include things the cat might have seen outside, a neighbor who has spooked the cat, or other factors that are beyond the cat’s control.
If the cat does not have access to a play area or a way to burn off excess energy, it will likely resort to other forms of exercise and entertainment. Chewing, biting, fidgeting, and other mischiefs are all examples of compulsive behavior.
Depression could also be a contributing factor, particularly in pregnant cats or those who have lost their kittens, or cats who have been given away by their owners. Postnatal depression can develop in mother cats as a result of separation from their kittens.
Biting problems can also be caused by dental issues. Cats suffer from the dental disease at an alarmingly high rate, and some common problems include gingivitis, periodontitis, and tooth resorption. Cat owners should practice good dental hygiene and use the correct tools to care for their pets’ teeth. A good feline toothbrush can help remove plaque and food remnants from the teeth; a cat-friendly toothpaste is mild but effective, free of additives, and promotes healthy teeth and gums.
These oral diseases can cause severe pain and discomfort to the cat’s teeth and gums if they are not treated properly. The cat may seek out textured objects such as jewelry, metal, and other similar items that can soothe their gums and provide relief. However, biting and chewing, in this case, are not constant; the cat will only seek to bite and chew things when it is in pain.
If your cat is exhibiting any of the abovementioned strange behavior, it is a good idea to observe him for a few days before consulting your veterinarian and providing him with any pertinent information you have gathered. This will assist him in determining a possible diagnosis and initiating a treatment plan as soon as possible. If he finds that the problem is not medical in nature, he may refer you to a behavioral expert.
What can I do to help my cat if he is diagnosed with pica?
While your cat is being treated by a veterinarian or a behaviorist, you can make some adjustments to aid his recovery from the medical issue or habit, depending on what the veterinarian or behaviorist has determined.
While the expert may have prescribed a recovery plan that includes specific therapy and treatments, the environment in which your cat lives can make or break the recovery process.
Get your cat some chew toys to keep him entertained. Even regular cats bite and chew on things; it is just in their nature to do so.
For added protection when wearing jewelry, spray it with a citrus-scented product that will deter your cat from biting it. This product can also be used to protect furniture from being scratched and is also useful for training purposes. Cats are not fond of the smell of citrus and will avoid interfering with your jewelry if it has this smell.
Remove any small and loose objects lying around that your cat may have mistaken for food in the past. This might include plants, decor items, plastic wrappers, cardboard, and so on.
Many cats seem to enjoy chewing on cords, possibly because they are rubbery. Make an effort to organize your cords, bundle them, or tape them together. You can also get rid of any appliances that are no longer necessary, and use a rug to conceal cords that are running across the floor where possible.
Ensure that your cat’s daily routine includes time for play. Allow some time to spend together, even if it is only a few minutes at a time, and when he does something right, give him a treat; this will encourage positive behavior.
Be patient and give your cat plenty of time to adjust; this will give him reassurance.
If you notice your cat chewing on metal objects around your house, treat it as a serious issue because he may ingest something that causes internal damage.
Cats may chew on metal or other non-food objects if they have feline pica, a nutrient deficiency, a behavioral disorder, or are acting on their predatory instincts.
To prevent your cat from chewing on metal, you can either train him using positive reinforcement, use cat deterrent sprays on the things he likes to chew on, provide chew toys to entertain him and hide the metal objects from him. If you think there is an underlying medical condition driving this destructive behavior, you might consider seeking the services of an animal behaviorist.
The safety of your cat must be of utmost priority; the chewing, biting, and possible ingestion of metal must be corrected to ensure the cat’s health and well-being.
Correcting this habit may take a long time, so arm yourself with lots of patience and understanding for your cat’s sake.
Image: istockphoto.com / MihailUlianikov