Why Do Cats Chew on Plastic?

Plastic is a huge part of our lives. We find it in the packaging of pretty much all the products we buy, so it's pretty much everywhere around our house. Our cosmetics are made of plastic, our phone cases are often made of plastic, and anytime we get a beverage outside of the house, it inevitably comes with plastic.

So we're not going to be able to extricate ourselves from plastic anytime soon, and our cats don't seem to mind. In fact, cats love plastic. While cats usually don't chew on things the same way that dogs do, many pet owners notice that their feline friends develop a serious affinity for plastic. We dug into the reasons behind why cats chew plastic and how you can help figure out a way to stop them.

Why do cats love plastic?

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While some animal experts admit that there may be a pleasant texture or some specific attraction associated with plastic, most agree that it isn't so much about the plastic itself. Because so many of our plastics touch food or things that smell like food, cats may just be attracted by the lingering smell and taste. Or, it's possible that because we live in a world so filled with plastic, that they just like it because it's available. And yet even if plastic is more of a random choice, it's good to understand the behavior behind it.

Tearing and ripping up things can also come from your kitty's wild instincts. It taps into their desire to hunt and rip something to shreds. Even though they're domesticated, cats still have some of their ancient wild instincts inside them.

Your kitten may be chewing plastic because she's young

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Sometime between the ages of 3 months and 7 months, kittens lose their baby teeth and grow adult teeth. During this time, chewing can help them deal with the teething process. Kittens also enjoy chewing more when they're younger as they explore their environment. And if they find something they love to chew as a kitten, they might love to chew it as an adult.

Your cat may have something wrong with her teeth

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Some cats chew to relieve pain in their teeth due to some kind of dental disease. This kind of disease can cause a lot of problems, so you should take your cat to a vet as soon as possible. Other signs of dental disease include pawing at the mouth, avoiding food or dropping food from the mouth when eating, or excessive drooling.

Your cat may have an emotional problem that needs to be addressed

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Behavior that you don't approve of – i.e. chewing up plastic bits all over the house – can often be caused when a cat isn't feeling fully emotionally happy. Pica is the term used to describe a disorder in which your cat eats items that have no nutritional value, like plastic. Chewing can help to calm stress and anxiety, much like we humans use movement or nervous habits like nail biting to soothe our stress. If your cat is chewing out of anxiety or stress, then you may need to find ways to lessen those emotions in order to reduce the chewing.

If your cat has aggression issues, then chewing might be another outlet for expressing those emotions. Your cat might use chewing when it feels worked up to calm itself down. In a similar way to stress or anxiety, treating the underlying aggression can help keep your kitty from chewing.

Why you should try to stop your cat from chewing plastic

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Just because chewing on plastic is common among kitties, it doesn't mean you should ignore the behavior. Plastics are not digestible nor do they contain nutrients, so they don't belong anywhere in your cat's digestive system. Your cat could easily get plastic lodged in its throat and choke. Plastic can also get stuck in the stomach or intestines and cause blockages, which could require surgery. You should also be careful of plastics that have residue of hazardous food or chemicals on them. Overall, the best course of action is to stop the plastic chewing before something happens.

How to get your cat to stop chewing plastic

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First of all, if your cat's plastic chewing is a medical issue, got it to the vet. And if it's a behavioral issue, find ways to keep your cat engaged in other ways. Get your cat a scratching post or play with fun toys. And try to find the root of the stress or anxiety and avoid that stimuli as much as possible.

Also, try to keep any plastic items completely out of reach for a few weeks. Take extra care to empty trash cans and not leave any plastic items lying around. That can help break your cat's habit of seeking out plastic items. And while you're avoiding plastic, try introducing a new toy that will capture your kitty's attention while being totally safe at the same time.