Why does my cat eat soil?

Why does my cat eat soil? Dr Fogle DVM tells us in Complete Cat Care that, ‘Some anaemic cats lick bricks or concrete, or eat litter or soil’. There you have it; your cat might be eating soil because he/she is anaemic but what is the link between anaemia and eating soil and what causes anaemia?

Pale gums in cat with anemia
Pale gums in cat with anemia
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Anemia is not a disease but a consequence of a condition. It develops because of (a) a loss of blood from e.g. internal bleeding or because (b) red blood cells disintegrate caused by a range of infections and diseases. Chronic kidney disease can cause anemia because the kidneys produce a hormone called erythropoietin which stimulates red blood cell production in bone marrow.

Feline anaemia can also be caused by a dietary deficiency – uncomplicated nutritional anaemia (Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook). This might be a diet deficient in iron and other essential nutrients as a diet deficient in iron can cause anaemia.

Anaemic cats can develop the well-known condition called Pica, which is a craving for non-nutritious foods or objects. But why does a cat think that eating soil will alleviate anaemia? The cat may be instinctively trying to rectify the diet deficient in iron as soils typically contain 1–5% total iron (corn.agronomy.wisc.edu/Management/pdfs/a3554.pdf). This last sentence is my personal thought and is not taken from a reference work.

P.S. This article highly summarises the literature on this subject. Please read more and consult with your veterinarian.

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