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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Cat
Satisfied Customers: 29825
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 45 years of experience.
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why does my 19year old cat eat cat litter? How can I help

Customer Question

why does my 19year old cat eat cat litter? How can I help her?
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Cat
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 4 years ago.
Aloha! You're speaking with Dr. Michael Salkin

Eating cat litter is considered pica - an abnormal craving or appetite for ingesting non-food substances. There are quite a few causes of this behavior - most of which are likely to be present in such a geriatric cat as Bramble.

Gastrointestinal disorders, dental and oral disease, central nervous system disturbances such as brain tumors or hydrocephalus, electrolyte imbalances, metabolic diseases, and toxins such as lead can induce licking, sucking, chewing, and picas (ingestion of inanimate objects), licking of owners, and air licking. Picas may also be caused by excessive restriction of calories (i.e. weight loss diets) and any medical condition that could cause polyphagia (increased hunger). Licking, chewing, polyphagia, polydipsia, and picas can also be a side effect of drug therapy. In geriatric pets, repetititve behaviors including licking, chewing, and picas might be associated with brain aging and cognitive dysfunction.

I would first have a complete physical exam and senior/geriatric diagnostic panel of blood/urine tests run on Bramble. I suspect that multiple findings will be present that will explain her behavior. Hyperthyroidism, chronic renal insufficiency, and cognitive dysfunction (senility) top my tentative diagnosis list.

Please respond with further questions or concerns if you wish.