Why Does Your Cat Lick or Chew Things?

What do you make of it if your cat is licking or chewing non-food items around your home?

Here are some examples of common household items cats seem to gravitate to:

-  Plastic rings from milk jugs

-  Electrical cords

-  Drinking straws

-  Plastic bags

-  Cardboard boxes

-  Packing materials like bubble wrap, mylar bags and packing peanuts

-  Wool

-  Rubber band

UNDERLYING BEHAVIOR

What’s behind this behavior?

From a medical perspective, the condition of chewing and ingesting of non-food items is called pica. And your cat may be doing it for a number of reasons.

Some possible explanations:

-  A genetic predisposition

-  A nutritional deficiency

-  To mimic the shearing of prey

-  To alleviate boredom

-  To relieve stress

-  For dental reasons like massaging gums or loosening a tooth

-  Just like the smell or texture

-  Your cat may have been weaned too soon

REASON FOR CONCERN?

Cats are unable to digest many materials found in your home. So it’s possible that if your cat ingests a large enough piece, it could cause a blockage in the GI track.

If your cat seems to be chewing frequently on non-food material and stops eating his or her food, or has a bout of vomiting or diarrhea, consult your veterinarian immediately to rule out any underlying health concern.

PREVENTIVE MEASURES

Here are some ways to minimize the chewing or licking:

Limit the Opportunities
Keep your home environment tidy and free of tempting clutter 

Protect Cords
Run power cords through conduits to keep the wires protected 

The Right Plants
Some houseplants are poisonous to cats. Make sure yours are cat friendly, or make plants that are safe for cats like catnip or rye or wheat grass available.

Play
Cats with excess energy often find a release with their mouths. So work some additional play time into your routine, especially ahead of feeding.

Undesirable Scents
Spraying a little citrus air freshener or Bitter Apple on items your cat has been chewing on can lower the appeal.

PROFESSIONAL GUIDANCE

As with all health-related concerns, you should always consult with your veterinarian as they can help you design a game plan to help get your cat’s chewing under control. This may include a recommendation to consult a certified cat behaviorist. Your local shelter would be a good place to start.