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Why Do Cats Eat Plastic? 4 Vet Approved Reasons & How to Stop it

Ashley Bates

By Ashley Bates

cat eating plastic

Vet approved

Dr. Maja Platisa Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Maja Platisa

In-House Veterinarian, DVM MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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On occasion, our kitties will eat things that are not good for them, and sometimes, even downright dangerous for their health. If your cat has a bad habit of chewing plastic, you probably want to know exactly what causes the behavior and how to fix it. The good news is, with a couple of safety precautions in place, you can prevent your cat from eating plastic.

However, in certain circumstances, this can be an indicator of a bigger health issue. If that’s the case, you want to get to the bottom of it by working diligently with your veterinarian to figure out the cause. Let’s learn more!

Top 4 Reasons Cats Eat Plastic

1. Food Smells

If the type of plastic your kitty is chewing on is food wrappings, eating plastic really isn’t that far of a stretch. If your kitty can smell food on the plastic, they will try to get as much of the remnants off as they can. It can confuse them, causing them to ingest some of the plastic.

If you have any plastic with food remnants on it, always make sure to throw it in a waste bin instead of leaving it out on the counter or in an otherwise accessible area for your kitty. Plastic bags can pose a hazard if cats try to swallow pieces of them with food or get their head stuck in one, so always make sure they are well out of reach.

cat eating food inside palsticl
Image Credit: Phruet, Shutterstock

2. Playfulness

We’ve all seen kitties chasing around random objects lying on the floor. If your cat tries to eat plastic rings or bottle caps from milk jugs or soda bottles, it could all be part of the play. Some cats get a little bit carried away, gnawing on the plastic pieces instead of just chasing them around.

If you find that your kitty is destroying and eating these pieces instead of just chasing them, you should try to replace these with something a little bit more durable, chewable, and kitty-safe.

3. Texture

Some cats really enjoy the texture of random objects. It could be that they just like to sink their teeth into whatever type of plastic you’ve got lying around. Even though they might just want to rip it up, they can ingest certain pieces of plastic, many of which can be dangerous.

The harder the plastic is, the more rigid the edges become upon chewing. When your cat swallows these indigestible pieces, it can lead to a whirlwind of gastrointestinal issues, including intestinal blockage. Another important issue with chewing on plastic is injury to the mouth, gums and tongue that may lead to deep cuts.


cat lying inside a plastic bag
Image Credit: Nadinelle, Shutterstock

4. Pica

Pica is a broad term that means the cat’s consumption of non-food items as a result of a range of causes. Suppose your kitty isn’t getting the proper vitamins and minerals in their everyday diet, or they have an underlying medical condition, such as digestive disorder, liver disease, diabetes, or others. In that case, it can cause them to seek out less nutritious and non-food items such as clay, ice, sand, plastic, and other potentially harmful things.

Sometimes, pica is caused by behavioral disorders in kittens and young cats due to lack of socialization, early weaning, teething discomfort, anxiety, stress, boredom, and many others. Some cats develop this into a habit, and it may resemble OCD in people.

Of course, eating plastic is very dangerous for cats. This material cannot be digested and will damage the stomach and intestinal lining as it tries to make its way out of the cat. These cases need veterinary attention and may require gastroscopy or even surgery to remove the harmful pieces of plastic.

Signs of plastic ingestion include:

  • Distended abdomen
  • Reduced appetite
  • Damage to the mouth, gums and tongue
  • Retching
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Straining to defecate
  • Constipation 
  • Lethargy
  • Painful abdomen
  • Hunched posture
Cat vomiting
Image Credit: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

If you suspect that your cat has pica, you should definitely address the issue with your veterinarian. Together, you can develop a diet plan to nurture your cats’ body, making sure they get all of the nutritional benefits they need. It’s also important to discuss the mental, physical, and environmental stimulation your cat needs for a happy life.

Dangers of Cats Eating Plastic

One of the most significant risks of cats consuming plastic is intestinal blockage. Intestinal blockages can be challenging to diagnose until they’re pretty far along.

The surgeries can be outlandishly expensive, rendering many cat owners helpless in situations that require immediate decisions.

The best way to deal with your kitty eating the plastic is to prevent them from doing so in the first place. If they take a shine to eating foreign substances, you’ll want to eliminate the temptation for them altogether. Also consider getting your precious cat insured, as this may give you some financial peace of mind when your kitty is not well and needs all the possible care.

Final Thoughts

All in all, plastic and cats just do not mix. If you see your cat gnawing on a piece of plastic, it’s best to take it away and replace it with something else. There are plenty of cat-friendly toys that would be just as irresistible for your feline friend.

If you think your cat has swallowed any hard plastic, getting it to the veterinarian is paramount. These pieces could cause bowel damage or even an obstruction. When possible, prevent the situation entirely and keep the plastic out of reach.

Featured Image Credit: victoras, Shutterstock

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