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Why, Cat?!

Why Is My Cat Chewing On Plastic?

If your cat nibbles on pen caps and power cords, they could be bored...

by Charles Manning
November 15, 2021
A cat laying on a binder chewing on a pen.
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You know when you walk into the living room and you see your cat, laying on the floor, just chomping away on some random piece of plastic — like a bag or power cord or some other petroleum-based nonsense — and you’re like, “Stop that!”? 

And they stop for a second and look at you like, “Do you mind? I’m in the middle of something.” A mangled red milk jug lid hanging from their lip. And you’re like, “Where the hell did you even find a milk jug lid — I’ve been off dairy for weeks!?” As you deftly snatch the milk jug lid away from them, they stare at you as though you just said that the cat next door is prettier than they are. (Which is ridiculous.) So you roll your eyes and throw away the milk jug lid — only to turn around and find your cat happily sucking on a pen cap. “Why, cat, why?!” 

“Many cats are attracted to plastic,” says New York-based cat behavior consultant Jennifer Van de Kieft. “Sometimes, chewing on non-food items can be indicative of a nutritional deficiency. So you should consider whether your cat food is satisfying and of a high enough quality. I also sometimes find that people are overly calorie-conscious and are simply not feeding their cats enough.”

Nope, you think, that’s definitely not it — your cat’s bowl is never empty and you eat Hydrox cookies so they can eat fancy fresh cat food. In that case, it could be that they’re just plain bored. “Boredom causes stress in cats and can lead them to act out in destructive ways, like chewing things they’re not supposed to,” says Van de Kieft. And it can be dangerous. “Chewing on plastic cords can lead to electrocution. And if they swallow something they’re not supposed to, they might need surgery to have it removed, which could be life-threatening.”

If you see your cat chewing something they shouldn’t, try whipping out a cat wand toy for an impromptu play session. Perhaps they’re indiscriminate and your cat chews on everything? If you don’t have one already, consider getting a cat tree — the taller the better — and turn your shared living space into a fun environment for your cat.

At the same time, it’s important to remember that chewing itself is not an unnatural or unhealthy behavior when directed appropriately. “Growing cat grass is a great way for cats who like to chew to chew on something safe,” says Van de Kieft. Sure, cat grass causes some cats to throw up more often, but not always. And at least it’s not dairy. Seriously, where did they get that damn milk jug lid?!

Charles Manning

Charles Manning is an actor, writer, and fashion/media consultant living in New York City with his two cats, Pumpkin and Bear. Follow him on Instagram @charlesemanning.