Why Does My Cat Eat Plastic?
Our pets engage in all sorts of weird behavior which is very difficult for us humans to understand, but cats eating plastic bags has to be one of the strangest. You may have walked into the kitchen to see your cat munching on a grocery bag or find that you have to hide all the plastic straws in your house. This behavior comes under the umbrella term ‘pica’, which describes when animals chew and eat non-food items, but what causes this in the first place. Well, there are a few different reasons why your kitty may be doing this. We will look at a host of possible explanations right here and now.
Why Do Cats Chew on Plastic?
There are all sorts of physical and mental explanations as to why your cat could be eating plastic. Here are some of the most common possibilities.
- Lingering Tastes or Smells
Many plastic bags have contained delicious-smelling food which may have attracted your cat to lick or bite them due to the smells or tastes. Also, some bags are coated in substances such as cornstarch, stearates, or they were made of animal by-products including gelatin. All of these factors can add up to making plastic bags appear a lot more appealing to your kitty than they are to us!
- Crinkly Noise
Plastic bags often make a crinkly noise when they are touched, which can be appealing to cats. Whether they are playing, or it has activated their predatory drive, the next step after touching can be licking or biting.
- Dental Health Issues
When your cat chews on something unusual like plastic, this may be a sign that their dental health is in problems. They may be chewing on plastic as a way of finding some sort of relief from their pain or discomfort. This is a good opportunity to have your kitty’s teeth checked out to make sure that everything is A-OK in this department.
- Nutritional Deficiencies
If your cat is suffering from an extreme deficiency in nutrients, this could also be causing pica. While this is a relatively rare phenomenon, it may be worth discussing with your vet to find out if there is anything that your cat may not be getting enough of in their diet, so you can make the necessary adjustments to it.
It could be the simple reason of boredom that your cat has started chewing on plastic. If they don’t have enough to do around the house, they may be looking for their own entertainment, and chewing plastic could provide them with the mental stimulation that they are looking for. So, you should be looking for ways that you can add some entertainment to your kitty’s day to day activities.
Another common cause of pica could be stress, which can be experienced for all manner of reasons such as bad relationships at home with humans and other animals, startling events like storms, a change in their living environment etc. So, chewing on plastic could be a way of expressing the anxiety that they are feeling.
- Medical Conditions
We have talked about dental diseases being a possible cause of pica, but there are other underlying conditions which could be contributing to it such as brain tumors, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, gastrointestinal issues, and anemia. If you are worried, it is always better to have safe than sorry and have your cat checked out.
We all know that cats are curious creatures, and this can end up causing them to engage in all manner of strange behavior. This is particularly common in kittens who are very excited about exploring the world. If they chew on plastic and enjoy it, it is more likely that this behavior will continue in later life.
Dangers of Eating Plastic
While there are some items made of plastic that are fine for your cat to chew on, others are not. For example, there are the smaller items which could easily pose a choking risk. Also, plastic bags can present a strangulation hazard. If they end up being swallowed, this could cause other issues such as vomiting and diarrhea. In more serious situations, this could end up leading to a serious intestinal blockage that may require surgery. If not removed, they could block food and water from going down or puncture or tear the intestines or stomach. So, if your cat swallowed plastic, you should get medical advice or help quickly. As for plastic items that are too hard, these can damage sensitive mouth tissues when chewed or lead to broken teeth.
So, your best course of action is preventing your cat from eating plastic in the first place, and there are a few possible ways of achieving this goal.
How to Stop Your Cat Eating Plastic
Here are some of the key techniques that you can use to stop your cat eating plastic. You may have success with just one of these or you may have to try a combination of them to achieve the success that you are looking for.
Take Away Access to Plastic
If the plastic is not there in the first place, your cat will not be able to chew on it. For plastic bags, this just means disposing of them rather than letting them lie around. Or better still for the environment, don’t use plastic bags at all! Be especially careful with smaller bits of plastic which could present a choking risk. Put any other bits of plastic you need behind a closing drawer or door – something that your kitty is unable to open.
Increase Interactive Play
If boredom is causing the issue, you can help to solve the problem by providing more mental stimulation for your kitty. Make time to play with your cat on a daily basis to offer them a more enriching life that will stop them from having to make their own fun. Make sure that you have plenty of cat toys to keep your kitty entertained – particularly those prey-mimicking ones such as wand toys and mouse toys. These allow your cat to exercise their natural predatory instincts and make it less likely that they are going to treat plastic bags as prey!
Provide Enrichment Activities While You Are Out of the House
Much of your cat’s boredom can settle in when you leave them alone at home. There are a few ways that you can prevent them from hunting plastic. You could try separating out their food and allowing them to ‘hunt’ it around the house. Alternatively, there are those puzzle toys that will give out treats, but they take a little bit more effort, which offers increased stimulation. You could also invest in a cat perch for your kitty that gives them a place where they can stare out of the window and watch the world go by! Scratching posts can also be useful as these allow your feline to release stress, exercise, sharpen their claws, and decrease a lot of problem behaviors that we commonly see.
Take a Trip to the Vet
When your cat engages in some behavior that just doesn’t seem normal, having them checked for any underlying medical issues is certainly worth doing. If there is nothing wrong, this puts your mind at ease, but if they discover that there is a problem, treatment can be started at the earliest possible opportunity. For example, the issue may be dental, which could mean that your cat needs to have some teeth taken out. Once they are no longer in discomfort, it is less likely that
You will only be able to use this technique if you are nearby when your cat chews on something plastic. You can start by redirecting their attention onto something else. Perhaps you could throw a toy in the opposite direction. If your cat leaves the plastic alone and moves onto playing with the toy, offer them plenty of praise and perhaps a treat. If your cat seriously loves chewing on plastic, this is an action which you are going to have to repeat often, staying consistent with your positive reinforcement techniques. Don’t use negative techniques like shouting at this may only serve to make your cat more stressed, thereby worsening the issue rather than improving it.
There are plenty of reasons why your cat may want to chew on plastic, and if you can work out what is causing the issue, this helps to make solving it so much easier. Ruling out any medical issues is a good starting point, and this can be done by taking your cat to the vet. Boredom is a very common cause of this behavior, so you can work to make the life of your cat more interesting. You could also try discouraging your cat from engaging in this behavior through positive reinforcement. Ultimately, it is worth taking the appropriate steps to stop your cat from eating plastic as it can be a potentially dangerous habit that negatively affects their wellbeing.