Cat loves to chew plas­tic. How dan­ger­ous is that?

Miami Herald (Sunday) - - Tropical Sunday -

plas­tic is in ev­ery­thing!

This in­cludes table­tops, blinds, hair clips and plas­tic bags from the su­per­mar­ket. Why does he do this? Is he not get­ting enough of cer­tain vi­ta­mins and min­er­als in his diet? Can this be toxic? Please ad­vise.

A: “Pica” is the med­i­cal term we use to de­scribe the eat­ing of stuff that’s sim­ply not meant to be eaten. Why an­i­mals (and hu­mans) do it has al­ways been a sub­ject of in­tense de­bate in vet­eri­nary cir­cles.

Af­flicted pets are like Stewy. They’re per­fectly nor­mal ex­cept that they like to chew and some­times swal­low any­thing from hair ties to rocks. In cats, lit­ter and plas­tic are the most com­mon sub­strates con­sumed.

Is he hun­gry? Is he lack­ing nu­tri­ents in his food? Does he need more out­lets for his chew­ing drive? (Chew­ing be­hav­ior is not just for dogs.) Might he be suf­fer­ing from a true nutri­tional or psy­cho­log­i­cal dis­or­der?

The truth is that we don’t know. What’s more, the why of it prob­a­bly varies from pa­tient to pa­tient.

In all cases we have to ask the fol­low­ing ques­tions:

Is he re­ceiv­ing ap­pro

A pri­ate nu­tri­tion (calo­ries and nu­tri­ents)?

Is he suf­fer­ing from any A dis­cernible bi­o­log­i­cal im­bal­ance?

Is he al­lowed suf­fi­cient A op­por­tu­ni­ties to dis­play nor­mal chew­ing be­hav­ior?

Does he dis­play any

A other be­hav­ioral ab­nor­mal­i­ties that might be rel­e­vant to this one?

Is his health threat­ened A by this be­hav­ior?

The ap­proach here is to rule out any med­i­cal con­di­tions and fo­cus on the last ques­tion.

In Stewy’s case we first have to ask whether the plas­tic he chews on is toxic. Though plas­tic is in­di­gestible and as such isn’t toxic, at is­sue is whether it’s been treated with toxic sub­stances. Flame re­tar­dants, along with cer­tain dyes and scents (among other ad­di­tives) have all been found to be toxic to cats. As such, cats should never chew on plas­tics that haven’t been deemed pet safe.

Per­haps even more con­cern­ing, per­haps, is the pos­si­bil­ity of gas­troin­testi- nal ob­struc­tion. Cats who eat lin­ear ob­jects, such as plas­tic hair ties, are es­pe­cially at risk of life-threat­en­ing ob­struc­tions, as these can cut through the del­i­cate lin­ing of in­testines as they bunch up in­side them.

What to do? Pro­vide plenty of cat-ap­proved play­things as bore­dom is a big fac­tor in these cases. But, most of all, plas­ticproof your home!

Dr. Patty Khuly has a vet­eri­nary prac­tice at Sun­set An­i­mal Clinic in South Mi­ami. Her web­site is dr­pat­tykhuly.com. Send ques­tions to khu­[email protected]­south.net.

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