There are certain behaviors a cat shouldn’t exhibit, ordinarily. Especially, when it comes to eating, there are some objects cats aren’t expected to eat, and specific eating habit cat owners should watch out for.
Some cats behave like puppies and would go out of the way to chew plastic objects. Some even have taken chewing on plastic a habit.
The questions are;
- Is it ideal for cats to eat plastics? If yes, what benefits do cats derive from chewing on plastics?
- If it is not healthy for cats to eat plastics, what risks does it portend for them eating plastics?
- What are symptoms to look out for if a cat loves chewing on plastics?
- What are the causes of cat plastic chewing behavior? How do we correct plastic eating behavior in a cat?
- What are normal and abnormal cat chewing behaviors?’
We shall start with the last set of questions before addressing the first set. Now, let us read on to learn more.
What Are Normal Cat Chewing Behaviors?
Cat chewing behaviors differ from one cat to another, depending on their age. For instance, the attraction to chewing plastic objects among kittens is different from that of adult cats.
Now, let us check out some of the typical reasons why your cat may be chewing plastic.
Normal Chewing Behaviors in Kittens
One major factor that prompts your kitten to have the desire for chewing on plastic is teething. Put differently, cats that are teething have a higher likelihood of eating plastic objects than adult cats that have grown all their teeth. This is basically because they are just starting to grow teeth with which they can chew. They want to test the capacity and potency of the new organ growing in their body. And usually, in the process of chewing these hard objects, they end up losing all their baby teeth. This occurs with kittens between ages three and a half and seven months.
The teeth will fall off at different times, resulting in the total collapse of the initial dental set-up. During the first four months, the drive to chew is always higher, as the kitten anticipates the coming of the new set of 30 teeth. Naturally, kittens love to play with small objects, raising them and falling with them at the same time. They engage these inanimate objects such as bottle, cups, plastic belts, or rubber bands, as though they are rivals or opponents in a bout.
Some even put these items in their mouth, feel the texture, release them, grab them again and continue the self-struggle with the items until their attention is drawn away or perhaps when they get tired. Once they can feel the kind of texture that suits their teeth, they continue the behavior and look out for items with a similar texture.
Healthy Chewing Behaviors in Adult Cats
However, adult cats have a preference for chewing on the specific texture of plastic objects. This preference is often motivated by the use of catnip or the kind of treats or edibles they have tasted. In another way, such attraction may be caused by the cat’s desire to be curious and or borne out of pure adventurous spirit. In that process, they put their tongue to an item, lick or bite it to know how it tastes. In the end, if the object tastes well or makes some interesting fun noise, then they continue in the behavior.
If the reverse is their experience with the item, they discontinue and explore new items. One reason they often choose plastic objects is that they are often made with tasty and sweet coating materials, which when tasted leaves some sweet taste in the tongue. And naturally, cats, like every other living organism, will hardly part with sweet tasting objects or edible foods. Adult cats may also want to chew on plastic objects when they want to relieve their hurting mouth of the discomfort arising from dental injury. If you find an adult cat chews on a plastic object, try to examine it for dental pain with your veterinarian.
Abnormal Cat Chewing Behaviors
So far we have described normal cat chewing behavior which a pet owner may not worry a lot about. They are normal and among most cats, whether young or adult. At the level of the normal behavior, your cat only grabs the plastic object, feels the texture and releases it from the mouth. We also have certain habits that you have to be wary of in a cat, especially when they chew.
There is this disorder in cat chewing behavior called Pica. It refers to an eating disorder in cat or pets generally in which cats long to consume objects that add no nutritional value to their body system. Such items range from plastics, rubber bound, and a host of others we mentioned earlier.
A cat suffering from this disorder and abnormal chewing behavior will not stop at just tasting the item; it will also consume and swallow them. What essentially motivates this habit is most times stress. Ideally, the cat is just trying to have a taste of the object, but stress could make them consume the item instead of just tasting it because they have felt the sweet taste of the coated item. This is a disorder, and as a pet owner, serious attention must be paid to that.
Apart from stress, a cat that has aggression problems is also vulnerable to chewing on plastics and plastic cords. In an attempt to express their emotions, cats will clamp on plastics around the house and begin to consume them. The aggressive expressions could result from some pains in the body, hunger, malnutrition, alienation, poor socialization, etc.
Is it Dangerous for Cats to Eat Plastic?
Many have asked what risks are there if their cat starts eating plastic. The simple answer from a layman’s point of view is that it is dangerous. However, the final and most reliable answer comes from your veterinarian. But, we can highlight some of the dangers involved if your cats are obsessed with eating plastic cords:
- Digestive obstruction: Otherwise referred to as choking hazard, obstruction in the digestive process occurs when your cat is unable to spit out objects or is having a serious problem with digestion having swallowed small pieces of plastic. It is unsafe for cats to swallow plastic pieces.
- Suffocation hazard: this occurs when cats, whether kitten or adult find it difficult to get out from inside a bag and so crawls all day long. Adult cats may succeed; kittens have a high risk of being suffocated in a plastic grocery bag.
- Strangulation hazard: handles of plastic grocery bags are a danger to kittens and stand a high risk of strangulating them if there is no one around to rescue them.
Reasons Your Cat May Love Plastic
We said that Pica is a disorderly propensity in which case cats have a longing for chewing on or eating non-food items. The risk factors for Pica to occur are of various kinds. The following are things you should see to suspect Pica has occurred in your cat:
- Lack of nutritional food: nutritional deficiency is a major factor that propels cat to exhibit Pica. Lack of vitamin, fibers or minerals can result in Pica. However, research claims that this is a low-risk factor, but then it is not completely ruled out.
- Medical conditions:
- Diabetes: cats suffering from diseases like diabetes are vulnerable to develop Pica. Cats need to eat a balanced diet that is either cooked or raw.
- Brain tumors: look out for seizures, aggressive head pressing, sensitivity to neck touch, vision issues in your cats to suspect Pica. However, your vet will confirm as not every brain tumor is linked to Pica.
- Anemia: when your cats tissues lack enough oxygen due to the insufficient circulation of red blood cell.
Other diseases include Feline Leukemia Virus (FIV), Dental issues, Hyperthyroidism in cats.
- Lack of adequate play time strained relationship with fellow pets of humans, and medical issues are all responsible for stress in cats. This can lead to anxiety and so lead to Pica.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder. This is again one consequence of stress. OCD gives room for cats to seek out plastic, leaving normal activities obsessively.
- Curiosity: A cat may long to have a taste of the sweet coating in the plastic grocery bag.
- Predatory drive: Usually, cats want to prey on items around him. That drive may push her to want to pick up objects.
- Misdirected behavior: if you redirect the cat’s intended action, this might result in Pica.
- Fellow pets in the yard: the presence of other cats around the house may excite or anger her and makes her want to chew things around.
Other risk factors for Pica or Pica-related issues include separation, presence of new faces around the house among others. Loud noises are also a big factor that could propel your cat to start chewing on plastics.
How to correct This Behavior?
As noted, it is abnormal for a cat to start to consume plastic around the house. It is a behavior you as pet owners have to watch out for. You should be concerned because there are minor and major health issues that may result from a cat eating plastics. For instance, a cat eating plastic items could suffer vomiting and diarrhea. Chewing plastics could also cause more serious health hazards such as choking, suffocation, strangulation and even mouth damage. Once it becomes an obsession, it’ll demand extra skill to overcome the habit. Cats could also suffer other dangerous threats such as intestinal disorders that may require you to take your cat out for medical surgery. Here are a few things you can do to correct the disorderly behavior or solve any consequences arising from your cat chewing plastics.
- Seek veterinarian advice: Do not assume anything. The veterinarian is your first point of call once you find out that your cat is exhibiting this abnormal behavior or has eaten plastic cords. Visit your veterinarian and let him or her check for whatever medical condition that is wrong with the cat.
- Make out time to interact with your cat: Spare some time to interact and engage your cat in some boredom-killing activities. It reduces the emotional and aggressive tendency to start chewing plastic
- Use prey-like toys during interaction: To make them happy, you must often use prey-mimicking toys that will wave off their tendency to go after plastic.
Using pre-like toys like birds, mouse, and rodents to play and interact with your cat restores their predator’s instincts and pride back to them, and they make them feel happier and healthier.
- Keep her active while away: You cannot possibly always be around or at home with the cat. Never allow boredom, stress or loneliness to overwhelm her. During those times you’re away, try to provide enrichment and set the house in a lively and active mood for the cat. You can place her daily meal served in different bowls scattered around the house so she could hunt for them before she finds them.
- Erect plenty of cat scratching posts. Scratching is one activity that cats generally love to do to reduce and alleviate stress. They also mark the earth with this activity.
What you can do to enhance this is to have many of those scratching posts around the house with which she can scratch on.
- Modify behavior. This technique requires you to distract the attention of your cat away from the abnormal behavior once it starts to exhibit the act of chewing the plastic cords. Repeat this technique over and over again until you’re able to draw the cat to the positive reinforcement you want from it.
- Put plastic away from sight. Once cats don’t find plastic around, they won’t have any item which they can play with or attempts to chew on. Always keep plastic away from your cat.
In the final analysis, your veterinarian has the final say once obsession sets for the cat chewing behavior. The medical animal practitioner may prescribe the use of medication that you can use to combat the compulsive issue affecting your cat. He or she may recommend medicines which in the short-term may help modify, subside, or suppress the behavior. Never carry out anything without your veterinarian consent.