Curing wool-eating cat?
January 5, 2006 1:54 PM   Subscribe

Has anyone ever known a cat who liked to eat wool? Was it a medical or a behavioral issue? Was it ever possible to discourage this behavior?

My 18-month-old cat has, in the last couple of months, engaged in a serious course of destruction of socks, gloves, scarves, sweaters, anything left out in the open by myself or my guests. All of these items have been wool or wool blend or, in one case, sheepskin (glove lining). He will chew on them to the point of actually eating and swallowing the fibers. He has not done it the whole time I have had him, and the onset may or may not have coincided with a change of food (I can't remember the timing on that). Has anyone ever seen this happen with another cat? Could it be related to some form of nutritional deficiency, is it just teenage rowdiness, or merely an insane feline? Has a cat ever been cured/dissuaded from this behavior? How?
posted by matildaben to Pets & Animals (16 answers total)
Eating wool??

I bet his ass must be itching like crazy...

Try giving him kitty vitamins and see if he stops. Then you'd know it was diet related, I guess.
posted by BobFrapples at 2:06 PM on January 5, 2006

Is it kind of a suckling thing? We had a cat that did that, for all of its life.
posted by carter at 2:11 PM on January 5, 2006

While I cannot comment on the cat's behavior, the story in this book about a woman's late-night, potentially-financially-destructive trip to the animal ER with her yarn-eating cat convinced me never, ever to leave out anything made of fiber.

don't you know, it's not the cats who have to be trained, it's their people?
posted by hsoltz at 2:11 PM on January 5, 2006

Best answer: Lots of cats are woolsuckers. Siamese are especially prone to it, I think. It's most often associated with an oral fixation caused by early weaning, a possible nutritional deficict or a previous life as a sheep. (My cats must have been dinosaurs in a previous life as they love to lick and chew plastic instead of wool.) Most likely, it's just a form of insane behaviour among some cats.

Make chew toys more available and keep the wool away from him. I've heard that offering more fiber and interesting crunchy foods like romaine lettuce or homegrown greens/grasses may distract them.
posted by maudlin at 2:14 PM on January 5, 2006

Response by poster: He's not sucking the wool. He takes huge bites out of it. Holes, holes, holes.
posted by matildaben at 2:22 PM on January 5, 2006

Sorry for being unclear. Woolsuckers suck, chew, and sometimes swallow wool and other fibers. Some links:

Excerpt from "Psycho Kitty"

An article with references

A vet's page including suggested drug regimes
posted by maudlin at 2:28 PM on January 5, 2006

My aunt's Siamese cat would eat entire rag wool socks if she found one. That's the only cat I've known who would actually eat wool. Others have been very fond of it and might lick it, but that one definitely ate it.
posted by lobakgo at 2:35 PM on January 5, 2006

As stated above, keep your cat from eating wool at all costs!
It can cause a serious intestinal blockage and be very dangerous, or fatal if not treated...and cats are notorious for having medical problems that are hard to detect until very late in the game.
Be careful with kitty around wool!!!
posted by BillBishop at 2:53 PM on January 5, 2006

We've lots plenty a wool sweater to a siamese cat.
posted by furtive at 3:04 PM on January 5, 2006

Maybe Kitty is after the yummy mutton oils in the wool?
posted by scratch at 3:17 PM on January 5, 2006

Apparently it's a pretty common thing. I just got my first cat last week, and reading up on them, most books have an entry about cats and wool.
posted by drezdn at 3:17 PM on January 5, 2006

Sounds like pica.
posted by Fat Guy at 4:19 PM on January 5, 2006

We had a siamese male who used to do this growing up. It never seemed to hurt him, but every blanket, sock and sweater in the house had holes in it by the time Charley was done. Mom never figured out how to stop him. He was the best cat ever.
posted by bonehead at 8:58 PM on January 5, 2006

Best answer: I had a half-Siamese cat that ate wool whenever he could get at it. You can't change your cat, so you have to change your habits. A laundry hamper that can't be opened by kitty paws is a first step. (We bought a plastic garbage can with a locking lid, and bored holes in the sides for ventilation.)

Mico also liked to sample stuff under the sink: an SOS pad and a sponge got nibbled. We installed child safety latches on cabinet doors. Don't leave curling ribbon out: it doesn't dissolve in cats' guts. Somehow, he did manage to live 10 years, how I'll never know.
posted by Carol Anne at 5:36 AM on January 6, 2006

Same problem with my half siamese - though it isn't limited to wool - she loves to nibble on my bathroom floor mats (which I think are chenille). She is also really good at using her fingers to bang cabinets open while you are trying to sleep. I ended up buying rolls of velcro and sealing all of my kitchen and bathroom cupboards along the bottom corners so she can't get her fingers into the seams. The child safety locks just made her louder and more insistent that they could be opened if she kept at it long enough.
posted by blackkar at 6:23 AM on January 6, 2006

Geez I though my half siamese was a pain in the ass with her plastic bag fetish blackkar. I'll jump on the band wagon that there isn't any really effective way to train this kind of behaviour out of a cat. We've instead trained ourselves to never leave any kind of plastic bag where Snowy can get it. I forgot a couple weeks ago and left a heavy duty plastic bag from our library at the front door for five minutes while unloading the rest of the car. My cat had about 4 sq inches chewed out of the bottom before I noticed.
posted by Mitheral at 11:06 AM on January 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

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