Why Do Cats Shred Toilet Paper?
Behavioral Problems

Why Do Cats Shred Toilet Paper? (Unrolling, Tearing Up + Eating)

When a cat finds a roll of toilet paper, destruction is sure to follow. Cats will have so much fun shredding, pawing and rolling about in the remnants.

Cats unroll and play with toilet paper because it satisfies their natural hunting instincts. Roll a toilet paper across the floor and the cat will immediately ‘hunt’ it. Once in a cat’s paws, it shreds without resistance. This mimics a cat tearing a prey animal’s flesh from its bones.

Shredding toilet paper is a messy, but safe, activity. Small quantities of toilet roll are soft enough to pass through the digestive tract if swallowed. You only need to put an end to your cat’s fun if it chews and swallows too much.

Why Do Cats Destroy Toilet Paper?

A toilet roll can provide a cat with hours of entertainment. Many cats steal toilet roll from the bathroom and contentedly play with it for some time.

Cats do not understand the human use of toilet paper. Felines eliminate in a litter tray and clean themselves by grooming. As a result, toilet paper serves no purpose. Housing toilet paper in the bathroom adds to the inscrutability. You often close the door to this room, restricting access.

Toilet paper amuses cats as it brings their hunting instincts to life. Toilet roll will flutter and move, capturing a cat’s attention. The toilet roll will then unravel. Once this happens, the cat will not hesitate to tear it to shreds.

In some cases, the cat will be acting defensively. If it does not understand the purpose of toilet roll, the cat will attack. Perfumed paper is likelier to gain this response. A bright white paper may also catch a cat’s eye.

1/ Hunting Instincts

All cats, even indoor felines, are governed by wild instincts. Chief among these is the desire to hunt. People and Nature stated that domesticated cats are just as likely to hunt as their feral counterparts.

Toilet paper instigates a cat’s hunting instincts because it is so pliable. It will flutter in a breeze. This movement will capture a cat’s attention. The cat will view the toilet roll as prey. Stalking, hunting and capturing will follow.

Once the cat has tracked down the toilet roll, it will move in for the kill. This involves pouncing on the toilet roll and gripping it in its paws. From here, the cats will start to shred, possibly in a frenzy.

This is fun for the cat, as it makes a noise. In addition, it replicates another pivotal part of the hunting process. When a cat captures prey, it tears skin from bone. This makes the ‘meat’ of the prey animal easier to access. The cat is stripping the toilet roll of its outer shell.

Another instinct of cats, albeit not as strong, is the urge to dig. Some cats are natural diggers. Shredding material is a way to satisfy this drive. Many cats will happily tear apart conventional paper or cardboard. Toilet tissue is much softer, and thus easier.

2/ Soft Material

Many cats are natural comfort-seekers. A cat will often settle down and relax on the softest cushion in the house. This also applies to shredding play. Toilet paper feels soft and soothing under a cat’s paw pads.

Cats have an instinct to scratch and tear items. This is why scratching posts are essential. Coarse materials can be painful for cats though, especially senior felines. Toilet tissue offers a far more pleasant texture. Allowing a cat to shred toilet paper will prevent scratching of your carpet.

3/ Nesting

Some cats use the softness of toilet paper to create a makeshift nest. This will be common in cats that lack territory. If the cat does not have a safe space to retreat to, it will make one. Expect an unhappy response if you clear away this toilet paper.

If your cat is female, watch any shredding and transporting of toilet paper to her bed. This is a common behavior in pregnant queens. Your cat is making a warm, soft and hospitable environment for her impending litter of kittens.

how to stop cat from attacking toilet paper

4/ Unraveling

Cats play with their kill after a successful hunt, batting the prey around with their paws. This is not an act of malice or sadism. The cat is ensuring to prey is too tired or injured to fight back. According to Applied Animal Behavior Science, this is more common in hungry cats.

Instinctively, a cat will engage in the same behavior with toilet paper. Remember, in the cat’s mind, it successfully stalked and captured this object. As it plays with the toilet roll, more paper will unravel. This unlocks a new level of delight for the cat.

Cats have no concept of how much toilet paper is on a roll when they commence playing. They just saw something they wanted and took it. As the toilet roll unravels, it will move around the floor.

The cat will be constantly excited by this movement. Motion captures a cat’s attention. The cat will learn that swiping a toilet roll will make it move. As it does so, more and more paper becomes available for hunting and shredding.

If a cat has a full roll of toilet paper, it will keep unraveling until it is empty. Whenever cats complete a ‘kill’ – shredding toilet paper in this case – endorphins flood their brain. This can be addictive. The cat will keep on going until there is nothing left to shred.

5/ Access to Cardboard Tube

Once a cat has shredded toilet paper, the fun is not over. The cardboard tube in the middle of a toilet roll acts as a reward for cats. This is particularly prevalent in cats that eat their live prey. The hunt was satisfying, but there is still more to gain from the experience.

Even if your cat is not food-focused, toilet roll tubes can be used for additional fun and games. Due to their cylindrical shape, toilet roll tubes can be rolled and chased. They are also slightly tougher than toilet roll. This makes shredding more challenging.

You can turn your cat’s fascination with toilet rolls and tubes to your advantage. Save money on expensive toys by making DIY alternatives. Examples of these could include:

  • Treat rattle: Fold over the corners of the tube and fill with treats
  • Mobile scratching post: Stuff the tube and wrap with string
  • Puzzles: Glue toilet roll tubes together and hide treats within
  • Hunt and Chase: Attach string to the tube and let your cat chase it

There are many options open to cat owners with toilet roll tubes. Don’t just toss them in the recycling. They make a great, low-cost boredom buster.

Is Toilet Paper Safe for Cats?

Toilet paper is safe for cats. Your cat will not hurt its claws while shredding the paper. Despite this, retain an element of caution in your cat’s play.

Look out for an allergic reaction in your cat after shredding toilet paper. If the paper contains perfumes or other chemicals, it could spark an allergy. Common warnings that your cat is allergic to toilet paper are:

  • Sneezing, coughing and wheezing
  • Streaming eyes
  • Skin breakouts and hives
  • Itchy skin
  • Vomiting and diarrhea

To test if toilet paper is to blame, offer your cat a plain, unscented tissue. In theory, the cat will have the same fun tearing this apart. If your cat experiences no reaction to the tissue, toilet paper was to blame.

Tissues can be used as an occasional treat, especially for cats that enjoy shredding play. Don’t let your cat eat tissues, though. Most are thicker than toilet paper. This means that tissues can cause an intestinal blockage.

cat shredding toilet paper

Eating Toilet Paper

After shredding toilet paper, your cat may start to nibble upon it. In small quantities, this is perfectly safe. Many cats eat paper and cardboard. If your cat has this habit, toilet paper is the best material to consume.

Toilet paper is soft enough to be largely soluble. Small amounts of toilet paper will dissolve in a cat’s digestive tract. Unless consumed to excess, it will pass as part of your cat’s normal elimination routine.

Just keep an eye on a cat that forgoes shredding toilet paper for eating it. This suggests that your cat has pica. The BSAVA Manual of Feline Practice describes pica as an, “abnormal appetite for non-food material.”

Pica is rarely a standalone concern. It is typically a side effect of another health issue. This could psychological in nature, such as stress or boredom. Alternatively, it may be due to inappropriate nutrition in your cat’s diet.

Searching for Toilet Paper

Another potential danger to cats surrounding toilet paper is the quest to obtain it. Think about where you keep your toilet paper. Your cat may risk falling into the toilet as it tries to snatch a roll.

Toilet water in itself is arguably the cleanest water in your home. The supply refreshes every time you flush. This is why cats often drink from the toilet. You may use cleaning products, though, such as bleach.

You will also experience a degree of frustration if your cat helps itself to toilet paper. You may find that your supply runs short at the worst possible time. You’ll also need to constantly clean up a trail of shredded destruction.

It is best to keep toilet paper in a bathroom cabinet if you have a cat. If you cannot do so, close the bathroom door. It’s fine to let your cat play with toilet paper but do so on your terms.

Shredding toilet paper is a great game for cats. It is a way for a feline to exercise its natural instincts indoors, using soft materials. As long as your cat plays safely, this household essential provides fantastic stimulation.