“My cat won’t stop chewing on my house plants”. “My cat nibbles on my electrical cords and I worry about her getting an electric shock”. “My cat enjoys eating parts of my artificial Christmas tree”. These are common complaints deriving from owners of a cat chewing lover.
While cats may not chew as much as teething puppies and dogs, they may still leave as a courtesy, their own repertoire of destructive teeth marks. Cats merely seem to chew for three particular reasons: teething, boredom and in some cases even nutritional deficiencies. Kittens in particular, go through an acute teething phase around the age of 3 to 6 months, where there will be seen chewing more than we would like to see them, just as puppies.
However, when it comes to felines, you can’t really toss a rawhide bone hoping he or she will redirect her attention on it as you may do with dogs. So what to do if you own a cat that suffers from a persistent gnawing disorder?
While the act of a cat chewing is not harmful per se, the objects the a cat chooses to chew on can be dangerous and even potentially fatal. Owners of cats with a tendency to chew should cover their electrical cords with special tubing available in electrical supply stores. Such tubing items are made of “teeth proof’ materials that will prevent access to the cords.
Small kittens in particular just as puppies and human toddlers, tend to explore the world through their mouths. They may therefore, find houseplants to be an attractive greenery to mouth. All owners of cats and kittens should be educated on the types of plants to avoid because they are toxic to felines.
Cats weaned too early may develop a tendency to chew on wool in a behavior referred to as “wool sucking”. Siamese cats and Oriental breeds in general, seem to be particularly prone to this behavior. Such behavior is somehow comforting to the cat because it mimics nursing and blankets and sweaters may be spared by simply redirecting the cat to a nice soft chew toy instead. However, while most cats seem to outgrow this issue, some may develop a sort of obsession to wool.
Cats and kittens may also tend to nip their owner’s hands and feet. This derives mostly from play, however, a cat that chases ankles and attacks feet may be going into prey drive, often confusing feet for an animal to chase. Such behavior should be discouraged. The cat should be redirected again to another play method. Owners may toss a ball when this happens so the cat will learn appropriate behavior.
Owners should also refrain from allowing cats and kittens to play with fingers and hands. This will cause a cat or kitten to believe that hands are a nice set of toys and they may therefore develop a tendency to bite and scratch their owner’s hands, no longer allowing them to pet them.
Some cats may chew themselves up. If a cat chews constantly on its paws and tail it should be seen by a veterinarian to rule out fleas, food allergies or possibly skin diseases. Some cats chew themselves out of anxiety.
How to Stop Cats From Chewing
Now that the top reasons why cats tend to chew have been revealed, the next topic is how to stop such behaviors in first place.
- Invest in electrical cord protectors. This should be the main concern of owners of cats that tend to chew. Check your electronic store or a large pet store. “Critter cord” or “Chew Safe” may be some products of interest.
- If your cat enjoys chewing on your plants, purchase some cat grass. You can find the seeds from garden centers or you can plant your own from barley and oat seeds.
- If your cat has started to chew on furniture or any other large object, you can try to purchase a bottle of bitter apple. Bitter apple is a product that features a very sour taste that most cats and dogs dislike. It make take a lick or two and the cat will learn its lesson.
- If you want to restrict the cat from going to a particular area of your home alltogether try a scat mat. Scat mats deliver a small shock as the cats steps on it discouraging the cat from accessing certain areas.
- If you cat tends to jump up your night stand or your counters to chew on fake flowers or anything else you can try to place some empty soda can bottles that the cat will knock over and cause him/her a big scare.
- Double sided sticky tape placed on the object the cat enjoys to chew on, will very likely discourage the cat to chew because cats tend to hate the consitency of sticky tape.
- Bored cats should be provided with entertainment. Invest in safe cat toys and purchase a cat tree. The more occupied the cat, the less bored it will be, therefore the less like to chew from boredom.
- If the cat tends to mouth and chew everything is sight, it should be checked for a medical condition called “Pica”. Cats affected by pica in reality suffer from some vitamin or nutritional deficiency, while uncommon, a cat that tends to chew too much without any obvious reason, should be evaluated by a veterinarian.
Chewing may simply be a phase your cat is going through momentarily, however in any case your cat’s safety is of utmost importance. Small objects such as rubber bands or fragments of objects may cause an intestinal obstruction, while some other objects may be simply toxic to injest. Careful monitoring is essential and all potentially dangerous objects that your cat may injest should be removed from the environment.
*Disclaimer: All remedies suggested are not to be used as a substitute for professional veterinary advice. If your pet is sick please refer to your veterinarian for a hands on examination. If your pet is exhibiting behavior problems please refer to a professional pet behaviorist.