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Anna, Cat Expert, Biologist
Category: Cat
Satisfied Customers: 11507
Experience:  Thirty years of cat ownership. Writer for cat/pet magazines. B.A. in biology. Vet assistant.
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my cat keeps licking cigarette ash from my ashtrys and is ...

Customer Question

my cat keeps licking cigarette ash from my ashtrys and is always licking the salt from my skin. what is the problem?
Submitted: 9 years ago.
Category: Cat
Expert:  Anna replied 9 years ago.

Many animals like to lick a bit of salt from our skin. It probably just tastes good to them, and at the same time, they are getting some close contact with us.

The ashtray-licking is a form of pica - the eating of things that aren't normally considered food. It's fairly common in cats, though yours has made an unusual choice of what to ingest. Pica doesn't generally indicate a dietary deficiency, if that's what you're wondering. Studies have been done, and no link to deficiencies has been found.

There is, however, a link to some infectious diseases, such as feline leukemia. It's not a strong link, and most cats who engage in pica do not have these serious illnesses. However, it would be a good idea to run the tests to rule out this possibility.

If there's no illness present, your cat could be licking the cigarette ashes for several different reasons. Some cats do such things for attention. If you scold her for doing it, or laugh because it's amusing, or even look at her while she's doing it, she's getting attention. If you think that's a possibility, try ignoring her when she does it. Give her some extra attention at other times.

Boredom (closely related to attention-seeking) is a possibility. You could try some new toys. Give her one of those cat gardens that grow grass for cats to munch on. Play with her in a way that burns some energy. If you're at work all day, be sure to give her some undivided attention when you get home.

If your cat's food has to be restricted to keep her from getting fat, she may just be hungry. If you think that's the case, look for one of the higher-fiber foods made for weight loss. The fiber will help keep her full longer, and she may be able to eat more since the food is lower calorie.

She may simply enjoy the taste of the ashes. In many cats, pica becomes a habit that's hard to break. In either case, the best solution is to put the ashtray where she can't get it when you're finished using it - perhaps inside a drawer or cupboard. (But, of course, please be careful of fire hazards.)

If the habit doesn't bother you, and you've ruled out infectious diseases, you may choose to tolerate the behavior. There are harmful chemicals in the ash, but she is probably only ingesting minute amounts. I would keep an eye on her so she isn't consuming large amounts.

I hope this answers your question. If you have further concerns about it, just let me know.


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