Skip to Content

Why do cats eat dirt ?

We all know that cats are notorious for the weird things they do, but is eating dirt really one of them?  It’s certainly on the more unusual side of cats behavior.  But what does it mean? Why do cats eat dirt? Let’s find right meow!

It’s most likely your cat is eating dirt from the flower pot.  For kittens, eating abnormal substances such as plastic, dirt, or other inappropriate items for felines, is more common as they are curious little explorers.  However, if your adult cat is eating dirt often it may signify various deficiencies related to diet or mental health.

If your adult cat is eating dirt, and other unusual non-food things as aforementioned, then it’s likely s/he has what is called Pica.

Why do cats eat dirt - Fluffy Kitty

Pica ? 

Pica (and no not related to pikachu) is the urge that our feline friends get to eat non-food items such as plastic, cat litter, cords, houseplants, dirt, paper, shoelaces, etc.  In some cases, normally seen with kittens, kittens will actually chew or suck on fabrics such as wool.  This indicates that the kitten was weaned too early, and is therefore not a case of Pica.  Cats or kittens eating grass is also not to be of concern as this is normal – just make sure that the grass has not been sprayed with harmful pesticides, and do control the amount of grass your cat chews on as it could lead to eating more dangerous houseplants that are toxic for your cat.

There are several factors that can cause cats to have such strange cravings (pica).

1. Dietary deficiency – Sometimes kittens will eat clumped cat litter because they’re curious little cuties who are exploring the world.  If this is the case remove the litter from the kittens mouth immediately.  Litter should be promptly removed after having been soiled.  Otherwise, adult cats who are eating litter, dirt, or other plant material (with the exclusion of small quantities of grass) may be doing so because of a lack of essential nutrients and vitamins in their daily diet.  If this issue persists, you may want to switch from using store-bought cat food and try making your own homemade cat food.    Another option is to switch up their daily (dry or wet) cat food with some human food.  See which human foods cats can eat.  Yoda personally adores scrambled eggs and freshly cooked chicken.

2. Medical reasons – It’s possible that the reasons for cat pica go deeper than just dietary concerns.  Pica in cats can be associated with the feline leukemia virus which can be caused by feline immunodeficiency, brain tumors, or certain cases of diabetes.  It’s very important to address this issue immediately.  Always choose the safer option by consulting with your local vet.  If your cat is suffering from medical problems such as these, catching it earlier rather than later could be the difference between life and death for your precious friend.

3. Compulsive disorder – This is less likely to be the case, but it is possible your cat is craving strange non-food items because s/he has a compulsive disorder.  This disorder results from a cat’s genetic code as it occurs more with certain breeds.

4. It’s in the genes – Unfortunately, if this is the case then the strange behavior may just be do to your cat’s genetic predisposition.

5. Boredom – Yes, it’s possible! Your cat may just be suffering from the boredom blues.  At least this is a quick fixer upper! Some cats just require more stimulation from their owners or environment.  If this is the case, read about how you can help through play therapy.

6. Stress – Oftentimes when our pets get stressed out they exhibit strange behavior.  Perhaps if you just introduced a new pet into the house, your cat may be stressed out and is taking his stress out on some fresh dirt in your plant pots.  Provide your cat with an enriched environment.

Why do cats eat dirt - Fluffy Kitty

How to stop your cat from eating dirt and other non-food items

Luckily, there are several things you can do to prevent your cat from having such strange cravings like eating dirt.  However, as always you should first and foremost consult with your local vet in order to mark off all the potential serious causes for cat pica.  Once your vet has determined that your cat does not have pica, you can try these solutions at home to help stop your cat from eating dirt.

1. Remove plants or dirt source: Probably the most evident and simple solution is to remove the source of dirt out of your cats reach.  If s/he is an indoor cat, move your potted plants to higher grounds where your cat cannot so easily eat the dirt. The same rule of thumb applies to other strange things your cat likes to consume.

2. Make dirt (or other items) unappealing: Another good option, if you cannot remove the dirt source, is to put strongly scented citrus-smelling candles, hot sauce, vinegar, essential oils, or other strong-smelling items next to (or on) the non-food item that your cat is obsessed with.  The smell will keep kitty away.

2. Play with kitty: Who knew that some fun could go a long way for your feline friend.  Your cat may just be bored and need some attention.  For example, if you work 9-5 and leave your cat at home all day, it is highly probably your cat just wants some fun and loving when you get home.

3. Provide more chew toys: The quick fix may just be that you needed to divert your cats attention to items that are appropriate for chewing.  Give your cat some awesome catnip or indoor cat toys to play with so his attention isn’t focused on the unwanted behavior of eating non-food items.

4. See a cat behaviorist: When all else fails, it may just be time to schedule an appointment with a cat behaviorist.  You probably won’t get to book star Jackson Galaxy, but I’m sure the others will do just fine as well. 😉

Why do cats eat dirt ? - Fluffy Kitty

Final thoughts: Why do cats eat dirt

Well, there you have it! Cats do weird things and that’s why we love them, isn’t that so?  However, don’t mistake your cat eating non-food items as just “Oh, my cats quite the quirky, weird one”, because as we have discussed, cats eating non-food items may indicate serious health issues.  When in doubt, go check it out!

Thank you for reading Fluffy Kitty, where we hope you are just as enthusiastic about cats + their well-being as we are! Thanks for sharing and leaving furiendly comments below, we would love to hear your thoughts.

See you next time on FK!