Why Do Cats Eat Plastic? - petsitterbank

Why Do Cats Eat Plastic?

Cats are the most pampered of pets, with owners catering to their diet, health and entertainment.

As a result, it may come as a surprise how often pet felines are drawn to plastic bottles, bags and other items from the trash, in a phenomenon known as “pica”.

So, why do cats eat plastic? Experts explain your feline’s penchant for pica and steps you can take to snap them out of this habit.

Why Cats Eat Plastic

Pam Johnson-Bennett, of the Cat Behavior Associates (CBA), believes cats may chew on plastic items for several reasons and told Newsweek: “it’s important to determine the underlying cause.”

The International Cat Association (TICA) President Vicki Jo Harrison suggests most cats that chew or eat plastic, start doing so “because the object tasted good or they enjoyed playing with it”, but there are inherent dangers to the habit.

She told Newsweek: “Some plastic items are completely okay for your cat to chew on, but plastic items that are small enough to completely fit in a cat’s mouth pose a choking hazard and cause obstructions that prevent food and water from passing through the body or puncture or tear the stomach or intestines if the item has sharp edges or corners,” warned Harrison.

“Ingested plastic can become lodged in the intestine require emergency surgery or endoscopy to remove the item from your cat.

“These procedures require general anesthesia and are not without their risks, so it is always best to prevent your cat from eating plastic in the first place.”

“While letting your cat chew on plastic may seem harmless, this can be a serious health risk for your cat.”

She added: “Talk to your veterinarian about whether your cat is doing this because of a medical condition, dietary imbalance, or just simple boredom and fascination with bags.”

Pica is when cats chew or eat non-food objects, such as plastic.
ramustagram/Getty Images

Illness

If your cat is eating, chewing, or licking plastic or plastic bags, the first step is a trip to the veterinarian to make sure your cat is not sick.

Harrison said: “There are numerous health conditions that can be the cause of your cat biting plastic, the most frequent being diabetes, dental issues, anemia, hyperthyroidism, and feline leukemia virus (FeLV).”

dental disease

Occasionally a cat will chew on plastic because it makes their teeth and gums feel better.

Harrison believes this is “related to dental problems such as periodontitis, gingivitis, and tooth resorption, which are common in cats.”

The TICA President said: “If your cat has other symptoms, such as bad breath, trouble eating, or drooling, and their gums look red and irritated, it’s time for a trip to the veterinarian for a dental exam.”

Boredom or Stress

Sarah-Jane White, Animal Behaviorist and Trainer for Perfect Pet Insurance, suggests this explanation “may be hard to hear for some pet owners.”

She told Newsweek: “However, it could be true and is one of the most common reasons. Our cats are highly intelligent and inquisitive in equal measures.

“If your furry friend is not overly stimulated, then this can lead them to take an unhealthy interest in plastic.

“The solution? Invest in toys and ensure that your cat has access to various cat-friendly toys in different colors, textures, and styles.”

Why Do Cats Eat Plastic
Cats licking plastic can be due to a variety of different reasons.
ysbrandcosijn/Getty Images

Dietary Deficiency

Chris Socratous, Brand Manager at pet healthcare experts Bob Martin, believes trying to eat plastic can be a sign of dietary deficiencies.

He told Newsweek“Put simply, this means your feline isn’t getting enough nutrients from their dinner and are looking elsewhere to find the vitamins and minerals they need.

“Many cat owners like to give their pet’s diet a boost with supplements and vitamins, which could help put a stop to any nibbly behavior.

Just for Fun

Harrison thinks another possibility is that cats simply lick plastic shopping bags “because it smells like food or has actual food residue on it.”

She added: “They can also be attracted to the substances used to make bags, such as corn starch or lanolin oil.”

Why Do Cats Eat Plastic
There are several things owners can do to stop their cat eating plastic.
Nektarstock/Getty Images

Tips to Prevent Your Cat from Chewing on Plastic

Johnson-Bennett, of the Cat Behavior Associates, stresses the importance of putting an immediate stop to this habit.

She told Newsweek: “Plastic bags are dangerous for cats for several reasons, including the risk of suffocation, so it’s crucial that they be stored completely out of a cat’s reach.”

Harrison suggests there are several ways of minimizing your pet cat’s contact with plastic. She said: “Be careful to remove plastic items and promptly dispose of plastic grocery bags.

“This is critical as chewing or playing with plastic bags puts them at risk of choking or suffocating. Or use reusable canvas grocery bags and do away with plastic bags altogether.”

“Attract your cat to fun and safe items that are not plastic, such as toys of different textures and fabrics, feather wands and laser pointers, catnip treats or other items you want them to play with or chew on.

“Also provide interactive toys, cat trees and perches, or increase their exercise, offer your cat safe items for chewing such as Nylabones, soft animal chews, or cat grass to help your cat with his need to chew.”

cat plastic
Cats who eat plastic are exhibiting a dangerous behavioral urge called pica.
Denis Valakhanovich/Getty Images

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