what to do if your cat eats plastic
Behavioral Problems

Why Do Cats Like Chewing on Plastic Bags?

Chewing on plastic bags is a favorite activity for cats, but it does carry health risks! Cats are drawn to plastic bags for a variety of reasons. It could be due to boredom, food smells, the chemical makeup of the bag (gelatin), the noise that plastic makes, and a desire to soothe aching teeth and gums.

While the chewing of plastic is an activity that cats enjoy, this daily habit can put your cat’s health in potential jeopardy. The sound of plastic being bitten continually will also be annoying for the owner, and you may find random objects in your home that have been damaged or destroyed.

Although a far less common among senior cats, it is a severe issue for kittens and adult cats. That is why you should avoid leaving plastic bags in easy-to-access places.

In this article, we will look closely at why cats chew on plastic and random objects. We will then share some suggestions on what you can do to prevent this problem and keep your cat safe from harm.

Why Do Cats Like to Chew on Plastic?

Because cats are naturally curious, they are intrigued by items that immediately respond to their behavior. Once you add sound to the equation, you find that plastic checks all of the boxes.

Some cats will see plastic bags as edible toys. Caught up in the smell and texture of the bag, your cat may also see a bag as a treat or snack. While playing can sometimes be problematic, the consumption of plastic can be hazardous for a cat’s health and well-being.

What is Pica?

Your cat’s interest in plastic is an extension of a medical condition called Pica. This defines the behavior of eating non-food material and objects. It is a behavior that affects both humans and animals.

In most cases, pica is associated with the consumption of wool items (socks, blankets, jackets, etc.) However, some cats prefer to chew on plastic grocery bags.

Professionals believe that pica may be the result of a poor diet that is lacking in fiber. This prompts a cat to seek nutrients in non-edible items. In rare cases, cats will attempt to consume their own cat litter.

Pica can also occur due to boredom or stress. On the human spectrum, this would be equivalent to a person biting their fingernails. Your cat may consume plastic as a source of mental and physical stimulation.

  • Pica can be the result of a disease or brain impairment. Genetics may also play a role as it is believed that some breeds of cat are naturally predisposed to consuming objects that are made from wool or plastic.

Why Do Cats Like Chewing Plastic Bags?

By identifying the core reason for your cat’s behavior, you may be able to eliminate the issues entirely. So, let’s take a closer look at each of the possible reasons:

1) The Smell of Food

In this case, the chewing of plastic goes far beyond the bag itself. Your cat is interested in what used to be in the bag.

If most of your bags once held grocery items, your cat may be locking in on the smell of various foods. Deli meats, cheeses, cakes, etc. can have a lasting aroma that will be of great interest to your cat.

If juice from raw meat has dripped into a bag, your cat will become all the more interested.

cats chewing plastic shower curtain

2) Bag Coating and Material

Most plastic bags are coated with cornstarch or are constructed from animal products. Gelatin is a common ingredient in many bags. These factors can engage your cat’s sense of smell, thus making the bag extremely interesting and attractive.

If your cat is chewing a bag like it would food, there is a strong possibility that your cat has zeroed in on several enjoyable scents that are connected to food rather the bag’s composition.

3) The Sound of Plastic

Crinkle! Crinkle! Plastic bags make noise and cats love to create sounds. Once your cat realizes that chewing and moving a plastic bag can activate various noises, they will be more inclined to play with it.

If your cat finds a series of bags, it may attempt to lay on them like a form of bedding. Although this action is more in line with play than consumption, the sound that chewing makes can lead to your cat to tear a piece of plastic from the bag and eat it. Plastic bedding should be avoided for this reason.

4) Dental Health Issues

Most cats that are trusting of their owners enjoy having their gums rubbed. This is one of the many reasons why you have likely seen your cat rubbing its face against soft objects. Not only does rubbing act as a scent marker, but it also feels good.

If your cat has aching teeth and gums, the chewing of a plastic bag may provide some welcome relief.

  • Are your cat’s gums discolored? Does your cat’s breath have a foul odor? If plastic bag chewing is done in conjunction with recognizable dental concerns, you should consult your vet.

5) Boredom and Anxiety

Cats can enter phases of extreme boredom if they are left alone for too long. Although cats are not as affectionate as dogs, they still need your love and attention.

If their attention needs are not met, cats can take out their frustrations on random objects. The chewing and consumption of plastic bags can be one of the outcomes. Cats that destroy furniture, vomit in shoes, tear up carpet, scrape the paint off walls, etc., are lashing out due to unfulfilled needs.

One of the worst mistakes you can make is to own a cat yet ignore it. Simply supplying its food, water, shelter, and litter box needs are not enough and can result in bad behavior by cats.

  • Daily petting and playing sessions are a must. It will likely calm and relax you after a rough day while also meeting to your cat’s needs.

Can Chewing and Eating Plastic Harm Your Cat?

The consumption of the smallest piece of a plastic bag can cause significant harm to your cat. With the potential for an intestinal blockage, consuming plastic may cause your cat to vomit and result in severe bowel issues. Plastic also poses a severe choking hazard. If your cat is chewing on hard plastic or a piece of knotted plastic, the risk of choking increases exponentially.

chewing on plastic disorder in cats

If you have witnessed or suspect that your cat has consumed a piece of plastic, you should seek veterinary attention immediately. This is especially true if your cat is showing symptoms of illness, is unable to breathe normally or having a proper bowel movement has become an issue.

How to Keep Your Cat from Chewing Plastic Bags

  • Dispose of the bags or store them away safely. If you store plastic bags for future use, place them in a concealed area rather than leaving them in plain sight of your cat(s).
  • Introduce cat toys that have the characteristics of a plastic bag. Crinkly chew toys with interesting textures will allow your cat to continue to get its chewing fix but with safer results.
  • Interact with your cat regularly. If your cat is chewing plastic out of boredom, that means that they may not be getting enough attention. Petting and playing sessions can leave your cat satisfied and eliminate its desire to seek pleasure elsewhere.

Seek positive solutions. Although pica is often a normal issue with animals, you never want your cat to swallow non-edible materials as the risk of serious health concerns are a very real possibility.

If you feel that your cat has anxiety problems or is experiencing boredom, you should try to make a special effort to engage your cat daily. Make sure your cat feels apart of the family.