Why do cats attack yarn

The pica syndrome in cats - when the house tiger eats plastic

If your house tiger no longer only eats its cat food, but also inedible items such as plastic, cloth, hair ties and the like, then your four-legged friend probably suffers from the so-called "pica syndrome". Since these things cannot be digested by the sensitive cat's stomach, the consequences are often life-threatening.

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Unusual eating disorder

Pica syndrome is a form of eating disorder in which substances are sucked in, licked or ingested that are not suitable for consumption. This can range from sand to paper and textiles to plastic, which is licked, chewed and swallowed by the affected four-legged friends. The unusual syndrome usually occurs within the first year of life of the house tiger and can persist for several years. But not only our pets are affected. Pica syndrome also occurs in humans, especially small children. The name "Pica" is derived from the Latin name for magpie, which - also known as the "thieving magpie" - likes to collect all kinds of things.

Causes unclear

Although pica syndrome in cats has been known for over 40 years, the exact causes are still not entirely clear to this day. A possible cause could be physical deficiency symptoms, which trigger the feeling in the cat that substances such as wool, clothing or plastic are exactly the food they need to compensate for the deficiency. Some experts suspect another cause of heritable obsessive-compulsive disorder. Studies have shown that breeds like Siamese and Burma cats are more likely to be affected by the disease than others. In addition to the physical and genetic causes, the psyche of our velvet paws plays a decisive role, because the pica syndrome occurs predominantly in cats with behavioral disorders. Reasons for this could be boredom, stress, loneliness or too little attention. Affected animals were also often separated from their mother too early.

Dangerous consequences

Not every swallowed foreign body is inevitably dangerous for the four-legged friend. In the best case, it will be eliminated again and the whole thing will turn out lightly for the house tiger. Depending on the foreign body, gastrointestinal injuries and even life-threatening intestinal obstruction may occur. If the cat has swallowed a foreign body, a veterinarian must always be consulted. This: r can then also check for possible underlying diseases such as anemia as well as liver and kidney damage, which can also be the reason for the cat's unusual eating behavior.


To protect a cat with pica syndrome, all inedible objects that are nibbled on should be kept out of reach. In some cases behavioral therapies or psychotropic drugs are even required, which can only be decided by the vet. In particular, owners should spend more time with the affected cats and keep them busy more often. Since an apartment is usually not as attractive as the outside world, a home designed to be exciting for cats can also help prevent boredom.

This article has been reviewed by veterinarian Melanie Ahlers.

Photo: © E-LEET / Adobe Stock