Cats can try a variety of foods and even non-food-related items every now and then, but when they start eating dirt on a regular basis, you should feel a little concerned.
The most likely reason why cats will resort to this behavior is pica. And while pica can be a consequence of a pet’s body not getting the proper nutrients, it can also dangerously lead to behavioral complications.
In other words, cats can become used to eating ‘unnatural things’ so much that they might not be able to stop themselves in the future. Read on to find out more about why your cat eats dirt and how to fix it.
Reasons your cat is eating dirt
While some of them can be more or less complex, the most common reasons why cats end up behaving like this are listed below.
This syndrome is usually the result of changes in the cat’s routine. If you have recently changed homes and your pet hasn’t fully adapted to their new living space, they might start eating unusual things, including dirt, as a mechanism to try and cope with their anxiety.
Pica can also be the consequence of imitating behaviors that they have noticed in their family members. Kittens can start imitating their mothers or siblings if they see them eating litter or dirt, and it can be challenging for you to prevent it from happening.
Most of the time, ensuring that your cat is as stress-free and relaxed as possible is the best way of limiting this behavior.
As independent as they might seem, cats are social animals. This means that they thrive when interacting with other pets or you. Pet owners have to ensure that they spend at least 30 minutes per day playing with their feline companions for them to be content.
If your cat spends a lot of time on their own while you are away from home, sometimes up to 10 hours per day or more, they might get bored and develop pica as a result of that. Try to keep your pet entertained with plenty of toys, window beds, and play stations.
This is a medical reason why cats might begin to eat dirt, and it happens because intestinal parasites usually make it impossible for your cat to get the right amount of nutrients from the food that they eat.
Cats that have worms also tend to eat unusually large amounts of food in an attempt to cope with the fact that their parasites are actually consuming whatever they put in their mouths. So, if your cat is eating dirt, they might have a parasitic infestation.
In case you didn’t know, some cat breeds are more likely to develop such disorders because they are genetically predisposed to them. Two examples of breeds that have a higher chance of developing pica are the Birman and the Siamese.
They might start nibbling on unusual things ever since they are kittens, such as fabric or wool, and then move on to more dangerous things such as dirt or litter.
Getting your cat tested at the vet clinic is probably the best way of finding out the exact cause they tend to eat dirt. Blood tests can reveal if your pet has a vitamin or mineral deficiency (and the latter can be very common in animals that eat dirt or, worse, the paint on your walls).
In general, taking your feline friend to the animal hospital once or twice a year can lead to these imbalances being diagnosed even before your cat tries to cope as best as possible by developing pica.
Can eating dirt be dangerous for cats?
As you can imagine, it is not normal for a cat to eat dirt, but the fact that they are not getting the proper nutrition from it is not the only issue.
In fact, if your cat eats litter, rocks, or dirt, a digestive disaster is just moments away from happening. These items can cause intestinal blockages and complications such as occlusions, not to mention that they can also build inside your cat’s system along with the hair that they normally ingest as a part of their grooming routine.
Besides, the tiny particles in dirt can produce significant damage to your cat’s teeth. Cats don’t get to benefit from excellent oral hygiene anyway since cleaning their teeth is so challenging for pet owners that they often avoid the task altogether. But this can make it more severe.
Finally, dirt can contain a wide range of pathogens, whether that be bacteria or viruses, but it can also have parasite eggs.
So, if you are having any second thoughts about bringing your cat in for a check-up, if you’ve noticed that they are eating dirt, don’t. It’s just a way to make sure your cat doesn’t get a more serious health problem.
Preventing your cat from eating dirt
Making sure that your cat eats the best type of food you can afford is one of the first ways of preventing this behavior.
You should also devote as much time to interacting with your pet as you can and on a daily basis.
If your cat’s routine has changed significantly, whether as a result of you adopting another cat or changing homes, try to make the switch as easy as possible. Keep your cat entertained and relaxed and if you have to, get a feline diffuser to calm them down a bit. Catnip can help, too.
Keep your cat indoors only if you feel that this is what makes them eat dirt. Change your cat’s litter if you have to, especially if your pet doesn’t seem to have an interest in eating other types, like biodegradable paper varieties.
More importantly, take your pet to the vet on a regular basis to prevent them from getting vitamin or mineral deficiencies that could lead to this behavior.