The act of chewing is instinctive behavior for your cat, and they can do it for a host of reasons – to explore, to taste, to relieve boredom and anxiety or to calm and soothe. However, excessive chewing in cats can also be a sign of a bigger problem and can be dangerous as well as destructive if the targets of their chewing affections are furniture or belongings around your home.
The key to stopping your cat’s chewing habit from getting out of hand is to nip the behavior in the bud. And that means understanding the reasons why they may feel the urge to chew. We dig deeper into why do cats chew on things and what you can do to stop it.
Is Chewing Normal in Cats?
Chewing is quite a common animal behavior in cats and can be considered normal, as long as it is not destructive, excessive or your kit is chewing something he really shouldn’t. So, if your cat tends to have a chew on his toys when playing then it shouldn’t be a cause for concern, but you should keep an eye on it.
If you cat is healthy, happy and unstressed then it’s likely he is just following his natural instincts, but you should never ignore excessive chewing behaviors or chewing that is out of character. And always be aware of what your cat is chewing on, to ensure his chewing is not putting him in danger.
Reasons Why a Cat May Chew
If you are concerned about your cat’s chewing or simply want to stop your cat from chewing in the first place, it’s important to understand exactly why your kit may be exhibiting the behavior. Knowing what is behind your cat’s chewing habit can help you resolve and prevent it. The most common causes as to why cats chew include:
- Curiosity: Your pet’s chewing could be a simple case of curiosity and we all know how curious cats can be! Cats use their mouth and teeth as a way of exploring their environment and may be enjoying the tactile sensation of chewing the object they are investigating. Younger cats and kittens are particularly prone to be curious chewers and need to be carefully monitored to stop your cat from chewing something they shouldn’t.
- Boredom: Cats are intelligent creatures that need mental as well as physical stimulation to keep them happy and healthy. And should boredom creep into your feline’s life, it can manifest as a variety of potentially destructive behaviors, including chewing. If left unchecked, there’s a risk that your bored chewer could develop a compulsive habit that may prove more difficult to stop.
- Gum disease: The act of chewing can actually be a source of physical comfort, particularly if your cat is in pain. And when it comes to excessive chewing, it could be that your cat is suffering from periodontal, or gum disease and your cat is looking for some form of pain relief. With gum disease causing red. inflamed and painful gums and teeth, chewing on a hard object could be helping your kit to relieve its achy and sore mouth.
- Teething: Sticking with the teeth theme, if you have kittens that are overly fond of chewing anything and everything, then chances are they are teething and using the pressure of chewing on an item as a way to ease discomfort in their gums as their adult teeth come through. So, if you notice your little kitten chewing on hard objects and maybe drooling more than usual, then those baby teeth could well be the cause of the issue. If so, it’s important to try and wean them off their chewing as it could continue as a comfort activity when they grow into adulthood.
- Digestive conditions: Tummy issues in your kit may also be behind their chewing behavior as they seek ways to alleviate feelings of pain and nausea. A cat chewing due to digestive problems will most likely show other signs, including licking and drooling as well as general signs of feeling unwell. They could also be chewing if they have nutritional deficiencies in their food or diet. If you suspect digestive issues, then a trip to the veterinarian is a wise idea to get your pet checked out.
- Anxiety: Another reason for chewing in cats is due to anxiety or stress. Certain breeds of cats can be more sensitive and highly strung than others and so prone to bouts of anxiety and can take their anxiety out on items around your home. It is thought that the simple act of chewing mimics how all cat breeds handle prey in the wild and as a natural behavior can actually help to calm them down.
What Cats Will Typically Chew on
Whatever the reason for your cat’s chewing behavior, the act of chewing can be problematic due to what your pet decides to chew on. Particularly if your kit is an indoor cat, chances are it will be something around the home that becomes the object of your cat’s chewing affections. And unfortunately, your house can be full of items that are not good for your pet to chew on, including:
Fabric, clothes and furniture
Fabrics, material, wool and leather can mirror the feel of prey in your cat’s mouth and so can be their ‘go-to’ when they feel the need for a little chewing time. However, it should always be discouraged. Not only will it damage your clothes, soft furnishings, even your shower curtains, but it can actually be dangerous for your cat. Soft fabrics and wool can come apart, leaving thread or small pieces of materials which your pet could swallow, while clothes can have small buttons or sewn on decorations which can come off and become a choke hazard. And while small pieces of fabric may be easily swallowed, they can actually obstruct their digestive system, making your kit pretty poorly.
Wires and Cords
Wires and electrical cables are part of the modern home and can be a magnet for your cat, if left accessible and on show. And while it’s not quite known why wires and cords are such an interest for felines, they can actually be one of the most dangerous things for your cat to chew. If they are a persistent chewer, your cat could puncture or chew through the cable to the live wire underneath, running the risk of electric shock or burns. Cords, from drapes and blinds, or pull cords, can also be attractive to your chewing cat, as they play and bat them.
If you cannot hide them away, look for protective covers you can place over the surface of your wires to protect them from unwanted feline chewing attention. You can also use deterrents such as surrounding sticky tape or a pet-safe apple spray to make wires and cords less appealing and stop cat from chewing.
They may look beautiful, but your houseplants can be a natural target for your cat to chew and depending on the type of plants you have, they can be poisonous, even fatal, to your pet. Many common houseplants such as daffodils, lilies, tulips and chrysanthemum are toxic to cats so to be safe, rather than sorry, always keep your plants and cut flowers well out of reach of your pet. And it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the plants that can be poisonous to cats and keep them out of your home.
Risks of Chewing to Your Cat
As chewing is a natural cat behavior, it is important to know the risks of excessive chewing, or chewing harmful substances, to your pet. Your cat can be a pretty determined creature and, as their teeth are extremely sharp, they are built for chewing a range of things. And as we have already explored, it is this combination of curiosity and physical ability that means their chewing can put your cat in danger.
A cat who is an excessive chewer is at risk of potential poisoning, injury or choking, depending on what they chew. And if they manage to chew off and swallow small pieces, they can also experience an intestinal obstruction, which can be serious, even fatal.
So, if you suspect your cat has chewed something toxic or swallowed something they shouldn’t have, get then to your veterinarian pronto.
How to Stop Unwanted Chewing Behavior
While chewing is a natural behavior in cats, it should be discouraged, so that you can keep your home as well as your cat safe. And there are several ways you can stop your cat from chewing on everything.
Remove the temptation
If you know what your cat’s preferred object is to chew, then put it out of reach so they won’t have the urge. Wires should be hidden or contained inside protective covers, smaller objects put away and remove any plants that could harm them. As any veterinarian will tell you, making your home chew-safe for your cat is the sensible thing to do.
Use pet-safe deterrents
While removing temptation is a good place to start, cats can be stubborn and pretty persistent so you may need to use pet-safe deterrents to stop your kit’s chewing behaviors. Adding scents or tastes to his objects of desire or anything he can potentially chew should put him off his chewing game. There are a number of deterrents you can choose from and rosemary, lemon, apple or cayenne sprays in particular can be effective without causing any harm.
Provide more stimulation
If you suspect boredom is behind your cat chewing, then up their stimulation, both physical and mental. Ensure they have plenty of opportunity for fun and exercise, and add more cat toys to their toy box, if they need more stimulation. Adding cat towers and scratching toys around the home will give them something to get physical with, but with their claws. Puzzle toys or a laser pointer are also good ideas, as well as chew safe fabric cat toys to direct their energy and attention.
Reduce their stress and anxieties
As well as providing the stimulation your cat needs to alleviate boredom, you may need to take steps to reduce any environmental stress or anxieties that could be triggering their destructive chewing behavior. Look at ensuring your cat has their own quiet, safe space, and manage any changes or situations which could be causing them to become anxious.
Try clicker training
While it is more known to be a training aid for dogs, clicker training can be effective with cats, although you will need a little time and patience. The principle is simple – you use a small handheld clicker device which you click when your cat shows positive behavior – eg, stops chewing and walks away. The click must always be quickly followed by a reward such as a small treat, so your cat immediately associates their good behavior with a positive experience. The aim is to eventually phase out the treat part, so your cat responds positively to the click without the need for a reward.
Spend more quality time with them
And finally, if you think your cat is chewing on everything is a behavioral issue, and you have tried all of the above, it might be time for you to spend some quality one-to-one time with your cat as they may be seeking more attention. Make sure you have regular daily time to just play and have fun with your cat. And spending some time grooming and stroking your cat can help you both to bond and give you time to observe and understand their behavior and what it may be telling you.
Need More Help?
If, after following our advice, you are still asking yourself, ‘why does my cat chew on everything?’, it is time to schedule a surgery appointment with your vet, even if he has cleared your cat of any medical or physical cause. Just like humans, some cats can suffer from compulsive behavior, and even demonstrate repetitive or excessive actions, similar to obsessive compulsive disorder, or OCD. And chewing can be a sign. So, discussing your cat’s persistent chewing with your vet can find a solution, including medication, to ease any emotional discomfort and get them back to their happy, non-chewing best.