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Why Do Cats Eat And Chew On Paper? 5 Reasons for This Behavior

Believe it or not, cats eating cardboard and paper is a common problem. Sometimes, owners mistake their cats playing with the toilet roll as a desire to eat it. In other cases, the cat might be tempted by the smell or taste of what was formerly inside the paper.

But there is a surprisingly large number of cats that suffer from something referred to as Pica Syndrome, or the urge to eat non-edible materials. These are several potential causes of this action, a host of ways you could potentially stop it, and plenty of reasons to stop your feline friend from feasting on non-food fiber.


Pica Syndrome

Pica syndrome is a behavioral condition. It is an urge to eat non-food materials. For cats, common objects include hair bobbles and bobby pins, plastic, wood, and paper-based products.

This condition can be witnessed in people, and it is more common than you might imagine in cats, considering they can be such picky eaters at other times.

Pica syndrome tends to be more common in young cats, and experts are unsure as to the precise cause of this unusual complaint but have speculated as to several potential causes. Your cat may grow out of it, but this isn’t guaranteed, and there are some very viable reasons to try and stop your cat from eating cardboard and paper.

Can Cats Digest Cardboard?

Cardboard and paper are not meant to be eaten. They can be difficult to digest, but if your cat has eaten a small or modest amount and it is a one-off, you shouldn’t worry. They should be able to digest the material, as long as they can effectively chew and swallow it in the first place.

Your cat may find it difficult to chew and swallow larger pieces of these materials. Paper is very dry and cardboard can be stiff with sharp corners. It is quite conceivable that your cat’s non-edible habit could lead to such products getting stuck in their throat.

cat inside a cardboard box
Image Credit: Pixabay

Is It Safe?

There are other dangers associated with your cat eating cardboard and paper. Paper often contains staples and other fastenings that are designed to connect multiple sheets. They also contain dyes, adhesives, and if the material has been used as a container, you also have to consider the former contents.

Hemp papers offer a natural alternative to other papers. They do not usually contain the same array of chemicals, so if you know your cat is a paper eater, you are unable to keep the source of paper away from them, and you can dictate what type of paper it is, this may be a better alternative to other forms of paper.

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The 5 Reasons Cats Eat Paper

Experts are unsure exactly why cats eat objects like paper and cardboard, but there are several likely causes. If you can identify any of these in your cat, it could be the underlying cause of the condition.

1. Teething

Pica is more common in kittens and young cats than in older cats. One of the reasons for this may be that they are prone to teething. As their adult teeth begin to break out, it can cause irritation and some pain around the site. Chewing on something can provide great relief from the condition, as parents of teething children can attest. Rubber is a common material for teething rings because it has some give in it, but paper and cardboard are more accessible, more available, and easier for your cats to chew. Look for other signs of teething to determine if this is the cause.

kitten open mouth
Image Credit: Pixabay
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2. Irritated Gums And Other Dental Problems

There are other causes of irritated and painful gums that are not related to teething, so even if your cat is older and already has all of its adult teeth, it could be chewing on cardboard to enjoy some relief from pain and irritation. Look for red and bleeding gums. If your cat is off its food and drink, this can also be a sign that it is suffering pain because of dental problems.

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3. A Lack Of Nutrients

It is a common belief that a cat will seek out any ingredients that it is missing from its daily diet. This doesn’t mean that your cat is lacking paper, but it could be lacking protein, fiber, or fat, and its body may be looking for other potential sources of vital nutrients and ingredients.

cat not eating
Image Credit: plew koonyosying, Shutterstock
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4. Thyroid Issues

Although pica can be genetic. It is believed to be more common in Siamese and Birman cats, and it can start out as wool sucking where a kitten will suck on its blanket when young, before progressing to eating other items. In other cases, the problem could be related to a health condition like hyperthyroidism. Look for other signs of illness, and symptoms like dry or itchy skin, change in appetite, and an increase or decrease in urinary production, and consult a veterinarian if your cat is showing symptoms of illness.

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5. Fun

Some cats simply like the feeling or even the flavor of paper and cardboard, and there may not be any underlying cause or reason for the habit. If they are shredding the material and leaving it on the floor, rather than eating it, they could just enjoy the game. You can try providing alternative chews and toys, and ensure that any paper and cardboard is kept out of the way.

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How Do You Treat Pica In Cats?

In most cases, treatment means determining the underlying problem and taking steps to remedy this, while keeping paper and cardboard out of your cat’s way. However, we do appreciate that can be challenging. Look for symptoms of poor health and consult a veterinarian.

Try feeding a diet that is higher in fiber, if you believe your cat is not getting enough fiber. Offer alternative toys to determine if they’re bored. And buy dedicated teething toys to help alleviate the dental discomfort that is present when a cat’s adult teeth grow out.

Do Cats Outgrow Pica?

Pica is most common in kittens and young cats, although it can develop in older cats. Depending on the case, your cat may continue to eat inedible objects throughout its life, simply because it is a habit that they picked up when young and they now find it comforting or enjoyable. In most cases, a young cat will grow out of the habit, but they need some assistance or help to do so.

Why Do Cats Love Paper Bags?

cat inside a paper bag
Image Credit: Pixabay

Your cat may not be eating the paper bag that you find shredded on the floor. They may enjoy climbing in the bag, causing it to tear, and once there is a tear, they start to pull at it, eventually causing them to shred the bag into tatters. It’s messy, it can look disastrous, but it may not be a health or behavioral issue and you won’t need to worry about it if your cat is just shredding the bag rather than eating it.

Why Is My Cat Eating Clothes?

cat on the floor with clothes
Image Credit: Pxhere

Paper and cardboard are just two non-edible materials that cats are prone to eating. Some like to eat plastic, some even manage to chew bits of wood and cement from walls.

Clothes are another common material that cats will eat, and as well as the same reasons as we listed for eating cardboard and paper, your cat could be eating clothes because they used to eat, chew, or mother blankets and other similar fibers when they were young and they still find it comforting now.

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Why Do Cats Eat And Chew On Paper?

There are several reasons why a cat might chew on paper or cardboard, including health reasons as well as behavioral and emotional issues.

While it isn’t a cause for concern if your feline friend eats a small amount, it can be a major concern if they are regularly munching large volumes of the material. Look for the underlying cause and find ways to resolve any problems, offer healthier and safer alternatives, and consult a veterinarian or an animal behaviorist if it is making your cat unwell and you are unable to fix the problem yourself.

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Featured Image Credit: Pixabay