As a cat owner, you may have noticed some peculiar behavior from your feline friend. One of the more puzzling actions that some cats exhibit is chewing on metal. This can be alarming to many pet parents, as it’s not only unusual but can also be harmful to the cat. So, why does this happen? There are several reasons why your furry friend might be gnawing on metallic objects, ranging from medical issues to behavioral quirks.
Understanding Feline Behavior
Cats are known for their curious nature and unique behaviors. Some of these actions are instinctual, while others may be signs of underlying health issues. According to Dr. Stephanie Borns-Weil, a veterinary behaviorist at Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, cats often engage in non-food chewing due to stress, boredom or even dietary deficiencies.1
Stress and Boredom
Cats can become stressed or bored just like humans do. In these cases, they may resort to chewing on objects around the house as a form of self-soothing or entertainment.2 If your cat is frequently left alone or doesn’t have enough toys or playtime, they may turn to chewing on metal items out of boredom.
In some cases, a cat might chew on metal due to nutritional deficiencies. This behavior is known as pica – the compulsion to eat non-food items.3 Pica can be caused by several factors including dietary deficiencies such as lack of fiber or certain minerals. If your cat is lacking certain nutrients in their diet, they might be compelled to chew on metallic objects.
Possible Medical Issues
If your cat’s metal-chewing habit is accompanied by other worrying signs such as weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, or changes in appetite or behavior, it may be a sign of an underlying medical issue. Conditions such as dental disease, gastrointestinal problems, or even brain tumors can lead to unusual behaviors like chewing on metal.4
Cats with dental problems may chew on objects in an attempt to relieve discomfort. Chewing on metal might provide a sort of relief for a cat with a toothache or gum disease.5 If you notice your cat drooling excessively, having difficulty eating, or showing signs of mouth pain along with the metal chewing, it’s time to consult with a vet.
Certain gastrointestinal issues can also cause cats to chew on non-food items. For instance, if your cat has intestinal parasites or is experiencing inflammation in the gut, they might start chewing on unusual items like metal.6
What To Do If Your Cat Is Chewing On Metal
If you’ve noticed your cat gnawing on metallic objects, it’s essential to take action. Not only could this behavior indicate an underlying health issue that needs addressing, but it can also be dangerous – sharp edges can cause injuries and swallowed pieces of metal can lead to serious complications.
- Consult with a vet: The first step should always be to consult with a veterinarian. They can perform a thorough examination and tests to rule out medical causes.
- Enrich their environment: If boredom is the culprit, providing more toys, interaction and mental stimulation can help curb the behavior.
- Address nutritional deficiencies: If the vet suspects a dietary deficiency, they may recommend changes to your cat’s diet or supplements.
- Remove metal objects: If possible, remove accessible metal items from your cat’s environment to prevent injury.
In conclusion, while a cat chewing on metal might seem strange, it’s important to remember that this could be a sign of an underlying issue. Whether it’s stress, boredom, nutritional deficiencies or medical problems, it’s crucial to address the root cause to ensure your feline friend remains healthy and happy. Always consult with a vet if you notice unusual behaviors in your cat and remember – prevention is always better than cure.
- Borns-Weil, S. (2016). Pica in Cats: Why Cats Eat Strange Things. Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. Retrieved from http://vetnutrition.tufts.edu/2016/03/pica-in-cats/
- Becker, M. (2013). Why Does My Cat… Chew Electrical Cords? Vetstreet. Retrieved from http://www.vetstreet.com/dr-marty-becker/why-does-my-cat-chew-electrical-cords
- ASPCA. (n.d.). Compulsive Behavior in Cats. Retrieved from https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/cat-care/common-cat-behavior-issues/compulsive-behavior-cats
- Becker, M. (2015). Why Does My Cat… Eat Weird Things? Vetstreet. Retrieved from http://www.vetstreet.com/dr-marty-becker/why-does-my-cat-eat-weird-things
- PetMD. (n.d.). Dental Disease in Cats. Retrieved from https://www.petmd.com/cat/conditions/digestive/c_ct_dental_disease
- PetMD. (n.d.). Inflammation of the Stomach and Intestines in Cats. Retrieved from https://www.petmd.com/cat/conditions/digestive/c_ct_gastroenteritis