Cat Care: Episode MLXIII of Living with a Fabric-Eating Cat

The day after I got back from Madagascar, I walked into my bedroom and found this:

a bed with a single fitted sheet
See that white spot? It’s a hole the size of my hand, with tiny nibble marks the size of Lilo’s teeth all around it.

Lilo the Cat is still on her medication, but it doesn’t seem to work so perfectly when I go out of town—or when I get back, either, given this hole in my top sheet and the number of times I’ve woken up the the sound of chomp chomp chomp, only to find Lilo sitting next to my head as she attempts to eviscerate the rubberbands that fell out of my hair as I slept.

Or, maybe her medication doesn’t work at all.

A few weeks before leaving for Madagascar, I got out my Chacos and found that someone had eaten the entire heel strap off the right shoe:

Chacho with back heel strap chewed off Chacho with back heel strap chewed off

Somehow, I hadn’t realized that I needed to hide tightly woven polyester webbing from a fabric-eating cat. Especially one who is on medication to make her stop eating inadvisably.

Well, I was never completely convinced about the medication’s efficacy. It is just one of many tools in the living-with-a-feline-compulsive-eater toolbox, and maybe not the best one. Other tools include:

  • Spider plants all around the house for her to chew on whenever she likes
  • Getting her breakfast in a puzzle toy to help burn off some of her excess energy
  • A sweet potato skin or leaf of lettuce every morning after breakfast for something more to chew on, and again in the evening if she seems antsy
  • Keeping the sewing room off limits
  • Closing the bedroom door when I’m not in the bedroom (unless I forget)
  • Hanging dishtowels out of her reach (which takes some creative thinking given that she’s a cat and can jump onto counters)

Today I decided to experiment with another tool to keep her on an even keel: going on walks!

Lilo has never been much of an outdoor cat, even though that’s where I found her. Occasionally she darts out the door when I bring in the groceries and plays a nonconsensual game of hide-and-seek with me until I manage to snatch her out from under a juniper shrub, or until something freaks her out and she goes darting back to the front door on her own volition.

But walking helps me stay sane, so why shouldn’t it help her?

Plus, my veterinarian says that fabric-eating is less common in the United Kingdom, where people let their cats wander outdoors all day. That’s not an option where I live (local ordinances forbid free-roaming cats), but if it’s spending time outdoors that’s helping, I want to give that a try.

It was surprisingly easy to get the halter on her. She didn’t seem bothered by me putting it one her, nor did she try to wriggle out of it once it was on. In fact, it was like she didn’t even notice it.

Lilo wearing a leash halter and sleeping in the sun
Lilo asleep on the windowsill two minutes after I put the halter on her.

After she woke up, I asked her if she wanted to go for a walk.

She stared at me blankly.

I picked her up, hooked a leash onto her halter, and carried her out the door before setting her down.

She spent the first two or three minutes sniffing my bike tire.

Then she ventured out onto the grass:

Lilo on a leash, sitting in the grass

She seemed pretty chill about the whole thing, except at one point when she saw a chipmunk. That was an exciting two seconds.

I also brought treats along to distract her in case we ran into any of the neighborhood cats. But, thankfully, we didn’t.

I don’t know if a walk a day will be enough to stop her from eating non-edibles, but I can hope. Because she’s really getting too old to eat polyester.

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