Blind Pica Cat, need more enrichment ideas
Our youngest cat, Arthur, is a little ginger sweetheart, just 18 months old. He had surgery last month to remove 6 hair elastics, the strap from a sleep mask that he had chewed off while it was on my wife's head and three shoelaces (we can't figure out where he got those as we aren't missing shoelaces) removed from his stomach. We've been trying our hardest to anticipate everything he might put in his mouth and keep it picked up, but yesterday he ate *fifteen* tiny pumpkin erasers off of my wife's desk after tearing open a bag to get at them. He threw them up and seems to be recovering nicely. Vet has tested for nutritional deficiencies and all the blood tests run have ruled out a biological cause for this pica.
He's blind, so he seems to investigate everything with his mouth. The vet suggested he could be bored (how, I don't know, because it seems like we never stop playing with him and he has multiple playmates who he plays with all the time), so we're trying to revamp our home to be more interesting to him. Medication and fibre additives are on the table longterm, but the vet wants us to try environmental enrichment first.
We're about to plant a whole bunch of indoor plants just for his amusement and ingestion. I spent hours going through the ASPCA lists to find only plants that are listed as wholly nontoxic or 'may cause digestive upset if ingested in excess' and where I was able to find more information saying that 'excess' was a dose he would be unable to ingest all at once, like in the case of mint where apparently it can make cats throw up if they eat a huge amount or cat grass where too much makes them puke. I've got about 20 different seed varieties coming with different safe plants, including oats, wheat, catnip, catmint, dill, thyme and parsley so we'll have a variety of interesting scents to scatter throughout the house. We intend to rotate the potted plants twice a week to make an interesting and engaging scent scape for him to explore.
I'm about to put up about 40-50 feet of cat shelving on our walls for cat-walks for everyone to walk on (five cats total in the home). We've brought home dozens of catnip scented toys and scattered them everywhere. There are rattly balls, crinkly balls, catnip-stuffed toys, plastic springs, balls with jingles in them, silvervine sticks and plain rubber catnip toys all over my house. We have puzzle feeders that we leave with treats in them (our cats are 100% wetfood fed and only get crunchies as treats) when we leave the house. We have some toys with dangles for him to play with any time he likes, but given he chewed a sleep mask off my wife's face and swallowed the strap, we have to be very careful with these for fear of him chewing them apart and swallowing them.
I'd offer him items like small nylabones for dogs but my dog would absolutely steal those and swallow them (she's 40 lbs, so much larger than a cat) and that puts her at risk. We've cleaned the house and cleaned the house and cleaned the house again to try and remove everything that could put Arthur at risk but he finds new things to eat (like opening a mostly-closed desk drawer and tearing open sealed bags of things that we didn't think he could get into).
We have scratchers and climbers in every major room of the house--some low to the ground for hiding in, some reaching up to the ceiling. There are windowsills to sunbathe on.
What are we missing? What other environmental enrichment can we offer him on top of what we're doing already? I don't know if anyone remembers my posts about little Janet who passed away about a year and a half ago, but my wife was really traumatized by losing her and is terrified of losing Arthut to this pica. I am willing to do just about anything to make his environment richer and better to see if we can get this under control. He does not enjoy going outside on a leash and appears to find it very disorienting rather than fun.