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It's a familiar scene: you hear a rustling from another room, and when you peek in to investigate, you see your feline friend chewing on a plastic bag, again. You're probably wondering why your cat likes to eat plastic and how you can divert your kitty's attention away from the potential dangers that go along with it.
Why does my cat try to eat plastic bags? Essentially, because she likes it. Plastic bags appeal to your cat's senses for a variety of reasons: the crinkle of the plastic, the smell of the food that was contained in it wafting through the air, the smooth surface under her paws. It's a full sensory experience for your little pal.
Kitties also find plastic bags especially alluring, explains the Pet Health Network, because "many bags are also coated in substances such as cornstarch, [and] stearates (salts of stearate acid), or are made of animal by-products such as gelatin, which makes them attractive to cats." Your cat sees a plastic bag and thinks, "Oh, look, a treat!"
Likewise, your cat may chew on bags and other, harder plastic objects, such as straws and milk jug rings, to alleviate anxiety caused by environmental or medical stressors. These can be anything from moving to a new home, a new pet or a new baby in the house, or even illness and aging.
Safety and Prevention
Cats and plastic bags are a potentially dangerous combination for a few reasons. In addition to swallowing a foreign object that may obstruct her airway or cause intestinal distress, your cat could get the plastic handles wrapped around her neck, which could cut off her breathing.
The safest way to prevent these types of accidents is to keep plastic bags out of your cat's reach at all times. Stash extra bags in a closet, the garage, or another cat-free space. This may not be an option, however, if you use the bags to line garbage cans or even her litter box (although you probably don't have to worry about her chewing on a little pan liner because since most healthy cats do not associate their litter box with snack time). If you can't close off the room with the garbage can, invest in a can with a lid that you can tuck the bag under. She can't chew on it if she can't reach it. This motto goes for other harmful playthings, including electrical cords.
If you suspect that something beyond sensory satisfaction is going on, make an appointment with your veterinarian to find out more about the burning question of why your cat is eating plastic. They can rule out any underlying medical conditions such as pica, a disorder that causes animals to eat non-food items such as plastic, rubber, or fabric, says the Animal Behavior College. Pica also could indicate a more serious illness, like feline leukemia. So, it's a good idea to get your kitty checked out as soon as possible.
Separating cats and plastic bags is achieved by stealth diversion tactics. If removing the alluring object from her reach isn't an option, offer her something more desirable. Stimulate her senses with toys like food puzzles or ball mazes. Because her hunting instinct runs deep, she'll appreciate soft cat toys that she can chase around the house. Many cats also appreciate dog toys, particularly the sturdy, durable stuffed animals.
Another option to break up cats and plastic bags is to give your feline pal her own safe chewing spot. Create an area where she can chew on cat treats or toys to her heart's desire. Having her own garden is a healthy, fun alternative to unhealthy and potentially dangerous plastic.
Cat parents can add eating plastic to the list of weird cat behaviors. It's their idiosyncrasies that make kitties so lovable. Just make to discourage snacking on plastic, curb the behavior with safer alternatives, and visit your vet to get to the bottom of her chewing habits.
Christine O'Brien is a writer, mom, and long-time cat parent whose two Russian Blues rule the house. Her work also appears in Care.com, What to Expect, and Fit Pregnancy, where she writes about pets, pregnancy, and family life. Find and follow her on Instagram and Twitter @brovelliobrien.