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Questions that can come up when working with families that have cats in their households, are often about a cat’s predilection for chewing on odd items. While plastic bags may seem like a strange choice for cats; from a cat’s point of view, they are very attractive. However, chewing on these bags can be dangerous for your cat as they can suffocate or choke on bags and bag pieces.
What’s so great about chewing plastic bags?
Plastic bags that come from a grocery or other food store can carry the lingering scent and even taste of food, which makes chewing them a pleasant experience. Many bags are also coated in substances such as cornstarch, stearates (salts of stearate acid), or are made of animal by-products such as gelatin, which makes them attractive to cats. Cats can also enjoy the crinkly noises that a plastic bag makes.
Another reason that cats will chew bags can be related to their dental health. If you find your cat engaging in these activities, a trip to the veterinarian to make sure her teeth are in good order is important. You may also want to discuss with your veterinarian your cat’s diet, as chewing on odd objects can be a symptom of insufficiency in daily dietary needs. Finally, boredom can be a major factor in habits like these. You should adopt a plan combining management (to keep your cat safe) and enrichment (to engage your cat’s physical and mental needs).
Tips to keep your cat from chewing plastic bags.
For some additional resources on cat enrichment ideas, the American Association of Feline Practitioner provides a helpful list. If you need more help, find a professional through the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, the Animal Behavior Society, and the IAABC.
Return to, "6 Strange Cat Behaviors Finally Explained" >>
If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian -- they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.
It’s true that cats are very curious creatures that can’t resist chewing and trying to eat different things.
They just find everything interesting, especially if it’s something that they see for the first time.
That’s why, if you’re introducing a new item to them, they very often sniff around it and try to chew it.
However, pure curiosity isn’t always the answer.
Here are some of the most probable reasons why your little furball wants to eat plastic.
Do you or any of your friends have the ugly habit of biting your nails when stressed or nervous?
Well, chewing plastic and other non-food items in your home is a similar outlet for your cats, and it has the same effect.
When your cat is under stress or feels anxious, he/she may find relief in biting items in your home.
This is most likely the answer to “why does my cat eat plastic” especially if you notice stress-caused behavior.
If your pet’s organism doesn’t receive enough essential nutrients, he/she may want to chew on other stuff to eat.
It’s an impulse your cat gets because its body really misses those important nutrients to thrive.
As soon as you notice that your cat doesn’t get enough nutrients, change its diet.
Make sure to pay attention to what you’re feeding it with.
The best thing to do is to prepare homemade cat food that is versatile and includes all food groups.
In the case of feeding your pet store-bought food, take the time to read the ingredient and nutrient list.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder can also be another reason why your cat wants to eat plastic.
This is another cause of stress, and it can even lead to your pet forgetting all about its normal activities.
There are numerous health conditions that can be the cause of your cat biting plastic.
The most frequent ones are diabetes, dental issues, anemia, and hyperthyroidism.
In some cases, brain tumors can also be the reason why your cat is doing it.
Even though plastic chewing is caused by these diseases, if your cat ingests it, it can create even more problems.
That’s why you need to react on time and take your pet to the vet, who will examine it and determine the problem.
This cause is completely irrational, and it’s really a pure reflex and instinct that your cat has.
Plastic items may seem like prey that needs to be caught for food, and that’s essentially why your pet wants to bite it.
I noticed that my cat often acts like that when he sees a plastic bag moving. Since the bag is very light, it moves easily, and my cat always attacks it and tries to eat it.
It’s actually very funny, but I am careful because I don’t want my cat to swallow it.
There’s another reason why your cat may want to bite a plastic bag or, for example, plastic plates, forks, etc.
Most likely, your pet smelled the food that had been there. That’s why he/she wants to lick and bite that part of plastic, hoping to get a piece of that food, too.
Make sure to keep these items out of reach if you know it could attract your cat’s attention because of the food.
As you can see, there’s more than one definite reason why your pet loves to bite and chew plastic.
Very often, the cause of this behavior is harmless, and the product of curiosity.
However, you still need to be careful and to monitor your cat’s behavior to try and figure out the real reason.
If you suspect that your pet has some health issues, you should take her/him to the vet as soon as possible.
Even though you know that biting plastic is only a game for your cat, you still need to be next to the cat.
Because you need to prevent the cat from swallowing the plastic.
Plastic bags are not safe for cats. Unfortunately, many cats are compelled to chew on these everyday items. Doing so leaves your cat at risk of:
It’s advisable to keep your cat away from plastic bags and provide alternative entertainment.
It’s a common sight to find a cat biting plastic bags after you’ve been grocery shopping. No matter how many toys and other entertainments you provide, bags never lose their appeal.
Explanations for a cat’s fascination with plastic bags include:
Whatever the explanation for your cat’s behavior, do not condone the chewing of plastic bags.
The immediate appeal of a plastic bag is the smell. If you bring home a plastic bag from the grocery store, it will smell like food.
Cats have over 200 million scent receptors in their nose. This means the bag will smell like a banquet of different foods.
It is not only a bag containing meat or cat food that will appeal. Cats enjoy the smell of certain foods they would never/rarely eat. Strawberries, for example, are among a cat’s favorite scents.
Plastic bags contain materials called stearates. These reduce friction in the bag, ensuring it can be opened. Many stearates are made from animal fat. The scent of these stearates will capture your cat’s imagination.
Scent is how a cat decides if something will be good to eat. This is why a cat often escalates from smelling a plastic bag to chewing it. If you find your cat sniffing a plastic bag, remove it before chewing becomes an option.
Cats have poor close-up vision. Once your cat smells food in the bag, it will start to chew. As the cat cannot see that the bag is empty, it will continue to do so. The cat is convinced that, if it displays enough patience, it will reach the food within.
Smelling a plastic bag is dangerous, even if the cat does not chew. The bag could constrict while the cat’s head is buried within it. This leaves the cat at risk of suffocation. If the bag’s handles cross over, the cat can be strangled.
In addition to the scent of food, plastic bags also taste appealing to cats. The main reason for this is the stearates. The bag will carry remnants of an animal fat taste.
Some manufacturers use corn starch as a stearate. This is an environmentally friendly alternative to animal fat. Unfortunately, this ingredient still appeals to a cat’s palate.
In addition to the taste, cats also enjoy the texture and temperature of a plastic bag. The bag will be warm and smooth on the tongue. As cats explore the world with their mouths, this will merit further investigation.
Cats should never be left to chew on a plastic bag, no matter how much they enjoy it. The chewing will inevitably lead to small pieces of the bag being swallowed. Even biodegradable plastic bags are not digestible for cats.
Pieces of plastic could get trapped in the cat’s throat, restricting breathing or eating. If swallowed, the plastic can cause intestinal blockages. This will leave a cat unable to digest food. As a result, it can quickly become fatal.
The sound of crinkling plastic is not appealing to human ears. Cats can happily spend hours chewing on a plastic bag to hear this sound, though. This is because crinkling plastic sounds like rustling leaves or grass. This excites a cat, as it reminds them of hunting prey outside.
Most cats will not settle for just listening to a plastic bag. Eventually, they will start chewing. This will become especially likely if instinct takes over. The cat would sink its teeth into prey, so it does the same to a bag.
Remove the bag from your cat and offer a squeaky toy instead. These are designed to safely mimic prey. If the cat has no interest in toys, try a paper bag instead. This is still not ideal. Paper is safer to chew and accidentally consume in small quantities than plastic, though.
Some cats willfully behave in ways that owners will not approve of. Sometimes, it is just a cat being dominant or stubborn. More often, the cat is trying to gain an owner’s attention. If you react every time your cat chews on a plastic bag, it will notice.
A cat that is looking for an owner’s attention is typically lonely or bored. Cats are largely self-sufficient and capable of amusing themselves. Your cat will crave your attention and company on occasion, though.
Do not let your cat believe that the only way to get your attention is to act out. Learn your cat’s subtle signals that it wants to be acknowledged. These usually involve:
All of this can be avoided through routine. If your cat knows it will be attended to at a particular time, it will relax. This will also minimize stress and boredom. This, in turn, makes your cat less likely to chew on plastic bags for a reaction.
It is no secret that teething kittens find chewing soothing. The same applies to cats of any age that experience dental pain. As cats grow older, they become increasingly susceptible to oral pain and discomfort. Just like bones, the teeth of a senior cat age and weaken.
Chewing on a plastic bag can be a source of great comfort for a cat with a toothache. The bag will not be solid, so it will not hurt. The tastes and smells found within will also distract from the pain.
If your cat has developed a sudden interest in chewing plastic bags, check its teeth. If the cat refuses to let you touch its mouth, it invariably has a dental issue. Stained or discolored teeth or gums are also signs of periodontal disease.
All cats experience dental issues at one stage of their life. When this happens, swift action becomes necessary. The cat will be constant discomfort, and a disease that begins in the gums can spread. Your cat must undertake a professional tooth cleaning and scraping.
The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association confirms that cats can experience OCD. In a sample study, it appeared that female cats are more likely to develop this condition.
OCD in cats displays similar symptoms to that of humans. The cat will feel compelled to enact a range of odd behaviors. One of these may be the chewing of plastic bags. The cat will draw comfort from this action.
Feline OCD is believed to stem from extreme stress. This makes sense, as chewing is soothing for cats. Cats enjoy the smell and taste of plastic bags. Chewing on these items will thus be seen as a pacifying activity.
You must remove access to plastic bags from a cat with OCD. The symptoms will only magnify over time. This will cause the cat significant distress, though. Provide an alternative item to chew. In the meantime, investigate the root cause of the stress.
If you conquer your cat’s stress, you will conquer your cat’s OCD. If you cannot manage this though lifestyle changes alone, see a vet. Medication may be required, though this will often be considered a last resort.
Pica is a compulsion to eat non-food items. Pica can manifest as a desire to eat dirt, fabric, cardboard, or plastic bags. While a cat that chews on plastic bags does not necessarily have pica, it is worth investigating.
According to Applied Animal Behavior Science, oriental breeds are more genetically predisposed to pica.
The condition is comparatively rare in senior cats, usually being identified before the age of 4. Some diseases list pica as a symptom, though.
The only real symptom of pica is the desire to eat the inedible. Doing so can cause a range of health complaints with differing symptoms, though. This makes it essential to learn the difference between curious exploration of new items and pica.
Pica is usually caused by a stressful life event. This is the likeliest cause for a senior cat to develop the habit. Many rehomed cats suffer from pica, at least for a short while. Other explanations for the behavior include:
The first sign of pica is usually suckling on fabric. If your cat sucks on your clothing or soft furnishings, keep it away from plastic bags. It will invariably start to chew on these.
Pica can often be treated with lifestyle changes. Keep your cat happy and occupied. Old habits are hard to break, though. You will need to be patient with your cat and restrict access to anything consumable.
Consider whether your cat is simply imitating your relationship with plastic bags. Cats are natural mimics and will often impersonate their owners.
Obviously, you do not come home from the store and start to chew a plastic bag. Your cat may see you extract an item from the bag and eat it, though. It’s possible that the cat misunderstands this. As the bag smells so strongly of food, your cat believes that it is the source of nutrition.
This is especially likely in geriatric cats, aged over 15 years. At this stage of a cat’s life, cognitive dysfunction becomes increasingly likely. This condition leaves cats confused and bewildered.
If your cat is growing older, take particular care to avoid such mistakes. Try to keep the cat in a separate room while unpacking groceries. Wherever possible, use fabric bags that will not harm the cat if chewed.
Cats love to chew on plastic bags. Unfortunately, it’s not a behavior that should be encouraged. Never leave a cat unattended with a bag. The cat will love the sensory stimulation it provides, but the health risks are too great.
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I'm Richard, the lead writer for Senior Cat Wellness. I'm experienced in all cat health-related matters, behavioral issues, grooming techniques, and general pet care. Richard earned his degree in journalism in 2008. He is the proud owner of 5 adult cats (all adopted strays), including a senior cat who is now 20.
Plastic bags that come from a grocery or other supermarket can carry the sticking around fragrance as well as taste of food, which makes chewing them a pleasant experience. Numerous bags are likewise coated in substances such as cornstarch, stearates (salts of stearate acid), or are made from animal by-products such as gelatin, that makes them appealing to felines. Felines can also enjoy the crinkly noises that a plastic bag makes.
Another factor that cats will chew bags can be associated with their dental health. If you discover your feline engaging in these activities, a trip to the veterinarian to make sure her teeth are in good order is important. You might also wish to discuss with your veterinarian your feline’s diet, as chewing on odd items can be a symptom of deficiency in everyday dietary requirements. Lastly, boredom can be a major factor in habits like these. You must embrace a strategy integrating management (to keep your feline safe) and enrichment (to engage your cat’s physical and mental needs).
Why Does My Cat Eat Plastic –В Plastic bags are dangerous for cats for many reasons. If chewed, there is a risk of air blockage and intestinal blockage. Playing with plastic bags creates a risk of strangulation and suffocation.
Not every cat is interested in plastic bags, but if your kitten possesses, it can be a seemingly endless battle to keep plastic bags out of reach.
If your cat prefers flimsy plastic, like what your grocery bags are made of, she may be craving some animal fat. Some grocery bags are made with animal by-products like gelatin. Your cat may be looking for something to satisfy that primal carnivore craving.
Full disclosure: this puzzle has yet to be solved. We may never fully understand why cats seem to prefer plastic over all other substances. But we highly recommend you keep asking her.
And let us know if you get an answer.
If you’re like us and you’ve been stumped as to why cats eat plastic, we hope this has cleared up some of the confusion.