Why Cats Eat Wool, and How to Help

Posted on November 14, 2014 under Cat Training and Behavior

A cat sucks on wool yarn.

By Arden Moore, a certified dog and cat behaviorist with the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. Arden is an author, radio host, and writer for Pets Best, a pet insurance agency for dogs and cats.

Oriental cat breeds, particularly Siamese cats, are genetically at an increased risk for mouthing, sucking and chewing on wool clothing and other materials. Some also salivate and knead with their forepaws.

Sucking on wool as well as chewing and eating shoelaces, newspaper and plastic, are forms of a feline compulsive disorder known as pica, or the eating of inedible objects. This behavior can start as early as when a kitten is four months of age, but generally surfaces after age 1.

Besides the destruction of perhaps your favorite wool sweater or unread section of the daily newspaper, pica can be extremely dangerous for the health of your cat. Ingesting wool can lead to intestinal obstruction that can have fatal consequences if not treated immediately by a veterinarian who may need to perform abdominal surgery.

The primary two-prong treatment for this obsessive-compulsive disorder involves specific medications and behavior modification. In addition, some cats seem to benefit by being switched to high-fiber diets recommended by your veterinarian.

Medical treatment may call for giving the cat Prozac® with the goal of eventually weaning the cat off of this drug. Behavior modification strategies that work best include stepping up the cat’s activity level by exercising him or her with moving toys and flashlights as well as treat balls that they can paw at to release kibble.

Another strategy is to keep wool inaccessible to your cat. Strive to keep wool sweaters and socks in drawers, behind closed closet doors, and off the floor so that you’re not tempting your cat. If you use a wool blanket on your bed, top it with a bedspread made of cotton.

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