Why Do Cats Lick Plastic? [5 Reasons & What To Do]

Wondering why cats lick plastic?

Here we discuss why cats lick plastic, potential risks, and how to stop your cat from licking plastic.

Why Do Cats Lick Plastic?

  • Medical reasons (i.e. Feline Pica)
  • How fun and engaging it can be
  • Having nothing else to do
  • Being stressed and needing something to relieve that stress.
  • For no reason at all or out of curiosity

Understanding the Risks and How to Avoid Them

  • Licking plastic itself is usually safe
  • Chewing or eating plastic can possess significant danger
  • Try using alternatives to plastic that would be safe and interesting (like toys)

So, Why Is Your Cat Licking Plastic?

The Mere Urge to Lick Plastic

Feline Pica is a medical condition that can affect cats or even humans. It involves ingesting inedible things that don’t have any kind of nutrition (e.g. Plastic). A case-control study was issued in 2016 to analyze pica and chewing behaviors in privately-owned cats that gave us more insight into the condition.

The study found that cats tended to eat shoelaces or threads, followed by plastic, fabric, other items, rubber, paper or cardboard and wood. Pica was associated with vomiting, but there was no strong correlation between early life and pica development later on.

So your cat may have just gotten the urge.

Licking Plastic Can Engage the Senses

Plastic bags can be extremely enticing for your cat, your cat could be enjoying it more than you think. For you, the simple act of licking a plastic bag can sound irrational. Nonetheless, it could mean the world for your little buddy!

  • Taste: Some plastic bag manufacturers are starting to use biodegradable plastic bags to help the environment. These plastic bags can contain corn starch which your cat can consider as a quality meal right there.
  • Smell: Plastic bags can maintain the smell from anything previously stored in it for quite some time, most importantly food. Once your cat picks up that smell it would be enough to draw him/her towards the bag and even to lick it.
  • Sound: The sound of licking plastic bags can be interesting to your cat. Moreover, it can even stimulate your cat’s prey-drive due to the similarity it has with rodent noises that are usually found in the wild. This would be a delight for your naturally predatory friend to imagine.
  • Touch: Your cat could be amused by the feeling or temperature of plastic which can also be smooth and different from other materials.

This means that for the most part, when your little friend’s eyes notice your grocery plastic bag as you’re coming home, Christmas came early for him/her!

Boredom or Stress

We live busy lives and sometimes we can forget to spend time with our fluffy little friends. So, your cat may just lick the plastic as some sort of activity or entertainment. If there isn’t anything else to do, who can blame him/her?

cat licks nose, beautiful British cat with yellow eyes

On the other side, your cat can lick or chew on plastic if he/she is stressed to relief some of that stress. There’re many things that can stress your cat: change in the daily routine, visiting the vet, being left alone for too long or more.

Alternatively, if it was just a one-time thing and you don’t see it as a habit, your cat could’ve been simply doing it out of curiosity with no specific reason.

Will Plastic Harm Your Cat?

Licking plastic is usually safe, but chewing or swallowing is bad news. One study found a correlation between cats that swallow plastic and vomiting.

(Which, then you think about it, just makes sense).

Even just chewing plastic can result in small plastic pieces to be swallowed. So if you see your cat taking much of an interest in plastic, it’s best to go ahead and separate the two. End the relationship before it gets too serious.

Chewing plastic even if it’s chemically safe can cause suffocation or internal injuries. So, if you think that your cat may be chewing the plastic it could be a sign of danger. If you think that your cat did indeed swallow plastic we recommend that you consult a veterinarian just to be safe.

How To Stop Your Cat From Licking Plastic

You can limit the risk of plastic by keeping a close eye on your cat whenever there’s plastic bags or toys around. Conversely, you can ensure that your cat can’t get access to any plastic at all. A good idea would be to replace it with something that’s also appealing like safe toys or catnip-stuffed toys.

Sometimes, however, having plastic objects in the household is inevitable. In that case, I’d recommend that you consider using a cat repellent on the plastic as a temporary solution. This will keep your cat away. Keep in mind that cat repellents rely on smell and so they fade away after some time. Also, as your cat grows older so will their sense of smell and it wouldn’t be as effective.

To Wrap It Up for You

Your cat licks a lot of things throughout the day; themselves, their food or even you to show their love. You may not be able to keep an eye on your cat all the time. So, just make sure that their environment is safe, protected, and plastic-free when possible.

Let us know in the comments below: what is your cat licking?

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