What To Do If Your Cat's A Destructive Chewer
Plus find out what "wool sucking" is 🧐
You love your cat to bits — but you probably don’t love that he feels compelled to chew things to bits.
Chewing is a common behavioral problem for cats, but there are things you can do to make the situation better for your cat (and protect your house).
The Dodo spoke with Dr. Andrea Y. Tu, medical director at Behavior Vets in New York City, who explained what you can do if your cat can’t seem to stop chewing certain things around your home.
What do cats like chewing?
“Cats like to chew or lick plastic,” Dr. Tu told The Dodo. “Cats can also tend to like to chew or bite off pieces of cardboard boxes.”
If you’re wondering why your cat seems to be drawn to chewing cardboard or plastic, there’s not much of a reason other than the fact that he just likes it.
Some cats also really enjoy fabrics.
“It actually can be to the point where it’s called ‘wool sucking,’ where they’re sucking and chewing on fabrics [or even] swallowing fabrics,” Dr. Tu explained.
But this doesn’t apply to all fabrics.
“What I see with wool sucking and fabric sucking is it’s usually going to be something that’s on the ground, like a blanket or sweatpants,” Dr. Tu said. “They don’t go and suck on or chew on something that’s hanging. And it’s not like upholstery where it’s flat. It has to be layers. It’s got to have some slack in it.”
Risks of cat chewing
If you catch your cat chewing on cardboard, that’s usually pretty harmless (unless, of course, it was a piece of cardboard you were particularly attached to or planning on saving).
“If they swallow a piece of the [cardboard] boxes, it’s no big deal … unless they’re eating a lot,” Dr. Tu said. “It’s fibrous [and] going to break down.”
But if your cat is chewing — and ends up swallowing — plastic, that’s a much bigger problem.
“[A cat’s] stomach acids melt those plastics into harder, sharper pieces,” Dr. Tu explained.
Ouch! That’s definitely no good for his insides.
And if you find your cat wool sucking, you’re definitely going to want to reach out to a vet for a few reasons.
“Sometimes that can be correlated to a nutritional deficiency,” Dr. Tu said. “Beyond that, it could be an indication of anxiety, so you may want to consult with a veterinary behaviorist service.”
If your cat is just covering those fabric items with spit, that in itself isn’t a physical hazard (if you don’t count having to do a little more laundry).
But if your cat is actually ingesting the fabric, that could also result in a foreign body or blockage.
How to get your cat to stop chewing
The fact is, you aren’t going to be able to make your cat stop chewing altogether.
But if you want him to stop chewing destructively, the only thing you can do is try your best to control what he can and cannot chew.
“It’s just cat-proofing your house, is really all it is,” Dr. Tu said.
That means making sure you're keeping those things you don’t want chewed in places your cat can’t get to.
It also helps to redirect his attention to something else he can actually sink his teeth into.
“Give them boxes that they can chew, and then make sure you put away the ones you don’t want them to chew,” Dr. Tu explained. “Some cats like the crinkle sound [of plastic], so you can offer them the crinkle toys [instead].”
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