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LifestyleAdvice

Helping break the habit of a rescue kitten who eats clothes

Also, how to care for leopard geckos, which are growing in popularity.

Interruption in the weaning process might have caused

Interruption in the weaning process might have caused a kitten to chew on clothes. Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Q I have a rescue kitten that was born June 2017. He was picked up on a freeway underpass. He weighed about 11⁄2 pounds and was 5 to 6 weeks old. I adopted him in July. He is thriving and uses the litter box, but he “eats” clothing. He started with shoe laces. He chewed the laces off my husband’s shoes while my husband slept on the couch. We put our shoes away now, but the clothing has been more of a problem. He likes to jump into laundry baskets and eat several items. We bought a new hamper with a lid, but he can still pull items through the hamper holes. I find the items chewed up on the floor next to the hamper. He also has learned to open the dresser drawers, where he eats my night shirts. He only eats soft cotton or soft sweaters. He must be swallowing this material because I don’t find any pieces on the floor. He ate a pair of leggings that literally had 12 large holes up and down the garment. He coughs like he is trying to throw something up, and occasionally I find gray matter and/or what appears to be shoe laces. My veterinarian took X-rays when I was fearful of a blockage, but he was fine. Maybe he is passing stuff through his stool, but I am not finding it. He eats and drinks normally and is otherwise a very active, affectionate and adorable kitten. But I am at my wit’s end. I bought one of those devices that is supposed to keep cats out of the room by emitting a high-pitched noise; he just walks right past it. I have had many cats during my life, as has my husband, and neither of us has ever experienced anything like this. He is now 7 months old and weighs about 10 pounds.

Brenda, Tucson, Arizona

A It’s not unusual for a cat to chew and suck on things. While no one knows the reasons why, there are a few theories. Some cats might do this when they are weaned too early. Most cats are weaned around 6 to 7 weeks old. Since your cat was a stray found around 5 weeks old, there’s a possibility the interruption in the weaning process led to this behavior. Your kitten may outgrow this behavior by the time he is 2, or it could remain a lifelong habit.

Your kitten also could just have a compulsive need to lick and chew, which is something your veterinarian can address. Ask your veterinarian about medications to treat compulsive behaviors, which should reduce the licking and chewing, regardless of the reason. Ditch the device that emits a loud noise (that sounds unpleasant) and opt for gentler corrections instead. Gently tap the cat on the nose or spritz a little water on his face and say “no” while taking away the clothing or laces.

Since he has been examined and no clothing has been found in his body or passed through his stool, he may be just making holes in everything. But just to be safe, get a hamper that doesn’t have big holes in it, and childproof your dresser drawers. Spray Bitter Apple for Cats (available at pet stores) on the shoelaces. You might also buy him a few stuffed animals, like you do for dogs, to give him an alternative to clothing.

SPOT-ON CARE FOR THE LEOPARD GECKO

According to Reptile Magazine, “Leopard geckos have increased in popularity and are probably the most widely kept reptile pet next to the green iguana.” While the average age of a domesticated gecko is 10 years, with some male geckos living more than 20 years, poor pet-keeping can cut their lives short.

If you have a leopard gecko or any other reptile, please write to me with your questions, but here are a few housing tips.

* Geckos are best kept in plastic or glass habitats that provide at least 10 inches by 10 inches of floor space and a minimum of 12 inches in height for each gecko you are housing.

* You can use newspapers or paper towels as the substrate (flooring) as well as specialty products at pet stores.

* Geckos need plenty of fresh water provided in a shallow bowl or lid, so they can easily access it.

* Their must-have item is a reptile hide box, a place where your gecko can hide away and feel safe from the rest of the world.

Dear Readers,

I had an email glitch in January. If you wrote to me between Jan. 23 and Jan. 27, or if I haven’t responded to your question, please re-send your question to me.

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