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Why Do Cats Like Plastic Bags

↯ Key takeaway points

  • Cats may like plastic bags for various reasons such as boredom, stress, medical issues, and the appealing texture and sound.
  • Some cats may chew on plastic bags due to a sore mouth or dental problems, while others may be seeking nutrients missing from their diet.
  • The crinkly sound and smooth texture of plastic bags can trigger a cat's hunting instincts or provide sensory satisfaction.
  • Cats with OCD or pica may be more prone to chewing on plastic, and a consistent routine and potential supplements can help manage this behavior.
  • To keep cats safe, plastic bags should be kept away from them, and alternative toys with similar textures can be provided for them to chew on. Increasing playtime and mental stimulation through interactive toys and training can also help prevent chewing behavior.
A pet lover passionate about educating readers about animal health and care. Love reading studies and recent research.
Zoo and wildlife doctor in veterinary medicine passionate about animal welfare and preventive medicine.
Published on
Monday 4 December 2023
Last updated on
Monday 30 October 2023
Why Do Cats Like Plastic Bags
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One man’s trash is another cat’s treasure. When working with families with cats, questions about a cat’s fondness for chewing on unusual items are likely to be a question. While plastic bags may seem odd to cats, they appeal so much to cats. But why do cats like plastic bags?

Why Do Cats Like Plastic? 

There are many different ideas about why cats like plastic so much.  Some people believe that cats lick plastic because they enjoy its texture. However, others speculate that they do it for the salt on their tongues. No one knows why they do it, but here are some possible reasons.

Boredom or Stress

The cat may start to tear up plastic bags because it needs something to do. Boredom-related behaviors are more common in cats who don’t get enough mental and physical stimulation. The cat may have been abandoned for too long, causing him to resort to destructive behaviors to occupy his time.

A cat living with other cats may have developed the habit of chewing on plastic to relieve stress. Cat parents might miss the signs of stress. These factors include a stressful home environment, a new baby in the family, or a shift in routine.

Medical Issues

Your cat might chew on plastic bags if it has a sore mouth or a problem with its teeth. Your kitten may want to chew more during its first four months as it tries to eliminate the pain of the 30 new teeth that are coming in.

On the other hand, If a cat is not getting enough nutrients in its diet, it may look for food elsewhere. Your cat may instinctively chew on plastic bags to get nutrients or minerals from animal byproducts like gelatin or minerals like stearates (salts of stearate acid).

In addition, it might be because its diet lacks some nutrients. For example, suppose your cat has an illness like inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBD), hypothyroidism, or diabetes. In that case, it might need more nutrition from its regular food.

The Plastic Bag’s Appeal

Cats like to lick plastic partly because it produces a satisfying crinkly sound and feels good on their tongues. Many cat toys contain crinkly material, creating the same exciting noise that cats love. 

According to the British Ecological Society, domestic cats retain their natural predatory instincts. Most plastic bags produce a crinkling sound, which your cat may interpret as the sound of prey. This will trigger the cat’s wild hunting instincts as it tries to determine what animal is making the strange sounds.

On the other hand, it may be because of the food smell or flavor left on the plastic. This doesn’t necessarily mean there’s anything wrong with your cat; they just enjoy the taste and texture of the bag.

Smooth Texture

Other cats have an affinity for the feel of certain textures, just like some cats enjoy licking wool. For example, your cat may lick a plastic bin or water bottle because they like the smooth texture of their sandpaper-like tongue.

If you touch the nearest plastic item to you, you will notice that it is significantly colder than the rest of the room. If your cat likes the sensation of licking cold things or wants to cool off, do not be surprised if they lick plastic from time to time.

Pica or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

If your cat frequently chews on plastic bags, it may suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Although this condition is better known in humans, it has the same effects on cats.

In the cat community, pica is a medical condition characterized by the urge to consume non-food items. According to a recent study conducted at the University of Southampton, oriental cat breeds such as Burmese and Siamese are particularly susceptible to developing pica.

You can treat cats with OCD by having a consistent daily routine. Your veterinarian may recommend nutritional supplements or natural remedies to help reduce your cat’s stress level. Depending on how bad your cat’s OCD is, you might be able to use these supplements either with or without prescription medications like Tryptophan, L-Theanine, vitamins, and herbs.

How to Keep Your Cat Safe From Plastics

To keep cats from biting, licking, or eating things they shouldn’t, PetMD recommends placing plastic bags, blankets, and string away from cats. If that does not work, you can spray them with scents like lemon, cayenne pepper, or rosemary, which cats do not like.

If your cat is chewing on inappropriate items, enriching its environment with toys and other items can help prevent this behavior. According to Miranda K. Workman, a Certified Animal Behavior Consultant of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, if your cat enjoys chewing on bags, look for items in your local pet store that mimic those sensations, such as crinkly balls. Or look for things that differ from these so your cats can chew and play with various textures and sounds.

Give your cat more playtime, which will help tire them both physically and mentally. Look for toys that require you to be engaged in the play, such as “fishing wand” type toys. Interactive food toys, in which your cat must hunt for food within the toy, are another excellent way to keep your cat’s mind and body engaged.

Training your cat to do simple behaviors like sit, down, and other tricks is a great way to increase your cat’s exercise level and bonding activity.

Why Do Cats Like Plastic Bags: FAQs 

To close out this article, here are some of the most frequently asked questions about why cats like plastic bags.

Is it OK for cats to play with plastic bags?

While your cat may chew on some plastic items without incident, be aware that many things pose a risk to your pet. Plastic items small enough to fit entirely in your cat’s mouth can cause choking or swallowing problems. They may also cause tooth and gum damage.

Why does my cat lick plastic bags so much?

Cats like to play with plastic bags for various reasons, including the crinkle of the plastic, the smell of the food within wafting through the air, and the smooth surface beneath their paws. It’s a sensory overload for your pet.

Should I let my cat lick plastic?

No. The biggest worry about a cat licking plastic is that it might swallow the plastic. Plastics can not be digested and could get stuck in your cat’s stomach and would be very dangerous for your pet.

Why do cats like getting in bags?

Domestic cats use hiding in boxes and bags as a coping mechanism. Indoor cats often seek safety in a cozy, quiet spot in the face of environmental changes, such as loud noises and unfamiliar visitors, as well as other stressors, such as physical pain, boredom, or sadness.

How do I get my cat to stop licking plastic bags?

Put away plastic bags, blankets, string, yarn, or twine. Instead, provide your cat with toys they can safely lick and chew on. If that does not work, you can spray the objects with scents that cats dislike to deter them from licking them.

In conclusion, boredom, smooth texture, medical issues, and food residue left on plastics are reasons cats like plastic bags. However, keep plastic bags out of your cat’s reach and take them to the vet if they accidentally ingest one. Any delay can make a trip to the emergency room due to intestinal blockage and may cause fatal death.

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