Thriving Cat

Why Do Cats Chew Things?

Why Do Cats Chew Things?  How Do You Control Cat Chewing?

Reasons For Cat Chewing:

There are potential medical, anxiety, stress, boredom and digestive reasons for cat chewing as well as teething. There can also be a genetic component as some cats are more prone to it as well as potential serious medical problems. Pica is the term used to describe this condition where cats have a serious chewing problem and eat things they shouldn’t like chewing on electrical cords and plastic bags or rubber bands. This can be caused by medical conditions such as diabetes, leukemia, tumors and FIV. Get your cat checked out by a vet if they have a serious chewing problem. They can also have a nutrient deficiency and chew on strange items like plastic bags in an attempt to get a needed nutrient. Some plastic bags have gelatin in them, and likewise a deficiency could cause cats to even eat cat litter! Don’t panic right away though, many cats chew even if they don’t have a serious condition. Following are some more common causes and how you can address them.

Causes For Cat Chewing That You can Address at Home

Anxiety could be caused by moving, introducing new pets to the home, medical problems, territoriality if other cats are nearby, stress inside the home, a new baby and so many other possible reasons. If anxiety or stress is the cause of chewing, a calming atmosphere should be maintained and products to reduce anxiety can be used such as pheromone products and drops that get rubbed on the fur. Cats can also develop chewing problems if they were weaned too young. The answer to why cats chew things can be difficult to determine sometimes. I will share what worked with my anxious and chewy boy here. He benefitted greatly from the pheromone calming products and drops, added toys and chew treats below.

Young Cats Chew, It’s Normal, So What Can you Do About It?

Young cats, like young puppies can chew while they are teething. There is nothing wrong with this behavior and it is natural so it should not be punished, just redirected to an acceptable target! This may sound strange, but my boy cat loves to chew on Greenies Dental Chews for dogs. They are made as a dental chew treat for dogs but if you buy the Teenie (for 5 to 15 pounds) or Petite (15-25 pounds) sizes they work for a chew happy cat! I get the Petite as my cat is about 15 pounds. He can finish one off in about an hour or may stop halfway through and continue later. I am glad these may help clean his teeth in the process. The whole point is to give him a real chew workout to keep him happy so I don’t want a little one he will just eat right up. If you have a small cat or one that is not a ravenous chewer, try the Teenie.

Here is a two pack of the Petite from Amazon.

Here is a multi pack with three different flavors including regular (which my boy likes), mint and blueberry which I have not tried!

Once you clink on the links above and go to Amazon you can look at the many varieties available such as weight control and grain free as well as many options for sizes and quantities.

Boredom

Boredom is an obvious problem and appropriate toys and activities should be provided. It is always a good idea to get your cat checked out by a vet to rule out potential medical problems first. Any toy your cat loves will help if boredom is the cause of chewing. Easy and free toys include paper bags and cardboard boxes for cats to hide in. My cats all like chewing on the flaps of cardboard boxes as well.

Cats Need Some Plants!

Some cats crave greenery and that results in many cats eating houseplants. This can be dangerous as many plants are toxic and most will at least result in the cat throwing up. Get your cat some cat grass and they will have their own safe, healthy and enjoyable place to browse any time!

My Secret Tip! Buy Wheat Grass for People instead of Cat Grass.

Cat grass at pet stores is often dried out, dead looking or full of bugs! Get wheat grass at the grocery store that is sold for people. Wheat grass and cat grass are the same thing! It is healthier, you get more of it and it is cheaper! It will also be a higher quality and you will not be introducing bugs into your home. Most grocery stores have wheat grass in small, square, plastic pots in the produce section. They will only last a few weeks but at only a dollar or two you can buy them on a regular basis for your cats.

Solutions for Cat Chewing

Some chewing may simply resolve with age.  A young cat will be more likely to chew. A cat may start chewing due to teething or due to being weaned to young. It may also be anxious when introduced to a new home. If your cat is chewing expensive items like shoes or purses I would recommend putting them out of reach to start with. I had to do that with my cat while he was still young. He seems to have grown out of most of his chewing now. You can also get products to reduce anxiety, and products to deter chewing such as sprays that taste bad to cats.

For electrical cords (potentially the most dangerous item you cat can chew) try covering them with a carpet, taping them down or buying cord covers.

Cat Toys that Keep Them Busy

Get your cats toys that give them an outlet for their boredom and a way to burn off energy (a problem for young cats!). Here is a ball and track toy that my cats love. If they are too rambunctious they can break the track apart however so you may have to put it back together for them.

Here is a tunnel that my cats use every day to hide in and ambush each other through. It provides the hiding, planning, pouncing and running they crave. They can also see through the sides and feel like they are camouflaged from within.

This is my cats favorite toy for chewing, kicking and scratching. It is catnip scented and they love to hug it with their front paws while scratching and kicking with their hind feet and chewing. All three of my cats love this thing!

Get your cats kitty grass. I recommend going to the grocery store and getting wheat grass meant for humans since it is cheaper and higher quality.

Give your cats lots of places to hide and play like cardboard boxes and cat trees.

Finally, if your cat really love to chew, try out a bag of small Greenies for dogs! My cat will work on one of these for about an hour until he gets through the whole thing.

Please let me know if you try any of these for your cat or if you have other solutions for why cats chew. Comments and shares are appreciated!

Jessica

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14 Comments

  1. Matts Mom

    Great ideas! I am going to pass these along to my son, better yet I will bookmark this page and show it to him. He has a cat (not a kitten) that chews on everything. Yet, I see no toys around for the poor cat to play with. Could this be part of the problem? She really is a naughty cat too, she has lots of issues. I am going to browse your website more and see if I can find some more answers to help.

    Reply
    1. Jessica (Post author)

      Hello, thank you for stopping by. I would suggest this post with suggestions for your son’s cat too, https://thrivingcat.com/how-to-calm-down-a-cat
      Most naughty cats have a good reason to be in my experience. They may have been taken away from their mother cat when they were too young and didn’t learn proper behaviors, they may have been abused if they came from a shelter and who knows their background. They may have anxiety, health problems etc. etc. There are many potential reasons. All my cats had certain issues and over time they have all become much better. If they are young they may simply have kitten energy and need an outlet for it!

      Thanks for your comments!
      Jessica

      Reply
  2. Alice

    Aside from having 3 dogs, our family also has 3 cats which are really sweet and cuddly. The only thing that irritates us is their chewing and scratching habits. I thought only dogs love to chew but even cats do too. Sometimes they chew not only on my mom’s plants but on anything they get their hands (or paws) on. I often give them some hard biscuits to chew on. But there are just times when my brother is having a bad day and he sees our cats chewing or on his stuff or scratching our sofa that he couldn’t help but yell at them.

    I think you’re right! They get bored doing nothing that’s why they look for things to chew on. Like our dogs, they also love to play catch but we can’t always play with them especially when everybody’s busy with their “thing.”

    Thank you for the great advise, I will try them and hopefully they’ll work. By the way, what about giving them cucumber to play with? I read from somewhere that cats are scared of green things.

    Reply
    1. Jessica (Post author)

      I showed a cucumber to my cats and all three of them were totally unimpressed. That is just a myth/scaring the poor cat with an unexpected object I think…mine sure didn’t care. Cats can be jumpy though so anything they don’t expect can scare them at times.

      Toys are easy to come by for cats luckily. You can give them cardboard boxes (always a favorite for just about every cat), paper bags for some, balls to bat around, or take anything and put it in a ziplock bag with some catnip for a few days to soak up the scent. Then take it out of the bag and you have a catnip toy! This works best with fabric cat toys like “mice” that can soak up the scent.

      I have a post with some cat toys mine like. Getting a cat tree is always a good idea too. They usually have built in scratching posts, give the cat a sense of security from being up high and give them some exercise. Cat toys are usually pretty cheap so I try to give my cats some new toys every few months. They are intelligent so imagine how bored you would be with nothing to do all the time and being stuck inside?

      Thanks for your comment and wanting to make your kitties happier!
      Jessica

      Reply
  3. Steve

    So, our cat is about 1 1/2 years old. He loves to chew on my wife’s shoe laces. He also loves to chew on my feet! Nobody else in the house gets to have the pleasure of the cat attacking their feet, only me. I have no idea why he does this. Maybe he is still teething? Do you know how long a cat will go through teething? Anyway, we have given him some toys that he loves to play with, but just like kids, teething is going to be part of the process. Your ideas for giving them toys, is spot on. Animals as well as people get bored and need something to do. I will have to try the dog chews, that sounds like a great idea. My grandma always used to have a container of grass inside her house for her cat. Great ideas here, thank you for sharing.

    Reply
    1. Jessica (Post author)

      Hello Steve,
      Yes, the cat grass (which is actually wheat grass) is great for cats. I don’t know how long they normally teeth. I have never had a kitten, only adult cats. I know some people probably find it strange I am recommending dog chews here but hey, whatever works right! There is plant matter in the Greenies that is good for them too so it accomplishes a solution to chewing, tooth care and nutrition all in one!
      Thanks,
      Jessica

      Reply
  4. Linda

    Hi, Jessica! What a great post! I don’t have cats but I now I know what to do if I would have cats that want to chew things. 🙂 Thanks for sharing this information! I am sure it will help many people! Thaks for doing what you do!

    Reply
    1. Jessica (Post author)

      Thank you Linda! I hope so, my goal is to get the information out there and help as many people and pets as possible! I hope that this will help people feel comfortable and be able to afford to adopt more homeless pets!
      Jessica

      Reply
  5. Ioana

    Hi,
    My cat chews too, everything she finds in her way and she’s not that young, she’s almost 2. But we only have her since two weeks so as I see this could be the reason. How long do you think it will take her to accommodate to her new home?
    I will follow your recommendation about toys and grass, thanks for the very informative article!
    Cheers!

    Reply
    1. Jessica (Post author)

      Hello Ioana,
      When we adopted our last cat he was about 1 and a half or 2. He was a chewer at first too. He has grown out of it over time I guess since he does not chew on anything except the Greenies I give him and plants now. It could take a few years though for your cat if you just got her. It depends on the reason for her chewing. If she is just young and bored then toys, grass and maybe some actual chew products such as the Greenies will help. If you click on the link in the post for the Greenies you can see there are many kinds and sizes. You could try a really small bag to see if she likes them. You can get them at pet food stores also, just make sure you find the small ones.

      If she is chewing due to anxiety it would help to try the suggestions I have in this post: https://thrivingcat.com/how-to-calm-down-a-cat I think having multiple cats helped ours since he has someone else to play with and distract him so he isn’t home alone with nothing to do.

      Thanks,
      Jessica

      Reply
  6. Tammy Jennings

    Jessica, this is awesome information about cats and their behaviors. Makes a lot of sense to me now. I do not personally have cats, only my dogs, but have friends with cats. And the Greenies…never realized they make those for cats, too! When I could afford to buy them for my dogs they loved them. I will pass along your information/website to my friends for them to visit and read over all of your wonderful information.

    Reply
    1. Jessica (Post author)

      Hi Tammy,
      Yes, they make Greenies for cats too but my boy likes the dog ones! He is kind of like a dog in some ways. He is the Norwegian Forest Cat…the one with white and orange fur in my cover photo. He used to be such a chewer I thought I would give it a try and sure enough he LOVES the Greenies made for small dogs! He sits there and gnaws on one just like a dog would. He eats the whole thing.

      He seems to have outgrown most of his chewing habits now but when he was younger he would chew on shoes…just like a young dog.
      Thanks for passing this on to your friends! I really appreciate that!
      Jessica

      Reply
  7. Cheryl

    We have a “shop” cat at work. He’s very lovable & affectionate. However he chews on my shirt. Just my shirt. Nothing else & only mine. Any ideas?

    Reply
    1. Jessica (Post author)

      Hello Cheryl,
      Is he young? Do you know how young he was when taken away from his mother? I have heard some cats suck on clothes or bedding or other fabric as a kind of suckling. It probably just means he feels safe around you! I have not experienced this myself but have heard it is somewhat common.

      Thanks for stopping by!
      Jessica

      Reply

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