I have a 2-year-old neutered/ declawed Siamese cat. He bites the corners of all of our wood furniture throughout the house. Does he have some diet deficiency or is it a behavioral problem? My husband and I are both at home most of the day, and he gets a lot of attention. My girlfriend has a lot of cats on her farm and has never had any of them bite on furniture. She thinks it must be a diet deficiency.A:
From your description, it sounds like your cat is exhibiting a behavior called pica. This behavior needs to be taken seriously since biting, chewing and ingesting inedible objects such as the household furniture can result in life-threatening intestinal obstructions.
Pica behaviors can be caused by a number of factors, including dietary, medical or behavioral. It is important that you take your cat to his veterinarian for an evaluation. Often, veterinarians will prescribe medication along with behavior modification for cats suffering with pica challenges. A credentialed cat behaviorist will be able to provide you with both management and behavior modification recommendations that should help focus your cat away from his furniture obsession. These include: providing your cat with other more acceptable items to chew, a consistent schedule, more environmental enrichment and play.
Start by providing your cat with other more acceptable items to chew, such as safe, dental chew toys or cat-safe chicken or turkey jerky. It is important that the jerky contains no spices of any kind. Environmental enrichment will help divert your cat away from his chewing obsession as well. Provide your cat with lots of interactive toys he can’t chew and swallow such as TurboScratchers and other ball and tract toys. Puzzle boxes that he can’t munch are also good to use, since treats and other favorite items can be hidden in them; try a cat puzzle toy. Tall cat trees and lots of shelves located in different parts of the house will also help keep your cat occupied.
Putting your cat on a consistent schedule will also help refocus him away from eating the furniture. Feed him at the same times every day. If possible, feed him lots of small meals throughout the day. Timed feeding stations are commercially available that will dispense meals on a regularly timed basis. If he enjoys being groomed, then have regular grooming sessions every day at the same time. Typically, 2 ½ year old Siamese cats love to play. Use a fishing pole toy to engage your cat in at least two rigorous play sessions a day, once in the morning and another at night. Play in a way that imitates the hunt and will tire him out.
Clicker training, a positive-based training method, can also help to focus your cat away from the furniture.
By: Marilyn Krieger
Featured Image: Via Seth Goodman/Flickr