09.20.10ii: ask kidchamp, round II {goat-cats, turf wars, research}

dear @kidchamp, why does my cat eat the shower curtain, and most importantly, how can i get him to stop?

it could have something to do with the fact that he's a siamese; like people, some cats have pica (that is, the compulsion to eat non-food items). check this out:
Anecdotally and in studies, Siamese cats seem most prone to pica, especially with woollen items. There are reports of Burmese cats being attracted to electrical cables (possibly attracted to plastics). This indicates a genetic predisposition.

In one British study of 152 fabric-eating cats, 55% were Siamese, 28% were Burmese, 6% were "other Oriental" and 11% were other breeds or randombred cats. Pica also ran in families with over half the owners reporting that their cats' siblings also ate wool or fabric. 93% started with wool and moved on to other fabrics. 64% also ate cotton. 54% ate synthetic fabrics. The wool-eating typically began between the ages of 2 and 8 months (a time period encompassing weaning and puberty) and there was no gender bias. In some cases, the habit was so established that owners had no choice but to provide an old garment for the cat to chew.
i'm guessing your shower curtain isn't made of wool, but the breed thing is crazy, no? steve's days of being left alone with my pendleton blankets are over, i tell you. health conditions like hyperthyroidism (which is common in older cats) can also cause increased appetite; is that a possibility? if your guy's due for bloodwork (cbc/superchem, which should be annual for all cats over the age of about 6; it's not a cheap panel, but it's thorough and vital), that could give you an answer. if he's healthy, it could simply be that he likes the sensation of chewing plastic (many cats do), or that he's bored; in that case, nastify your shower curtain with a taste deterrent like bitter apple or bitter cherry. some cats are also repelled by strong smells like lavender and lemon verbena, but they can't metabolize essential oils, which can be extremely toxic; since you're dealing with unwanted eating, not scratching or spraying, i'd stick with explicitly veterinary stuff.

how many months till we consider the blended cat family a success or total failure? must we always hurdle this baby gate?

A: honestly? twelve. i've caught chuck and steve sleeping together a grand total of twice since we adopted steve this past february - and chuck has always shared his house with another cat, and steve was about ten weeks old when we brought him home. your cats are used to being alone, and they're both adults; given that they've only shared space for a few months now, it'd be pretty shocking for them to have accepted each other already. if you actually do have a baby gate, take it down; unless they're drawing blood when they interact, they should be in the same space. have you tried the commingling-their-stinks-by-brushing-them-with-the-same-brush trick? we found that one particularly useful when jude would come home from the vet smelling like an alien.

what's the strangest fact you've ever had to check?

A: ah, fact checking. while i've never had to confirm that bill murray has a glass of warm milk before bed or that luke perry's house is haunted ("are you dead people?!"), i have lost valuable hours of my life trying to find, like, definitive spellings of celebrities' pets' names. i was once asked to figure out what happened to the maya, and i had a fedora and a big old bullwhip all picked out for myself by the time the question was rethought and retracted. probably the strangest thing i've actually had to check was whether or not it's possible for someone to be suctioned to an airplane toilet. (it's not.)


Celia said...

that is the best answer i could have possibly gotten.  thank you, lauren... you truly are my hero.  xoxox

jamie said...

i am *so* impressed by your answer to celia's question. when she asked it i thought, "oh, and lauren has *so much* experience with this!" then followed by, sadly, "but what advice could she possible give?" little did i know.