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Why Do Cats Try to Eat Plastic? 4 Reasons for This Behavior

Have you ever looked over as you’re unpacking the groceries to see your cat innocently chewing on a plastic bag? What’s up with that? The technical term for a cat eating a non-food item is “pica,” so in this case, we’re specifically looking at plastic pica.

There may be a good reason behind your cat’s plastic pica habit, and it’s important to find out the cause of the problem.

We probably don’t need to tell you that eating plastic is bad for your cat in more ways than one. Some plastic bags contain tasty remnants of food, which can attract your cat, while others are made with animal by-products that can smell tasty too.

If you notice your cat trying to chew any type of plastic, it can be a sign that something is wrong. Let’s take a look at the main reasons that cats try to eat plastic.

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1. Their diet is nutritionally deficient

maine coon cat standing next to feeding dish with wet pet food
Image Credit: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

If your cat’s regular food isn’t meeting their nutritional needs, they may be compelled to eat other items to make up the shortfall. Of course, plastic doesn’t contain any nutritional benefits for your cat at all, but if it’s plastic that’s contained meat or other tasty foodstuffs, then your cat might give it a nibble, anyway.

Solution:

Upgrade your cat’s food to something nutritionally balanced. Cat food should be high in protein, free from fillers like grains, and contain real meat, not by-products. Make sure any food is approved by the AAFCO for your cat’s specific life stage.


2. Your cat is stressed

sad cat
Image Credit: Pixabay

We know that cats can come across as independent and in control, but our little furry friends are actually easily affected by changes in their environment. Something that you may not even consider stressful, like rearranging the furniture or inviting a friend over, can cause your cat to feel anxious and stressed out. This might lead them to indulge in self-soothing behavior, which in some cases, can include plastic pica.

Solution:

If you’ve changed anything around your house recently, this may be the cause of your cat’s stress. Consider booking a check-up with your cat’s vet so they can advise you on what to do next. You can also use pheromone diffusers to help your cat feel soothed and content.


3. Your cat is curious

cat looking far away
Image Credit: Pixabay

Some cats, especially inquisitive kittens, love to investigate the world around them. This includes eating things that they really shouldn’t! Some cats retain their playful, kitten-like tendencies well into adulthood, and they may not be able to resist chewing on a plastic item that’s been left lying around.

Solution:

Make sure you provide your cat with plenty of distractions and safe items to chew and dedicate time to playing with your kitten or cat as often as possible. Indulging their hunting instincts during supervised playtime means they’re less likely to go looking for things to play with or chew on when you’re not around.


5. Your cat has a medical condition

Pica can be a sign of your cat trying to self-soothe themselves. If you catch your cat chewing on plastic or any other non-food item, this may be the first sign that they’re feeling unwell. Cats are masters of hiding pain, so keeping an eye out for subtle signs like this can give you a clue that your cat might not be feeling 100%.

Solution:

Make an appointment for your cat to see the vet, and explain that you’ve seen them chewing on plastic. Pica can be a sign of dental issues, anemia, diabetes, and immune deficiencies, so your vet will likely want to run a few tests.

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Keep plastic out of the reach of your cat

It’s a good habit to start putting away any plastic items that your cat might try to investigate. Plastic bags are particularly dangerous because they can become a choking or suffocation hazard if your cat does manage to swallow a piece or if they get their head stuck inside the bag.

Keep bags safely tucked away in drawers, invest in a trash can with a sturdy lid so your cat can’t reach the liner, and remove any other items that you think that your cat might decide to chew on.

If your cat happens to be chewing on the outer covering of electrical cables, this is even more dangerous. Try to make sure your cat only has access to a room without any electrical items plugged in when you’re not able to supervise them.

Giving your cat a diversion is always a good option, so offer them a variety of safe toys. You can even get chew sticks for your cat to gnaw on.

Always speak to your vet if you see your cat eating something plastic. If you see them doing it once, the chances are that they’ve also tried it when you’re not watching them. It’s important to get to the bottom of why your cat is chewing on or eating plastic, so you can help your furry friend get better.


Featured Image Credit: Faqih03, Shutterstock