2001-Tue May 23 12:56:08 EDT 2017
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It's not just puppies who can ruin your favorite shoes — cats can do a surprising amount of damage by chewing. Kittens may chew when teething or just for fun, but adult cats have also been known to chew items around the house. And of course, cats of all ages might love to chew houseplants. Fortunately, there are ways to deter these unwanted behaviors.
One of the main reasons cats might chew on your belongings is because they're bored. One day it may be the plastic lids you neglected to put away, another day it may be your favorite hair clip and another it may be the old photo collection you were admiring on your desk.
Electric cords are one of the most dangerous things your cat can chew. Keep him safe by doing the following:
Houseplants are a natural enticement for many cats, but they can be dangerous. Some, like cacti, are dangerous just because they are pointy. Others, like amaryllis, caladium, Easter lily, dieffenbachia, ivy, mistletoe, philodendron and poinsettia can cause illness including vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, collapse or even kidney failure. Always check your plants' possible toxicity and place dangerous plants out of reach, or better, get rid of them. For non-poisonous plants that you wish to keep safe, place them out of reach or use the same precautions you did with cords: Make the area around them unappealing on which to stand, place motion detectors with alarms around them or spritz them with unsavory pet-deterring sprays. But, don't expect your cat to go without his vegetables. Instead, give your cat a safe source of greens on which to chew. You can buy pre-seeded boxes of cat-safe greenery, or make your own window box with wheatgrass and catnip.
A special kind of chewing seen in some cats appears to be a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). It can manifest itself as chewing or sucking on certain fabrics, particularly wool. Even the hair on your head can be fair game! Although any cat can have this behavior, a genetic component is suspected. Cats that are weaned too early seem more likely to develop this behavior as kittens. Many cats outgrow the fabric sucking/chewing behavior by a couple of years of age, but others retain it throughout life.
To discourage this behavior, try the same tactics you used to discourage other types of chewing: Place the preferred objects out of reach, slather the objects with bad-tasting substances, squirt the cat with water from a squirt gun when caught in the act and provide safer and more enticing toys and chew items to occupy your cat. If the behavior is a true OCD, however, these efforts may not work, especially if the behavior has already become habitual. In these cases, you may need to talk to your veterinarian about prescription drugs that help some cats with OCD. Your veterinarian may also refer you to a veterinary behaviorist, who can prescribe both behavior therapy and drug therapy.
Chewing any foreign object can be dangerous if a cat swallows any of it, possibly causing an intestinal obstruction. If you notice your cat has swallowed a large piece of anything, call your veterinarian.
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