When it comes to pets chewing things they shouldn’t, it’s usually dogs that come to mind, but cats are just as likely to demonstrate destructive chewing behaviour. There are a number of reasons why cats chew things they shouldn’t, and not only is it destructive it can be extremely harmful. So what causes destructive chewing behaviour in cats, and how can you stop it?
Different types of chewing behaviour
What does your cat like to chew?
Whatever the reason for your cat’s destructive chewing, the types of things a cat typically chews includes fabrics, shoes, books, electrical cables, plants and everything in-between.
Wool sucking behaviour satisfies an emotional need similar to a child who sucks their thumb, and although it can be harmless, if your cat starts to chew and actually ingest the fabric, it can cause intestinal blockages that in extreme cases may require surgery.
Other common things that cats are prone to chewing are electrical cables, which is obviously a very dangerous habit, rubber (Max loves to chew my flip-flops which now have a ‘lovely’ pitted tooth-mark pattern) and plants, many of which can be toxic if ingested.
What causes destructive chewing behaviour in cats?
It’s important to try to pinpoint the reason for your cat’s destructive chewing, so what are the most common causes? Pica is the medical term for eating non-food items, and it can be caused by a number of issues. Boredom can result in a whole manner of destructive behaviours, and inappropriate chewing is one of them. It can also be caused by curiosity or teething (especially amongst kittens), stress or anxiety, genetics (a number of Oriental breeds are known for having pica), or even a nutrient deficiency.
How can I stop my cat’s destructive chewing?
Once you’ve ruled out any medical problems or dietary deficiencies with your vet, there are things that you can do to try to prevent your cat’s destructive chewing behaviour.
The obvious answer is to remove access to whatever your cat likes to chew on, so don’t leave clothes, shoes or books lying around, and move houseplants to somewhere he can’t get to them. Electrical cables and wires might be more difficult to remove, but don’t forget that your cat runs the risk of electrocution if they’re his chew toy of choice, so it’s even more essential to stop him from chewing on them. The best option is to run cables under the carpet, or make sure they’re completely covered. Alternatively, use a repellent spray (citrus is ideal) that your cat won’t like the taste or smell of.
You need to make sure your cat has a lot of stimulation and other things to keep him occupied, so lots of toys, activity centres and puzzle feeders are perfect. If you’re out of the house for an extended period of time during the day, leave a variety of self-play toys around – wall hung toys your cat can swat at, cardboard boxes, or a tunnel on the floor – anything that will provide hours of activity and entertainment.
If your cat likes to suck or chew on your clothes when you’re wearing them, he may have an over-reliance on you for comfort and stimulation. While you shouldn’t start ignoring your cat, try to make sure you interact with him in a more ‘adult’ way and encourage him to be independent.
You can also provide a chewing substitute by offering your cat the occasional hunk of meat on the bone as part of his feeding routine which will give him a more challenging chewing experience. Raw chicken wings or necks are ideal, and they have the added benefit of helping your cat keep his teeth clean.
Do you have a cat that likes to chew things? How have your curbed your cat’s destructive chewing behaviour?
Image: Evan Blaser via Flickr