Dear friends, this is a different blog post…. We usually write articles about nutrition and health, but this one is personal – this is the story of my own journey against this horrible disease.
Only those who have a cat with PICA know how devastating this disease is. Unlike any other, there is nothing you can do to prevent or foresee it – it can happen anytime, with horrible consequences.
I decided to write this post as up to now, I really hadn’t heard of a permanent solution, a “cure” for feline PICA… But then a small miracle happened – or was it? We beat it! And I feel I must share our experience as if we can help even one kitty out there…. All she went through might make sense…. Might have been worth it.
Without further ado, here is our story –
Blanket was found on the streets, either abandoned by her mom, or someone, but either way – she came to me as a malnourished soon to be bottle baby – itty bitty, and full of spunk!
It didn’t take much to get her going though – aside from tiny, she wasn’t ill, and good food would bring her to great health. She was quickly transitioned to EZComplete and had a voracious appetite. She grew into a gorgeous, healthy little kitty!
One day, when she was a little over one year old, I went out of town and upon my return I noticed that my blanket (how’s that for “well” chosen name?!) had holes in it! LOTS of holes! I didn’t know what had happened, and started watching all my cats like a hawk.
That’s when I caught Blanket eating my couch – yep – the couch. She had already made a huge hole in it and was already munching on the stuffing!
Little by little she started to eat everything – her favorites were cloth items – blankets, sheets, couch, towels, pants, shirts…. But she also ate my wall, the wooden cat tree, my mattress... There wasn’t a way to “keep things away from her” – because that meant not having a bed, a couch, clothes, mats, or even walls.
Vet trips were done, but there was absolutely nothing wrong with her – she was the picture of health… Which was both good and bad news…. Good because of course you want a healthy baby! Bad because medically there wasn’t anything I could do.
There were theories about how kitties that are abandoned by their moms can develop PICA…. Some people found help by adding lanolin oil to their food, as in some cats this seems to be what is called “Wool suckling pica”, and by replacing this component of the wool – lanolin, you might be able to help to curb the craving... I did that, and I thought it was helping…. If it was, it wasn’t enough.
I also did the best I could to redirect her chewing to Lamb Ears chews – while she DID love that, I wasn’t able to make her chew on that 24x7.
Blanket’s first hospital stay with a blockage was on 10/21/2016 – she was 16 moths old. She started hacking and threw up what I came to call a “thing-ball” (Thing-balls were much like hairballs, but made up of things instead of hair). From that point on, she wouldn’t keep food down anymore, and would just keep vomiting.
Off to the vet we go – X-rays are done, which show a pattern of gas, but are somewhat inconclusive. Since she went to the vet very early, she spent all day on fluids and getting X-rays to see the progression of the blockage – she finally passed it, and we dodged a major bullet.
Three months later, on 01/07/2017, Blanket passes another thing-ball and starts throwing up. I immediately take her to the ER, who tells me she isn’t blocked, and has gastritis – they want to keep her IV and antibiotics. I ask them to see the X-Rays. There it was, her stomach and intestinal tract all full of gas – when I brought that up, the vet said that nope – that wasn’t a blockage. No one in the ER would do anything other than leave her on fluids/antibiotics.
I took her home with me, as I KNEW that was a misdiagnosis, to wait for my vet on Monday (This was Saturday).
On Monday, at 7am I was on my way to my vet. There was no doubt that was a blockage when my vet saw the x-rays, and the radiology report confirmed the location for the exploratory surgery.
Blanket had ingested a piece of my exercise pants made of Dri-fit, and it had absolutely devasted her gut tract – it was as though she had ingested acid – her gut was paper thin, totally corroded.
A few days later, while Blanket was still in the hospital, my other cat Bugsy started having very similar symptoms…. Which was strange, since Bugsy doesn’t have PICA.
Misdiagnosis after misdiagnosis, to make a long story short, it turns out that Blanket had eaten my pants, thrown up half of it, and since she eats raw meat, Bugsy thought it was a nice lunch – yuck! Ate the meat, along with the other half of the pants that she had thrown up, and ended up blocked too. Now I had her on my vet, and him going through Emergency exploratory surgery at the ER, at the same time (I only foud what happened after Bugsy's surgery, when the ER vet scooped up the other half of the cloth).
Fast forward to August 2017, seven months later. Blanket again tosses out a thing-ball, and I immediately go off looking for what it could be – I find my shorts, with a huge hole she had eaten (picture on the right). She starts again, throwing up violently. Luckily a day at the vet on fluids made her pass that one – another bullet dodged!
November 01, Blanket hacks and violently throws up dinner. I immediately knew that was bad. Decided to fast her and leave a message to my vet saying we were coming first thing in the morning with a blockage.
Sure enough – Blanket was blocked, and another exploratory surgery was in order. This time she had eaten the tip of my winter glove. It took me weeks to realize that she had fished this glove through a 1” opening on my dresser and eaten the tip of it. That-is-how-bad-she-was.
Anyways, as she is recovering from surgery at home, not even a week later, I catch her eating a bath towel.
I immediately picked up the phone and made the call to her vet that would forever change our lives.
First, I explained to him that I had just caught Blanket eating a towel, and that I was afraid for her life – it was much too soon to have another surgery. Then I said I needed him to keep a very open mind, as that had not been done before – but I had my reasons to think it would work.
He met with all the vets in his practice, and all but one agreed with me and him. We scheduled the surgery for as soon as possible, and that day couldn’t come soon enough!
The days leading up to that surgery were excruciating – walking on eggshells doesn’t quite explain what I was feeling. Every day she didn’t hack, every day she didn’t block, was a victory…. And then finally, the day arrived!
I had all these feelings within me – guilt, sadness and relief. Guilt and sadness because I knew I was putting her through pain, and couldn’t explain to her why she was going through that yet again <3…. Relief because if that worked, she would never go through that again! I was finally looking forward to sleeping a full night without the fear of her eating something that could potentially kill her….
Blanket did great through surgery, and the 4 large molars and 4 large pre-molars were removed.
We came home, she ate a meal, and few hours later, something very interesting, very telling, happened:
Blanket jumped on the coffee table and incessantly started to look for something to chew. She was completely OCD – desperate. She finally found a dried lamb ear that I had hidden from her, as I was scared of being too rough on her stitches…. Since she was so desperate, I gave it to her and she ran away to chew on it. My instincts kicked in, and I decided to give her a dose of buprenex – that was just too strange... She was just too desperate to chew on something. As soon as the bupe kicked in, she stopped chewing. And that was the last time she chewed on something – the last time.
Folks, Blanket’s PICA wasn’t OCD – it was PAIN.
Even though there was nothing that could be seen through X-rays, and she had no teeth/gum disease, she was in pain, and she chewed to relieve that pain. That became SO clear when I gave her Buprenex and she stopped chewing! And of course as clear as day now, that her teeth are gone, and so is the behavior.
I wasn’t expecting this – I was expecting her not to be able to rip and tear the cloth material…. But the behavior itself is gone.
In hindsight, it all makes sense…. Babies chew to relieve the pain of teething…. Kids with braces chew gum for pain relief…. Why wouldn’t cats?
The issue with cats is that as obligate carnivores, their teeth are made to rip and tear – unlike us that chew in and up and down motion, they chew back and forth – and when they rip, their tongue hooks complete the job in aiding them swallowing whatever they are chewing. The damage is done.
Friends, I don’t know if this is a solution for someone else other than us…. But after going through what we have gone through, I can’t imagine why it’s not possible to think that this might be a physical problem, instead of purely a behavior problem – honestly.
My Blanket is not, by any means, a stressed out kitty – she isn’t OCD in anything else – she has no reason to be. She displays no signs of any OCD behavior – why PICA? Why are all these cats suffering from PICA? Why is no one out there considering the possibility of pain?
I know this might be seen as a radical solution – trust me, I was well judged when I shared this idea in an online group, and I might be judged now – but to me, it was far more radical to know that she would be going through a life of one exploratory surgery after another – she simply wouldn’t survive.
It might be too soon…. But this is the longest she has been without chewing on something…. Her recovery was very quick, and she didn't skip a beat. As for me? I am finally able to sleep through the night knowing that when I wake up she won’t be blocked. Walking on eggshells is finally behind me.
You finally won the battle of wills with your cat, transitioned him to a raw diet, and all of the sudden you prepare his meal with a whole bunch of love and care only for him to sniff it and turn around – What a slap on your face you think! What happened? It’s the same food he was devouring yesterday!
Cats! You think… Raw food made my cat sick!... Hunger strike! You think... He’s Just super finicky, or he’s playing a game on me! Or he doesn’t like the food anymore… You are at a loss.
There are several possibilities to consider when a cat stops eating, especially when transitioning to a raw diet:
The first, and the most important thing to do is to rule out illness.
Prior to transitioning to a raw diet, most pet parents are accustomed to feeding their cats the same food meal after meal, sometimes for years, and their cats never get bored – so they naturally think it will be the same way with raw.
It is no coincidence that kitty never gets tired of kibbles. Kibbles, and many canned foods are meticulously “engineered” to keep your kitties eating them, by being coated with fat, having chemicals and flavors added to it that are both irresistible and downright addictive. If that was not the case, pets would not eat processed foods.
Transitioning your pet from kibbles or even canned to raw is the equivalent of transitioning an adult human, a lot of times even a senior citizen, who has only eaten highly processed foods from a can, package, or a bag his entire life to a healthy diet of salads, veggies, fruits and low fat meats. Not an easy task. It can take time, patience and perseverance…. But it’s absolutely the best thing you will ever do for your cat’s health, and a very rewarding experience for you too!
Keeping in mind that the beginning can be difficult, and sometimes it will seem you are taking two steps back and one forward, always remember two key things: This is not a race, it’s a journey, and to never, EVER starve a kitty into a new diet. If kitty is not eating and you must take a step back in the transition, take a deep breath, take a step back, and move forward. There is nothing wrong with it – as long as you keep moving in the right direction and don’t give up, you will get there!
With that said, now that you have taken that step, what can you do to keep your cats interested on raw?
VARIETY. Variety is key in keeping your cats eating a raw diet long term.
You should aim to have at least three proteins on your cats’ diet – that will provide them not only with a well-rounded nutritional profile, but will keep them from getting bored.
Once you transition your cat to raw, immediately start using that protein as a base using the slow transition technique to add a second protein to the kitty’s diet. You can then use both proteins as a base to slowly introduce a third protein to the diet.
When you have introduced all the proteins, you can switch them back and forth.
How often should you rotate proteins?
I personally rotate proteins at every meal – my cats never eat the same protein twice in a row. While EZComplete is considered almost a topper by most cats with the dried liver, GLM and yolk, variety is still essential in keeping my cats happy, and has yet to fail me in all these years.
You can also rotate daily, or every few days, but in my experience the more often you rotate, the more successful you will be in keeping your cats anxious for the next meal, and licking their plates clean.
Try a different texture - Many cats also get introduced to raw on ground meats, and stop eating... Then they are offed a chunk of meat and voila! That happened to our Food Fur Life Cats… Pretty much all of them! So if your cat is currently eating ground meat and no longer wants the food, try giving a little chunk of meat and see what happens. It might be time to take your kitchen scissors out of the drawer!
Offer a plain meal - Also part of our variety, is once a week they get one or two completely plain meals – yep – no supplements, nothing! Meat only. That makes them love both the meat and EZComplete even more!
Use healthy toppers - If you still have problems, and we all do from time to time, you can always rely on healthy toppers to entice your cat to eat. In my home, chicken is not a favorite for my cat Lucky, and I have to admit, she is a master manipulator (anyone here can relate to that?) – so from time to time I do rely on her favorite treat as a topper, which….. you guessed it – is Freeze Dried Chicken! I just lightly sprinkle it over her meal, and she licks her plate clean.
The Importance of a Routine
It’s also very important to note that cats are creatures of habit – that’s not a myth. Establishing a routine for them from the beginning is very important – from a feeding schedule, to their eating places, and even to their own plates. A set routine will impact your chances of success greatly.
Before feeding raw, I had the hardest time to feed even half an ounce of wet food to any of my cats – I would have to crawl under the bed for one, spoon feed another on the top of the cat tree… Let alone the food had to be made into a slurry on a blender and warmed up just so, otherwise they would not even consider it! Think I am lying? Watch the video below of me spoon-feeding Bugsy! This was mainly due to two things - feeding kibbles along with wet, and having no routine.
One of the most valuable advice I have ever gotten, and I got MANY, was to establish a routine right off the bat when transitioning to raw – I believe that was essential for my cats being the happy carnivores they are today. I can easily see how important this is when anything breaks that routine – they go off food until their routine is back into place. If your cat suddenly quit eating, consider if anything has thrown his routine off.
Last, but not least, please consider your kitties’ situation when you transitioned them to raw. Lots of pet parents make that transition due to an illness, specially IBD…
There is a reason why we recommend a slow transition – always. Especially on adult or older kitties, after years of eating an unappropriated diet, it can take time for their bodies to start digesting raw properly. EZComplete has both Enzymes and pancreas, which helps with digestion, but there are some kitties that make the transition with a digestive system already very compromised. These cats should be given an extra slow transition, always be on probiotics (we firmly believe probiotics are an essential part of the diet for all cats), and depending of the age or condition of the cat, they might have to start with a homemade cooked diet balanced with EZComplete, and slowly transitioned to raw. If you just transitioned to raw and feel your cat might have a tummy upset, your transition might have been be too fast. Take a step back, always follow your kitties pace, keeping a close eye on them.
Summarizing, if your kitty suddenly stopped eating:
Happy Independence Day!
Independence Day is a time for celebration, for family and friends gathering, for barbecues, and of course for fireworks!
While for us it is a very fun day, for our pets that means unfamiliar faces and smells and lots of loud noises... They can become very fearful and disoriented.
MORE PETS GET LOST ON 4TH OF JULY THAN ANY OTHER DAY OF THE YEAR.
Follow these steps to keep your pets safe on Independence Day:
Celebrate the Power of the Purr!