After witnessing yet another frantic episode of “Chase your tail till you drop” I put in a call to the vet and we discussed options of meds. I don’t want this beautiful boy to stroke out on us during his whirling dervish moments so we decided to put him on Prozac and see how that goes. He started it last night and thankfully, I did not have to take him in for another office visit, we did it all over the phone. I know the drug will not kick in right away, so we still need to keep a watchful eye out on him. This morning when I woke up, I discovered that a soft snowman decoration I had lying on the table was the very latest victim of Tripps affliction. He’s been given some canned pumpkin with his food to help move things along. The snowman was given to me years ago by a dear childhood friend who passed away two years ago. I am sad for the loss, but more concerned that I didn’t see it as a threat or something he would want to chew- it’s 4 feet tall for pity’s sake!
I love this kitten so much and wish that I could just make this all vanish and let him live a normal life, but it looks like for now, that won’t be possible. Trying to make pill taking into a game for him so he won’t learn to dislike me in the mornings when he has to take his pill. At least the pills are tiny and easy to disperse.
I also reached out to the feline specialist who often works with us here and she in turn reached out to her extensive network of experts and sent them my initial email. I am copying what they sent over as possible (not cures) but help in this situation in case someone else who surfs over here looking for information about pica or OCD issues will also have this information-
While some of these picas may be compulsive disorders, and therefore may improve with drugs such as fluoxetine, I find that most of these cases are just highly enticed to chew and never seem to learn the consequences. As Margie suggested there is nothing earth shattering – prevention in a safe confinement area when the owners are not around to supervise and providing a regular daily routine with social play toys and multiple foraging toys (instead of meal feeeding) may reduce the time spent searching out other objects. Also as Margie suggested bitter tastes or protectants on areas that might be chewed and a variety of orally stimulating chews (try some t/d or dog toys). I find that in the long run most of these cats are managed best by having a safe area when owners are not around and offering more small feedings of canned foods stuffed in toys and other orally stimulating food and toys.
Do be sure to do a thorough medical work up as upper GI pain or oral pain can trigger pica. Keep a diary to track diet and specific enrichment and the effects. Many pica cats are very social and social enrichment can be helpful–screen for concurrent behavioral conditions such as separation related distress. Try clicker training, and other social enrichment. Hide lots of interesting things for him to find, and as long as we can be certain he gets his daily ration, feed meals in toys.
As for dog chews, I have not had much success personally with fabric chewers liking hard chews. But to directly answer your question: Wholesome Hide makes thin rawhide chews that would be suitable. Clients may consider a raw bone (chicken wing) balancing risk of zoonotic disease and cat possibly choking with risk cat will fatally obstruct on fabric. Tough call there.
Clomipramine or fluoxetine would usually be the drugs of choice if you decide to use medication.
We just had a presentation at the Veterinary Behavior Symposium last Friday on pica in cats and 7 of 7 had GI dz diagnosed with GI workup and biopsies. Unfortunately many had one of the -cytic (don’t have my notes so can’t remember if lymphocytic or plasmacytic or which other one) enteritis and/or gastritis so were challenging to treat. Once in a blue moon fluoxetine (0.5mg/kg) ends up being helpful, but I usually find it and other behavior meds not that helpful.
While this may be compulsive / obsessive, or in response to stress, it may be normal but excessive exploration / oral activity, in which case drug therapy will not have an effect. However, the first consideration is that many cats with pica have underlying gastrointestinal disease.
Evaluate the social interactions, household and environment to insure that the cats behavioral needs are being adequately addressed (indoorpet.osu.edu, catvets.com) and to identify any stressors in the social relationships or environment. Provide greater opportunities for social enrichment (chase play, reward based training), and object play and exploration in an adequately cat proofed housing area including enriched feeding with food filled toys (foodpuzzlesforcats.com), and increased opportunities to chew including dental chews, dog chews and small pieces or shreds of fruits and vegetables (increased moisure, increased fiber). Also consider diet adjustment (high protein, low carb, canned).
If compulsive still a consideration, a trial of fluoxetine or paroxetine might be warranted.