"Groundhog found fog. New snows and blue toes. Fine and dandy for
Valentine candy. Snow spittin'; if you're not mitten-smitten, you'll be
frostbitten! By jing-y, feels spring-y.”
The Old Farmer's Almanac
Welcome to February's Meezer Musings!
The Old Farmer's Almanac quote above for February seems very appropriate for the month we've just had. Weather-wise, it's been a time of mixed fortunes - snowed under for some, quite desert-like for others.
I don't much like winter but don't mind February because it's a short month with Valentine's Day in it and has the advantage of not being January, which I always think of as the bleakest month of the year. And, where I am, February usually brings the first green shoots of spring.
It has been a strange month, with freezing temperatures and heaps of snow, particularly in the USA, but here in the UK in recent weeks we've had above-normal temperatures and days that have felt very summer-like, with people sunbathing in parks and on beaches.
I wonder what the Old Farmer's Almanac would make of that?
So here we are at the end of February, it's nearly March and the days are already longer and lighter but, with only 28 days, February always catches me out so I'd better get on and get this newsletter out while it is still February!
Bandit, as I think I've mentioned before, wasn't always the easiest of cats and often tested my patience in all sorts of ways, but he never tried to eat anything that wasn't food grade.
I think that, because he'd been a stray, he was just so happy to
have seemingly unlimited access to lots of tasty food that it never entered his head
to try and eat anything else!
Other owners haven't been so lucky, and (even though the photo above is wonderful, and funny) having a cat who's in the habit of chewing or sucking unusual materials is no cause for laughter.
Of all non-food items, wool is probably the most common, but in addition cats have been known to chew cotton and other fabrics, curtains, blind cords, shoelaces, clothes, cardboard and paper, plastics, bubble wrap, cables and phone chargers, houseplants and even metal.
Eating non-food materials is a disorder known as pica.
In humans, pica has been linked to nutritional deficiencies, for example a lack of iron or zinc. To some extent this may also be the case in animals, but in cats, pica seems to be more of a behavioral condition, and it's still not clearly understood.
Siamese cats as a breed seem particularly prone to pica - I've seen a statistic that over 50% of cats with the condition are Siamese - and we've had several questions about pica over the years, like this one, a few years ago, from Mindy:
More recently, in January this year Natalie posted this on our Facebook page (and got some great replies and ideas - thanks to you if you were one of the responders.)
As you can see, a cat with pica causes desperation and anguish, not to mention chaos, and can be dangerous - not only to the cat's health, with many cats needing emergency surgery after swallowing something they shouldn't have - but also to their owners, especially where electrical flexes and cables are concerned.
There are some who say that pica occurs when kittens are separated too early from their mothers, and this may certainly be one cause, particularly in wool-sucking cats who find the sensation of sucking wool soothing.
But pica is also found in cats who spent the normal amount of time (around 13 weeks, for Siamese cats) with their mothers.
Other possible causes are the dietary deficiencies I mentioned above, other medical problems, genetic inheritance (pica sometimes runs in cat families) a cat's emotional make-up, boredom, and difficulty coping with stress.
If you have a cat with pica, the first, most practical thing to do is to make sure that whatever substance they're chewing isn't accessible, so remove all wool, fabric, plastic, etc. from out of their reach and chew-proof your house as much as possible.
Second, discuss the problem with your vet. They'll be able to do blood work to rule out any underlying medical conditions, and check for dental problems and nutritional deficiencies. Where the condition is stress-related, you may need medication for anxiety, such as Clomicalm or Prozac, which your vet will be able to help with.
Unfortunately, it's not always possible to remove everything chewable from your environment, as some cats are prone to chewing leather or cloth furniture, while others love electrical cables, and these and other items may need to stay where they are.
With these, you could try the 'bitter/yuck spray' mentioned by Mindy, also known as Grannick's Bitter Apple for Cats*. Some people have found this very effective - others say that it doesn't work at all for their cat.
*Note: There are a number of anti-chewing lotions and potions on the market. Grannick's products have been around for some time and are tried and tested, but I would always check with a vet before using this or anything like it.
Lemon juice can also be an effective deterrent. Cats are known to dislike the smell of lemons so for larger items like furniture, you could make up a solution of lemon zest and water in a spray bottle as long as your furniture is made of materials that are water-safe.
Electrocution is a very real danger for cats who chew flexes and cables and sadly I've heard of instances where this has actually happened.
Do-it-yourself solutions are to wrap the cables in foil (some cats don't like the feel of this in their mouths) or to coat the cable with orange or lemon oil, with other suggestions being mustard and Tabasco, or wrapping the cable in packing tape, with the 'sticky' part on the outside.
One of our readers, Lois, threaded the cords through the tubes from paper towel rolls, which worked for her.
For a more permanent and heavyweight solution, you could try some form of cable cover including CritterCord Cord Protector which is specially formulated for this purpose.
Finding a solution to your cat's problem will very much depend on its cause, and may take time. In addition to the ideas above, here are some further thoughts.
For anxiety and stress-related pica, try calming pheromone products (sprays or plug-ins) like Feliway, which have been known to help some cats.
To relieve boredom, make sure your cat has toys, climbing trees, playtime and attention. Puzzle toys with treats are good at keeping cats occupied, and catnip toys are popular with most cats.
If you have a cat with pica you may need to do a lot of detective work to determine the cause and stop the chewing, but with patience and determination it can be done. Good luck!
There was a poignant reminder this month from the Meezer McLocks Facebook group that it's been a whole year since the death of the group's founder, Jo McLaughlin.
Jo was generous, kind, and funny, as well as very human. A lovely person, she adored her cats and is much missed by everyone, but it's wonderful to see that the group she founded is thriving, and her cats, who are now being cared for by Jo's family and friends, are happy, healthy and adored.
I've often mentioned that I love AmyLyn Bihrle's artwork and this year I bought one of her calendars for the first time.
So as February gives way to March, I'll leave you with this image from the March page of AmyLyn's calendar, with its thoughts of green shoots and St. Patrick's Day, on March 17th.
I'll be back at the end of March when we'll be looking at Siamese cats and dental problems. In the meantime, have a great month!
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