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Our Cat Chews on Plastic

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Q: Sulley, our 4-year-old cat, has been chewing on plastic for years. He's particularly attracted to plastic bags (like sandwich bags). He isn't after the contents, just the bags. Sulley chews, but in the process has ingested plastic, which he usually vomits. On one occasion, the plastic formed a slight blockage, and he required hospitalization to remove it. Overall, we've been lucky so far. However, we're very concerned that it's just a matter of time before a more serious obstruction occurs, even though we do try to put all plastic away. Our vet and others have suggested rawhide chews (he has no interest), cat grass (which he vomited), Feliway to calm him (didn't work) and pepper sprays and repellants (didn't work). Can you help?

J.S.W., Menasha, Wis.

A: "This is a compulsive eating disorder,'' said veterinary behaviorist Dr. Nicholas Dodman, director of the behavior clinic at Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, North Grafton, Mass. "You are absolutely correct, this is a potentially life-and-death matter. While removing all plastic bags is important, what if you accidentally leave out a bag?''

Finding an alternative for your cat to chew is a pursuit to continue. Try moistening and gently microwaving the rawhide, or purchasing a chewy for cats, available at vet offices, called C.E.T. Also ask your vet for a sample of canine T/D, which some cats will munch on. All good ideas. However, Dodman makes this clear: "For this type of disorder, I suggest Prozac. In this instance, Prozac will likely work, and could save your cat's life.'' That's because Prozac can alter the cat's brain chemistry, thereby controlling the impulse to chew on and eat plastic. For these types of conditions, it's often necessary to have your pet evaluated by a veterinary behaviorist, especially before using drug therapy.

 

Credit: Reviewed by Amy I. Attas, V.M.D.
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