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Animal Doctor: Rescued kitten has appetite for strange things

Animal Doctor: Rescued kitten has appetite for strange things

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Dear Dr. Fox: I rescued my kitten from the freeway two years ago. According to my vet, she was only 4 weeks old at the time. She is the strangest cat I have ever had.

She eats everything in sight, except for food — no people food, and not much canned cat food. She has eaten holes in my underwear, nightgown, socks, sweatshirts, bedspread, toilet paper, regular paper and cardboard. She has never seemed to have problems defecating, although it is dry. I have bought some feline vitamins; the directions say to give two, but I only give her one, and she gobbles it right up.

She follows me everywhere, so I know she loves me, but she is not an affectionate cat. When I try to pick her up, she growls and hisses. If I am lucky, I can pet her for about two minutes.

Most people would give up on her, but I care about her very much. Can you help me figure this out? My vet has never heard of a cat eating “things.” — J.J., Central Point, Oregon

Dear J.J.: Good for you for rescuing this little soul.

Her early food/nutrition deprivation could have triggered this compulsion to chew and swallow various materials, a condition called pica. She finds comfort in this activity, along with feeling full; the drive to experience satiety can have an addictive element.

It is important to keep all materials that could lead to intestinal blockage well out of her reach, as well as potentially toxic plastics. An abdominal radiograph or sonogram may reveal material accumulated in her stomach, which could call for surgical removal since it could disrupt normal food intake and digestion. Cats with large accumulations of fur balls in the stomach (often a result of excessive grooming) may also engage in pica and be malnourished as a consequence. Chronic gastric and intestinal irritation can lead to pica, possibly in an attempt to relieve the abdominal discomfort.

I would transition her onto my home-prepared cat food (see recipe at and feed her 6-8 heaped teaspoons daily. If she refuses this food (cats can be finicky), give her a good-quality canned cat food, along with freeze-dried cat foods from The Honest Kitchen and Stella and Chewy’s. Most cats do best on several small meals daily; think of mouse-sized portions. Weigh her initially, and then every three to four weeks. Over time, you can increase or decrease the amount of each serving to maintain her optimal weight.

Dear Readers: While much of the public discussions about the climate crisis have focused on the future of humanity, there is rarely a mention of the plight of animals, and the biodiversity intertwined with our own well-being.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund is mounting a lawsuit designed to compel federal action against climate change: Animal Legal Defense Fund v. United States of America.

In New Jersey, the average temperature has already risen 2 degrees Celsius — viewed as a critical threshold of climate change. As a result, blue-green algal blooms, potentially deadly to people and animals (particularly dogs), are plaguing the state. Similar blooms are happening in lakes throughout the country, and are linked to warming temperatures. Florida’s red tides have killed hundreds of manatees. On the West Coast, an exponentially high number of dead marine animals have been washing ashore, including gray whales and sea lions. Many are also dying from starvation.

For decades, the federal government has aided and incentivized greenhouse gas-producing industries like animal agriculture, logging and fossil fuel extraction. In addition to direct subsidies, the federal and state governments have exempted these industries from environmental protection laws regulating greenhouse gas emissions, water use and air quality.

This lawsuit, rooted in our Constitutional right to liberty, “would confirm that preserving wilderness should be the baseline for environmental protection,” said ALDF Executive Director Stephen Wells. For more details, visit Or mail a letter to: Animal Legal Defense Fund, 525 East Cotati Avenue, Cotati, CA 94931.

Send all mail to or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.

Visit Dr. Fox’s website at


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