It is always the dog that gets the blame. In my approximately 10 years as a teacher, I have never heard anyone say “My cat ate my homework.” It was always the dog who ate the homework. But what if all the accused and convicted dogs got together, hired a good lawyer to have their cases reopened and reinvestigated, many would be surprised to know that many times that it was actually the cat who did it! Yes, cats eat homeworks too! At least the ones written or printed on paper.
Should I Be Worried?
If your cat ate paper, he is being a typical cat. Many cats love to shred, nibble and eat paper. It is likely the smell or texture or the sound paper makes that appeal to their senses. Eating small bits of shredded paper occasionally does not pose any real harm to cats. Cats are carnivores so they do not have the enzymes to fully digest the cellulose in paper, but small pieces eaten in small amounts infrequently usually just turn into mush in the digestive tract and gets passed out of the body along with the feces.
Too Much Paper Blocks the Gut
Paper eating, however, becomes a problem when it becomes more frequent and intense. When a cat eats larger and larger amounts of paper more often, this behavior becomes life threatening. Chemicals on some kinds of paper like ink, dyes, wax, bleaching agents and perfumes may be harmful if ingested frequently. The presence of substantial amounts of paper can cause an obstruction to the normal movement of food in the gut. Watch out for the symptoms associated with obstruction: vomiting, lethargy, loss of appetite, diarrhea or constipation, abdominal pain. Gut obstruction is an emergency so if you observe any of these symptoms, take your cat to the veterinarian immediately. Do not try to do induced vomiting at home without consulting with your veterinarian first. Prolonged obstruction can lead to severe dehydration and gut perforation which can kill your cat.
It Could Be Pica
Frequent, uncontrollable urge to eat paper could be pica. Pica is the persistent craving and compulsive eating of non-food items. This condition may be caused by any or a combination of the following factors: nutritional deficiencies, dietary imbalance, dental disease, medical conditions like problems in the gastrointestinal, endocrine and nervous systems, boredom, stress, anxiety, compulsive disorder and many more.
Take Kitty’s Mind Off The Paper
Eating small bits of paper from time to time out of curiosity may be normal but do not allow it to go out of hand. Engage your cat more frequently in interactive play and leave him toys that are safe and are both mentally and physically stimulating. Provide your cat with a secure home environment. If the paper eating activity persists, have your cat checked and work with your veterinarian in identifying the factors triggering this abnormal eating behavior and formulating a medical and behavior modification program to help curb your cat’s need to eat paper.
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