Chewing on plastic bags is a habit that is quite common among cats. Your cat may start chewing on the leftover bags as soon as you come home with the groceries. While this behavior is cute, it’s dangerous if your cat starts eating plastic. Even chewing and licking the material can cause small pieces to be accidentally swallowed.
Cats chew on plastic bags because they are interesting new objects to explore. Or because they think they are fun, interactive toys. The cat may like the taste of biodegradable plastic. She may enjoy the smell of food that was in the plastic bag. Teething kittens, stressed cats, and cats with dental issues often chew on plastic bags for relief. Occasionally, a cat will eat a plastic bag because it has a nutritional deficiency, suffers from pica syndrome, or has obsessive-compulsive disorder.
When cats eat plastic bags, there is a risk of intestinal blockage, leading to diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy, behavioral changes, and even death.
If the cat eats only a small piece, it may excrete the bag without help. However, if you suspect this is not the case, you should take your cat to the vet.
Why Do Cats Lick or Chew Plastic Bags?
When you bring home groceries and find that your cat is pouncing wildly on the bags, it’s quite cute at first.
There is nothing unusual for a cat to play with a plastic bag for entertainment.
However, this changes when your cat tries to eat the bag. In fact, the cat may regularly seek out plastic bags to chew, lick, and ingest.
This problematic behavior can have several causes.
If your cat frequently cheats on plastic bags, he may be lacking essential nutrients.
Cats feed best on fat and protein. When their meals fall short, they look elsewhere for these nutrients.
Chewing on plastic is usually a reflex. The cat may notice a faint odor that reminds it of food.
The light, flowing movements of the plastic might trigger her hunting instinct and make her think animal protein is within reach.
She might even be so desperate that she chews on everything, your bags being just one of many possibilities.
If this is the case, you should replace your cat’s food with foods that are higher in protein and vitamins. This should stop the cravings and get your cat back to edible food.
While kittens and young cats like to chew on plastic while teething, adult cats can adopt this habit to help alleviate dental problems.
Persistent chewing on a plastic bag can help reduce irritation or pressure on the cat’s teeth.
A visit to the vet can help determine if your cat has dental problems. You should also listen to see if your cat makes painful noises when chewing plastic bags or regular food.
Taste and Texture
Nowadays, some plastic bags have a coat of biodegradable substances to make them more environmentally friendly. Others are made entirely of organic material that can be recycled.
Even if you don’t notice the difference, your cat certainly will.
Cats are known to have even more precise olfactory receptors than dogs. They may not be able to smell as much, but they are better at telling individual odors apart.
Your cat may be able to detect what individual materials your plastic bags are made of. These may include:
- Stearic acid
- Various salts
Cats find these substances palatable, especially if they are nutritionally deficient. If the opportunity presents itself, your cat will be happy to try to get a taste.
If your cat cheats on plastic bags, he may suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). While this disorder is more commonly known in humans, it can also affect cats.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a behavioral disorder usually characterized by repetitive, meaningless behaviors.
The causes of OCD remain unknown, especially in cats. However, the good news is that the disorder is treatable.
Cats are more likely to chew on plastic bags you have used to transport food.
The smell of treats, bread, meat, or fish is enticing. With her impressive ability to detect odors, your cat will lick the bag to taste it even if she is disappointed because there is no food.
Why Do Cats Chew On Plastic Bags?
The following causes are more likely for cats that chew on plastic bags occasionally and not compulsively. In addition, the chewing is usually temporary and may resolve itself after a short time, depending on the situation.
If your kitten likes to chew on plastic bags and other items, there is a good chance she is teething.
Young cats are born with baby teeth that 30 adult teeth will eventually replace.
As the new teeth grow and the gums ache, kittens chew on anything they can find to find relief.
Plastic is a comfortable, flexible material that doesn’t chafe too much but is still pleasant to chew on.
If this is the reason, your kitty will chew on plastic bags whenever available. The cat will not chase them and will be just as happy to choose another object.
This habit may appear at four months of age and should subside after seven months. At this point, the baby teeth are entirely replaced, and teething stops.
A cat’s curiosity is undeniable. These pets love to explore new objects and environments, especially if they are strange or unusual.
This comes into its own when it comes to plastic bags:
- They come in many different colors.
- They make different sounds when you poke or bite them.
- Plastic bags are light and flexible and can float in the air.
- They are soft and easy to tear.
These factors make it simply irresistible for a cat to play with. She can spend minutes or even hours playing with it and get a new reaction every time.
However, cats are also very good at conserving energy. If your cat feels that it understands the new object, it may get bored and move on. It depends on the cat in question.
Domestic cats still have the same predatory instincts as their feral and wild relatives.
Most plastic bags make a crackling sound. In your cat’s mind, this can immediately be equated with the sound of prey.
This spurs the cat’s natural hunting instincts as it tries to figure out which animal is making the strange noises.
With this in mind, don’t be surprised if your cat chews on plastic while hunting.
The unpredictable movements of a shopping bag floating through the air are even more exciting than a bird.
The sound of a plastic bag can attract a cat even if the plastic bag doesn’t fight back. This can cause it to become more involved in the playful struggle.
Stress and Anxiety
Cats habitually chew on odd objects like plastic bags when stressed, nervous, or anxious.
Chewing on plastic bags helps the cat eliminate negative energy caused by worrying situations.
Fortunately, this stress-related behavior usually does not last long. The cat finds relief after chewing on the objects. She then goes about her daily routine afterward.
Pica is a medical problem best described as a compulsion to eat non-food items.
Oriental cat breeds such as Burmese, Siamese, and Tonkinese are particularly prone to pica syndrome.
Cats that have pica syndrome like to chew on the following items:
- Hair ties
- Plastic houseplants
- Plastic bags
Even though they have no nutritional value, the cat cannot resist. Instead of just chewing or playing, the cat will process the item into a full meal.
So, if this behavior is not limited to plastic bags but involves various items, you should see a veterinarian. The veterinarian can determine if your cat is suffering from pica syndrome.
Are Plastic Bags Dangerous for Cats?
Even though plastic bags seem harmless everyday items, they can be dangerous to cats, whether your cat plays with them or eats them whole.
Thin plastic can easily wrap around a cat’s neck or cover its nose and mouth. If the plastic is rough and hard, it can damage the cat’s delicate mouth tissues if it eats it.
Once inside the cat, plastic can lead to serious health problems. Even biodegradable plastic is not harmless and cannot be adequately digested.
At best, your cat will successfully swallow the bag or a piece of it and excrete it. However, dangerous consequences are also possible:
- Intestinal blockage
Considering the dangers plastic bags pose to cats, keep them away from your cat. Offer your cat various other forms of entertainment to keep them away from your bags.
How Can You Tell if a Cat Has Ingested Plastic?
Your cat can swallow a plastic bag or part of it without you noticing, whether by accident or on purpose. This can cause minor problems like vomiting or more severe problems like an intestinal blockage.
Knowing the signs of plastic swallowing will help you recognize when your cat is in trouble. You can then apply the proper treatment in time.
Excessive Drooling and Vomiting
Excessive drooling and vomiting are among cats’ first signs of plastic ingestion.
The cat’s body may produce more saliva to move the pouch through the digestive tract.
This may also be the first stage before vomiting, which occurs when:
- The cat’s body recognizes that the plastic cannot be digested.
- The plastic gets stuck and can’t go any further, so it has to go back through the mouth.
- The cat’s digestive tract or stomach cannot absorb the plastic and, therefore, expels it.
Once vomiting or retching starts, you know there is a problem.
Cats do regurgitate fur balls on their own, and that’s natural. But if she’s been playing with plastic bags recently, it’s wise to be vigilant.
Has your cat suddenly stopped eating her favorite meals for no apparent reason? If so, she may have swallowed the plastic bag she was chewing on just moments or hours ago.
The plastic bag may have caused an intestinal blockage, resulting in loss of appetite due to the resulting digestive problems.
If your cat has recently become weak or lethargic, she may have eaten a plastic bag.
Although she cannot digest the material, her body burns a lot of energy trying to do so.
The cat may also suffer from constipation, which prevents other food from getting through and being absorbed as nutrients.
The cat feels weak and malnourished and has no energy.
Cats can suddenly become moody and aggressive for no apparent reason after eating a plastic bag.
The cat is then uncomfortable, lethargic, and in pain. She cannot fix the problem, which leaves her frightened and frustrated.
The cat might also howl at night and meow excessively to express distress.
As a result of the appetite loss and underlying issues, your cat will stop eating enough food. This then leads to rapid weight loss, especially in the following weeks.
The good news is that constipation is not immediately life-threatening if your cat survives long enough to show weight loss.
Just get your cat to the vet soon and make sure she is treated before the situation escalates.
Diarrhea is another sign of plastic bag ingestion, especially if it is persistent.
The cat is likely vomiting and having excessive diarrhea to clear the foreign object from her body.
What is Pica in Cats?
Pica is a behavioral disorder in cats and other animals characterized by the urge to eat non-edible objects.
It usually affects young cats of certain breeds. Oriental cat breeds such as Burmese, Tonkinese, and Siamese can develop pica very young.
Pica syndrome may start as a normal cat craving but later develop into a more severe condition.
Your cat might then eat poisonous plants or toxic foreign objects. This can lead to serious health problems or, in severe cases, even death.
Bringing your cat to the vet can help you determine the cause and find appropriate treatment.
Possible causes of pica syndrome include:
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Environmental factors, including stress, anxiety, boredom, or lack of mental stimulation
- Medical problems such as diabetes and leukemia
- Genetic factors
- Nutritional deficiencies
Symptoms of pica syndrome in cats include:
- Eating inedible items
- Loss of appetite
- Excessive fatigue
- Strange behavior
What Can You Do if Your Cat Eats Plastic?
Plastic bags that food is transported in are usually non-toxic. Your cat will not be poisoned if he eats the bags, so the only real danger is constipation.
Since these bags do not have sharp edges, they are unlikely to injure the cat’s digestive system.
The risk of constipation should not be underestimated. But in most cases, a cat will not eat a whole bag. This means the small pieces can be unharmed through the cat’s body.
You don’t always have to intervene or see a veterinarian. The first step is to pay attention to the symptoms.
If your cat is in serious trouble, you may notice the following symptoms:
- Lethargy for several days
- Severe diarrhea
- Weight loss
- Severe change in personality
If these symptoms are absent, your cat will resolve the problem without help.
Watch the litter box for signs of expelled plastic in the feces. This should take less than 24 hours.
However, depending on whether your cat is eating well, it may take up to two days. If symptoms appear, however, you should take your cat to the vet.
How to Keep Cats from Chewing On Plastic Bags
Licking, eating and chewing plastic is dangerous for cats. If you act quickly, you can protect your cat from choking, strangulation, digestive problems, or general harm.
Here are some tips on how to keep cats from chewing on or eating plastic bags.
Invest in Toys
Providing your cat with alternative toys is the best way to stop this destructive habit.
Proper toys for cats that like to chew on plastic include:
- Food games
- Ball games
- Toys with catnip
Prevent Access to Plastic Bags
Since the cat may not be able to self-regulate its behavior, you will need to intervene.
Hide all plastic bags out of your cat’s reach. Or keep them in a room the cat cannot access.
You can also move the cat away from where you unpack your groceries so he doesn’t grab a bag while you’re distracted.
Play With Your Cat
Lack of mental stimulation and boredom are the main reasons your cat eats plastic.
Play with your cat to keep him busy and relieve some negative energy that causes him to chew on plastic bags.
Is Chewing On Plastic Bags Normal in Cats?
Cats chewing on plastic bags can be expected, unusual, or pathological, depending on your pet’s motive and condition.
Plastic has no nutritional value, so it is unnatural and unsafe for cats to eat plastic bags intentionally.
It could be a temporary habit if your cat does not try to devour the material. You should still remove the plastic bags from the cat’s reach.
But normal motivations for chewing on plastic bags include:
- Play instinct
- Hunting instinct
- Smell of food
- Stress relief
It is not normal behavior if your cat is trying to eat the bags or is obsessed with chewing on them constantly.
It is a problem that needs to be addressed long-term and may be caused by the following:
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Dental problems
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Pica syndrome
Try to find out why your cat is chewing on plastic. Then, decide how to solve the problem.
Your cat doesn’t know the bags are dangerous, and it’s your job as the owner to correct its mistake.