Cats can chew on things for a variety of reasons and sometimes it can be considered normal behavior. If, however, your cat is chewing on things they shouldn’t, this could be dangerous for not only your cat but your belongings, too!
Sometimes, your cat’s chewing can become excessive and this can indicate a problem. Let’s take a closer look at what’s normal chewing behavior and what to do if your cat’s chewing is getting out of control.
When Is My Cat’s Chewing Considered Normal?
Cats explore the world with their mouths, as well as their eyes, ears, nose, paws, and whiskers. The occasional chew on something in your cat’s environment, even something that isn’t food, is probably normal.
Kittens are more likely to chew while they’re teething. This is usually an attempt to relieve any discomfort associated with the eruption of their adult teeth. Kittens can start teething from about 10 weeks old and sometimes it can continue until around 6 months old.
For adult cats, teething won’t be the cause of chewing. To prevent your kitten from chewing on things they shouldn’t, make sure they have access to plenty of safe things to chew.
You can buy special kitten teething toys, some of which are designed to be kept in the fridge or freezer to provide a soothing cooling effect. You could also give them a cold wet flannel that they can safely play with and chew on.
Why Is My Cat Chewing Everything?
Although cats aren’t usually known for chewing on things in the way that dogs do, some cats do chew as dogs do and this could be for several different reasons.
Bored cats can sometimes chew on things simply for something to do in an attempt to alleviate their boredom. Indoor cats are particularly prone to boredom and if you suspect this to be the cause of your cat’s chewing then the good news is that there is plenty you can do!
Spend some time each day playing with your cat. Don’t overdo it, a couple of short sessions daily can be enough to provide your cat with some stimulation. Games of chase and catch with feather teasers can be enjoyable for both you and your cat. Any game that mimics your cat’s natural hunting instincts is likely to go down well with your cat.
Also Read: 8 Purrfect Games You Can Play With Your Cat
You can also give your cat some cat toys that they can enjoy on their own. You don’t have to spend a lot of money—something as simple as an empty cardboard box or hiding some tasty treats in empty toilet paper rolls can provide a lot of entertainment! Many cats enjoy playing with catnip toys, although not all cats are sensitive to the effects of catnip.
Cats that are naturally more anxious or fearful may have a predisposition to chewing. It can act as a self-soothing behavior. Cats that are prone to chewing as a result of anxiety might also be predisposed to other obsessive-compulsive disorder behaviors such as licking, sucking, or pulling their own fur out. Some breeds are more prone to these types of behaviors than others, such as Siamese and Burmese cats, but any cat can exhibit anxiety-related behaviors.
Cat behavior is a complex subject and often there is no quick fix for these problem behaviors. If you suspect your cat is chewing on things as a result of anxiety, then speak to your veterinarian who will be able to refer you to a qualified pet behaviorist.
Periodontal disease is an inflammation of the gums that surround the teeth. It usually results from the bacteria that build up on the teeth and form a layer of plaque. It is very common and can occur in cats of all ages, but older cats are often particularly prone.
Cats with periodontal disease will sometimes chew excessively or on unusual items in an attempt to alleviate any discomfort or pain that is associated with their teeth and gums.
Your veterinarian will be able to examine your cat and tell you whether they have any dental disease. The treatment is usually a scale and polish under a general anesthetic and removal of any infected or diseased teeth.
Pica is the term given to the eating of non-food items. It can sometimes occur as a result of a nutritional deficiency but does occur for other reasons too. Oriental breeds are more prone to this condition which suggests that there could be a genetic link.
It is also sometimes called “wool-eating” as this is one of the most common materials that cats with pica choose to eat. Often cats will prefer one particular type of material such as cardboard, rubber, plastic, cotton, or wood.
Eating non-food items is potentially very serious as it can result in intestinal blockages which can be fatal if left untreated. Speak to your veterinarian for more advice if you notice that your cat eats things that they shouldn’t. Feeding a good quality, complete cat food will rule out a nutritional deficiency.
Also Read: List of Foods Cats Can and Can not Eat
Cats that are feeling sick may chew on things to try and relieve any nausea that they are experiencing. Cats chewing as a result of nausea will usually show other signs of illness, such as lethargy, vomiting, or diarrhea. Take your cat to the veterinarian to get them checked if you suspect they are sick.
Also Read: 10 Subtle Signs Your Cat May Be Sick
What Kinds Of Things Do Cats Chew On?
Cats have been known to chew on almost anything, the list is almost endless! Here are a few of the more common household items that your cat may be chewing on:
It is natural for cats to eat some greenery as it can help with digestion. Outdoor cats may occasionally eat small amounts of grass but indoor cats will probably be attracted to your houseplants. Some houseplants are extremely toxic to cats so you must ensure your cat only has access to safe plants.
Wires And Electrical Cables
This might start as a game as your cat attempts to bat and “catch” any loose wires, which then can progress to chewing on them, particularly during play. For obvious reasons, chewing on electrical cords is extremely dangerous.
Clothes And Other Fabrics
Some cats enjoy the texture of various fabrics and will chew on them as a result. This is potentially very damaging for your clothes and other household furniture, such as sofas or dining chairs, and could be very costly for you!
How Can I Stop My Cat From Chewing On Things?
This all depends on what your cat is chewing on and why. If you suspect that your cat is bored then simply spending more time interacting with them and providing other toys might fix the problem. If your cat seems sick, or you suspect a behavioral issue then you should take them to the veterinarian.
Also Read: The 10 Best Chew Toys for Cats
If you have ruled out these other causes and your cat is chewing on things purely out of habit then there are several steps you can take to solve the problem. Different things may require slightly different tactics to prevent your cat from chewing on them.
The first thing to remember is never to verbally or physically punish your cat. They won’t understand what they have done wrong and it will only make them scared of you. It could even make the problem worse.
If your cat has a preference for houseplants, then you could try growing them their own cat grass. This is commercially available and completely safe for them to eat. Many houseplants are also safe should your cat decide to have an occasional nibble, so you could replace any toxic plants with these.
Also Read: 11 Toxic & Poisonous Plants for Cats
Wires And Cords
You can buy covers for electrical cords, or make your own. Removing any loose cords will help reduce the temptation for your cat to play with them but if this isn’t possible, you could try putting double-sided sticky tape on the floor around the wires to prevent access.
Most cats would be very reluctant to walk across this. You could also try spraying some bitter apple spray on cords. It is safe but tastes horrible so should be enough to put your cat off. You may need to reapply it a few times, particularly if you have a persistent offender.
Clothing And Fabrics
This can be trickier to solve. Bitter apple spray can also work well to prevent your cat from chewing these types of items but you need to make sure it doesn’t stain or discolor the fabric. You could try offering your cat items with a similar texture that you don’t mind your cat chewing on, for example, a toy made out of wool. Just make sure they aren’t actually eating the fabric.
When To Seek Help With My Cat’s Chewing
If you are concerned that your cat is unwell, or has a behavioral issue, then you should take your cat to the veterinarian to get him checked. If you suspect your cat just has a bad chewing habit, and you have tried the above advice, then it’s time to get some help!
Your veterinarian will be able to refer you to a qualified veterinary behaviorist who should be able to help.
Have you ever heard the phrase “curiosity killed the cat”? Although your cat’s chewing behavior might be annoying, the most important thing is to ensure their safety and that they aren’t chewing on dangerous items, such as electrical cables or toxic houseplants.
It is just as important to make sure that your cat isn’t actually eating non-food items as this could result in a life-threatening intestinal blockage. Speak to your veterinarian for advice if you are worried about your cat’s chewing behavior.
Also Read: Why Do Cats Play With Their Prey?
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I get my cat to stop chewing on things?
First, establish why your cat is chewing on things. You should take your cat to the veterinarian to rule out a medical or behavioral problem. If your cat is chewing out of habit, you could try using bitter apple spray on the items your cat is chewing, which can act as a deterrent.
Will my cat outgrow chewing?
If you have a kitten that is chewing on things, it is probably because they are teething. Once their adult teeth have fully erupted, they will usually stop their chewing behavior.
How do you punish a cat for chewing wires?
You should never verbally or physically punish your cat; they will not understand and it could make the problem worse. Instead, try removing or covering loose wires. If that isn’t possible you can try spraying the wires with bitter apple spray.