Cats have some strange habits. Some are entirely harmless, while others can be a little concerning. If your kitty has started eating plastic, this a behaviour pattern that you will want to understand in more detail in order to prevent it happening. There is no single reason why your feline friend is doing this, which is why you need to investigate all the different possibilities out there. Generally, the plastic comes in the form of plastic bags as anything else is going to be too hard for their teeth.
In fact, the eating of non-edible substances is known as Pica, and it is a very common behavior issue. There is a range of possible causes including a poor diet, anxiety, or simple boredom. But as you will already be able to tell, plastic is not a safe substance for your cat to consume, so you will need to deal with it at the earliest possible opportunity. Your cat could end up choking or even suffocating on the bag or pieces that they are able to bite off. This could result in a trip to the emergency vet – or even worse if you are not there to take action immediately.
Providing your cat with some stimulating alternatives to get their teeth stuck into helps to offer the replacement that they need. We will come into discussing ways to stop your cat from eating plastic in the second half of the blog post.
For now, let’s talk about why cats like to chew on plastic bags to help give you a better understanding of their behavior.
Reasons Cats Chew on Plastic
- Lingering Smells and Tastes
If you have a plastic bag which has just come from the grocery store or has contained some food products recently, your cat may be drawn to it, wanting to chow down on any leftovers. The scent and taste may remain, which makes chewing a particularly pleasurable experience. Even if the food in the bags was not that appealing to cats, some of them are coated in substances like cornstarch or stearates. Some are even made of animal by-products, which appeals to the carnivorous instincts of your kitty. The easiest and most obvious way to stop this problem is to simply keep these bags way out of your cat’s reach. Or you could take the environmentally friendly solution of stopping using plastic altogether, which is better for the planet’s health, as well as your pet.
- Something to Play With
Another reason why your cat may be chewing on plastic is simply having something to play with. Your cat may enjoy the crinkling noise that the bag makes and want to chase it around. For many cats, a central part of their playing experience is putting things in their mouth and getting their teeth stuck in. It appeals to their natural predatory and hunting instincts. Chewing on plastic bags is not safe, so you should provide your cat with alternative toys which they can enjoy batting around and hunting. Providing your cat with plenty of mental stimulation is one of your most important responsibilities as a pet owner.
- Dental Health Issues
If the above two reasons don’t appear to fit the bill, it could be that your cat has some underlying dental health issues which have yet to be diagnosed. Your cat may be suffering from some sort of pain or discomfort, so you should take them into the vet to make sure everything is in good working order. After all, 85% of cats over the age of three have dental problems of some description – and this is especially likely if you have not been active in looking after your cat’s teeth. Cats are very good at concealing their pain, so you may not have noticed any other symptoms causing a problem.
- Deficiencies in Diet
It could be that your cat is looking for more to eat as they are not getting enough nutrients in their diet. Obviously, plastic is not going to fill this void! You should talk with a veterinarian or a cat nutritionist to work out if there is something else that you can provide your kitty to give them the balance in their diet that they need. This way, you can reduce their desire to chew on strange objects which provide no nutritional benefit – and could even be causing harm.
The final reason why your cat may have started on their plastic chewing habit is simply that they are bored. Your cat may have been searching around for something to do and found the bag to provide some entertainment for a while. In this case, you will need to work a bit harder to keep your cat stimulated and entertained. Investing in some new toys can help resolve the issue somewhat. Alternatively, if you are out of the house for long stretches at a time, you may want to hire someone to come in and play with your cat from time to time.
Ways to Prevent Your Cat From Chewing on Plastic
Once you have identified that chewing on plastic is a problem, your next move should be to prevent this bad and potentially dangerous behavior pattern. Here are a few ideas to help you in your quest.
- Keep Plastic Out of Reach
The first and most obvious way to prevent your cat from chewing on plastic is to not let them get their paws on it in the first place! Keeping plastic bags out of the way shouldn’t be a problem – simply put them in a drawer or cabinet which they are unable to open. If you throw any plastic away, make sure that it is in a closed bin which is not going to be dug up. As well as plastic bags, make sure that you keep any other plastic substances out of their reach too.
- Keep Your Cat Entertained
Your cat is happier when they can live a full and active life. As their owner, you are responsible for giving your kitty enough to do. Even though our cats have become entirely domesticated, they still need to exercise their basic hunting instincts. It is worth getting a vast array of toys including small balls or mice, rope toys, climbing posts etc. If your cat can’t seem to get enough of chewing on a plastic bag, you can try to get something which mimics the same sensations. Crinkly balls are a good example of this or a crinkly tunnel which they can run through. Try to choose toys which offer a range of different textures and sounds. Rotate the toys from time to time to reduce the odds that your cat is going to become bored and disinterested.
Increasing the amount of playtime with your cat can also help to tire them both mentally and physically. Look for the kind of toys which you can enjoy together such as fishing wands. Alternatively, you could choose an interactive food toy which encourages your cat to hunt for their food – and gives them something that they should be chewing on at the end! Another great thing that you can do together is to take part in some basic training exercises as a way of teaching your cat some cool tricks and strengthening the bond between the two of you.
- Kick the Plastic Habit
There is more and more coverage in the news at the moment about the damage that plastic causes to the environment. So, now is the perfect time to kick the plastic habit entirely and switch to something more environmentally friendly. Take canvas bags to the supermarket and bring your own backpack around for smaller items. And when a cashier asks you if you want a bag, just say no! If there is no plastic in your house, there is nothing for your cat to eat and potentially choke on.
- Consult Your Vet
If you are especially concerned about this plastic eating habit, it is always a good idea to talk to your vet and find out if there is anything wrong. For example, it could be that your cat has a dietary deficiency of some variety and they need some more supplementation. They can offer some tests which can help to identify any underlying medical issues which need to be addressed. If your cat already has an intestinal blockage, you are going to need to take them into the emergency vet straight away to get it cleared.
Chewing on plastic is not a habit that you want your cat to continue, so you need to address it straight away. There are plenty of reasons why they might be doing this, so if you identify which one it is, you can take the appropriate action. Simply keeping plastic out of your cat’s reach or removing it from your home entirely is going to go a long way towards solving the issue. And this is something which each and every pet owner can strive towards achieving.