Ever noticed a cat chewing intently on anything other than food? Dogs love to chew on toys, pillows, and many other things left lying around, but very few people expect cats to do the same. However, it is not uncommon for cats to do the same. Cat chewing is reasonably typical behavior that is exhibited by many of our furry feline pets and is not something to be scratching one’s head over.
Cat chewing occurs due to the cat’s instinct. It is mostly linked to their natural feeding tendencies. It does not reflect any serious issues if it is not compulsive. Cat chewing behavior is most evident in indoor cats. The reason for this is attributable to the artificial lifestyle the cats are living in our homes.
Want to learn more about how to stop cats from chewing? You can follow the link to the article A guide on how to stop cats from chewing.
Is cat chewing normal?
The answer to this question is “yes.” Most cats exhibit specific chewing behavior at least once in their lifetime. However, this does not mean that all cats exhibit such behavior. Some cats may live their whole lives without ever developing a chewing habit. Even among the cats which may indulge in chewing, they do not do it identically. In fact, the intensity of cat chewing varies greatly from cat to cat.
For this reason, we can describe cat chewing as occurring on a spectrum. For some cats, the chewing may be severe, that is, happening on a very regular and short interval. Whereas in other cats, it may be negligible, that is, happening very rarely.
However, as researchers have already established that cat chewing may occur across a broad spectrum. Therefore it is difficult to identify whether or not the behavior may be normal or abnormal. We cannot brand a person who sleeps for 12 hours as abnormal and 8 hours as normal. Same way, we cannot brand a cat as normal or abnormal based on their chewing patterns.
In this sense, the cat, which hardly exhibits any chewing behavior and the cat which chews on things daily are both normal. there is no normal or abnormal chewing behavior unless it becomes compulsive and self-destructive
As such, we can only try to identify where our cats may fall under the chewing spectrum. Unless the cat chewing behavior seems to cause any direct or indirect harm to itself and others. It is okay to consider the behavior normal, even though it may be on the higher end of the spectrum.
Why do cats chew on things?
Cat chewing, as mentioned earlier, is not always a cause for concern. Some of the more common reasons why a cat may start chewing.
Due to instinct
For most people who have owned a cat at least once in their lifetimes, it may not seem a strange thing to see a cat scratch up sofas, walls, doors, and curtains, to name a few. Not only this, but cats also sometimes indulge in chewing on shoes, carpets, and many other things quite often.
It may seem a trivial issue for more experienced cat owners but, for some people, especially if the person is a new owner of a cat, this may seem a little alarming and possible cause for concern. However, it is essential to know that this is a prevalent issue. It may require any attention unless, of course, the cat chewing behavior turns into a more compulsive trait.
Cat chewing behavior and their natural feeding instincts are directly tied. Cats being carnivorous animals by nature, depend heavily on their chewing abilities to be able to kill and eat their prey. So, even though domesticated cats do not hunt their prey, but their instincts come to the surface through certain behaviors.
Those cats living in an artificial home environment and with little or no exposure to their natural habitat may display a more intensified cat chewing behavior, which is simply because of their need to relieve their inherent tendencies. As instinct is a strong characteristic for any living creature, even though the cats can be domesticated, it is difficult to eradicate the cat chewing instinct from them.
So, one does not need to worry too much about one’s cat chewing cardboard or cat chewing wood inside the house. Basically, cat chewing everything and anything is usually nothing to be scratching one’s head over.
Due to teething in kittens
Like most other mammal species, mother cats also feed their young ones with milk at first and gradually move on to solid food. Kittens usually start teething around three to five months of age. Teething is the process where the kitten’s teeth begin to grow in.
During this stage of their growth, the kittens may begin to display cat chewing behavior. This is entirely normal, and almost all mammals go through a “chewing” phase during their teething period, mainly because of the slight discomfort that the process may cause.
During the kitten’s teething period, it helps to provide it with cat chewing toys, which may help to prevent the kitten from destroying other things. One can find cat chewing toys at veterinary clinics or pet stores and even online sites.
Some of the most liked and best-reviewed cat chewing toys on amazon.
HDP catnip rolls
This product is available in several multi colors and is perfectly designed to encourage biting and chewing. It is also very ideal for nighttime play as the material does not result in loud or unwanted noises.
AILUKI 29 pcs kitten toys
This is another significantly reviewed product on amazon. It comes in a set comprising of 29 different and individual toy pieces. The toys’ designs help in the kitten’s overall development, including its teething process.
OurPets catnip cat toy
This cat toy comes with the added feature of being super aromatic and is a cat favorite. Toys help in both mental and physical stimulation for the kitten and thereby helps to reduce anxiety, stress, or boredom.
It is entirely normal for kittens to start chewing on certain things during their teething period. Hence, it is crucial that the owners can tell when chewing due to teething will begin and end. As mentioned earlier, kittens usually start teething from three-five months of age and will most likely end by six-seven months. Therefore, the average teething process will only last up to four months or five months in some rare cases.
During this phase, it is the responsibility of the owners to provide their kittens with the appropriate chew toys and discipline them on what they can or cannot chew. This short period of training and care will go a long way when the kittens finally grow out of their teething stage and are adapted to chewing on only those objects which have been approved by the owner.
Providing the right chewing toys at the right time helps in ensuring the proper growth development of the kitten.
Due to boredom
Sometimes cat chewing is caused by boredom in the cats. Most cats are very active, and so, when these cats are locked up indoors in their owners’ homes for the majority of their time, they become restless. The build-up of excess energy and stamina leads to the cat displaying certain behaviors such as cat chewing to eliminate some of their excess energy.
Most of the cat chewing results from boredom. It is more likely to be on the destructive side, as cat’s need to expel its excess energy. Which means that the cats are usually in a hyperactive state, and is more prone to chewing several objects more aggressively.
Sometimes cat chewing everything in our homes is a sure tell-tale sign that the cat may be extremely bored out of its mind and desperately looking for means to relieve its boredom. It is always better for both the owners and cats to go out and have fun in the open at least once a day.
Due to curiosity
The saying “curiosity killed the cat” did not merely come about for no reason. Cats display very curious and inquisitive tendencies by nature. Sometimes cat chewing is caused simply by the cat’s need to satisfy its curiosity about different things. It may simply be in a mood to explore and find out more about the things surrounding it.
We may find cat chewing on shoes and sandals, or cat chewing carpets, drapes, curtains, basically everything in the house. Sometimes we may even find a cat chewing paws and tail. All these may be the cats trying to figure out what the object or objects are.
However, it is crucial to understand that there are some other more serious reasons for a cat chewing besides boredom or instinct. Some of these other causes are as follows.
Due to nutritional deficiency
Sometimes some deficiency in certain nutrients in the cat’s body may result in the cat chewing behavior. In such cases, the cat’s different body systems may send signals to its brain, telling it to find a source for the lacking nutrients which the cat requires, which may very well trigger the cat to chew on many things which it thinks might give it the desired nutrients.
Due to anxiety
Another reason for cat chewing is anxiety. However, cat chewing brought about by anxiety is not very common. It mostly results in those cat breeds which are naturally more jumpy and excitable such as Siamese cats but cannot be related to a particular breed alone. Anxiety as a cause for cat chewing behavior in different cats irrespective of the breed is a cause for concern. It usually indicates that the cat may have a high fear-disposition or suffer from heightened nervousness.
Due to gum disease
Sometimes certain gum diseases caused by injury or other reasons may be the cause for cat chewing. In such cases, the cat will chew on such objects or things that may provide it with some relief from the pain it feels because of its gum disease. Cat chewing wood and other hard substances may cause more injury to its mouth and gums rather than providing relief, if not appropriately controlled.
Due to issues relating to the cat’s digestive system
Sometimes when sick cats with digestive issues feel nauseous, they try to relieve the sensation by chewing on things, which may trigger drooling. Drooling helps to settle the nausea attacks.
How to tell if cat chewing is an issue
Although most of the time, cat chewing is not a serious issue. All cat owners need to be able to know when their cat’s chewing may be tilting more towards a more serious issue. As mentioned above, sometimes, cat chewing may be triggered by underlying health issues, which may require a visit to the vet.
It is, therefore, important that cat owners can properly identify when cat chewing might be a problem. Some of the signs to look out for are listed below-
When cat chewing is compulsive
Like humans, sometimes even cat chewing can be caused due to obsessive-compulsive disorder in the cats. If cat chewing happens on a more frequently and regularly or persists up to a degree where it starts to cause bodily harm to itself, this will signify a compulsive pattern in cat chewing behavior and will require mental treatments and therapy for the cat.
Sometimes cat chewing tail and paws persistently are a sign of a compulsive disorder. Ultimately this ends in the cat chewing fur off in the end, which may cause serious harm and injury.
Even when the cat is not compulsively chewing on its body parts, injuries may still be inflicted on itself by cat chewing cardboard, plastic, and other hard materials, which may cause cuts in its mouth and damage its teeth.
Obsessive-compulsive cat chewing is caused mainly due to underlying stress or anxiety-related issues for the cat.
When cat persists on chewing only a particular part of their body
Sometimes a cat may chew persistently on those parts of its body where it may be feeling some sense of discomfort or pain. They do this to help elevate the pain they may be feeling in those areas. Hence, when the cat continues to chew or gnaw on one particular area in its body for a prolonged period, it will be best to have it checked for any injury or disease.
Usually, cat chewing fur off is caused mainly because of this problem. As persistent and continuous chewing may damage the cat’s skin in the long run, which may result in loss of the cat’s fur in that area.
Not only does this destroy the appearance of the cat, but it also becomes more prone to infections as the damaged part of its body is raw and exposed.
When cat chewing things may cause fatal accidents
Some cats may chew on harmless objects such as shoes, toys, and the like. But there are other cats which may gnaw on more dangerous objects which may cause injuries to the cat or even fatal accidents. For instance, cat chewing on cords may damage it, potentially causing short circuits or also resulting in the cat getting electrocuted.
This is also especially concerning because short circuits often start house fires, which may cause substantial losses in terms of properties and possessions or even precious lives. It is, therefore, best to prevent cats from chewing on cords or other objects, which may cause serious accidents.
Cat chewing plastic
When cats chew on low quality plastic objects, this may potentially cause certain toxins and other harmful chemicals to enter its body, thereby leading to future health complications for the cat. In other cases, the plastic object may break and cause immediate harm to its body.
For example, a cat chewing on a cheap plastic toy may break it. The shrapnels from the breakage can bruise or cut the cat’s mouth. The pieces may even cause choking, which can have fatal results.
Therefore, cat chewing plastic should not be encouraged, and it is advisable to keep such objects away from the cat.
Cat chewing leading to substantial financial losses
Money does not exist in the cat’s world. It cannot differentiate between expensive and cheap objects. The cats will usually go for that thing, which it may have some interest in, irrespective of how much the owner has spent on purchasing it.
There are cases where cats chew on very expensive things and end up destroying it. For example, a cat chewing carpet does not realize its significance or value. It only chews on the carpet because it likes how it feels. In such cases, where the cats have destroyed valuable and expensive things, it becomes a burden for their owners, who will have to reinvest a lot of money to repair or replace the damaged items.
In such cases, cat chewing can be a potential cause for concern.
How to address cat chewing behavior
Unless the cats’ chewing behavior is compulsive or destructive, it is best to acknowledge the cat chewing as a very normal occurrence only, rather than making a fuss about it.
If the goal is to prevent the cat from chewing on things other than its chewing toys, then the owner must train the cat at the early stages. Training should begin at the initial stages of its chewing habit and not after it has been going on for some time. The best time for such training to be imparted is usually around the time of the cat’s teething period. Most cats start to develop their chewing behaviors during this period.
If the cat is not trained appropriately as to which objects to chew and which objects to leave alone, then the owners should put away any such objects other than the toys, away from the reach of the cat, or create barriers and protection from the cat’s chewing spree.
In cases where the cat chewing behavior seems to tilt towards a compulsive nature or is resulting in any injuries or harm to the cat or others around it, then this chewing issue must be addressed seriously at the earliest possible. In such cases, a professional vet’s intervention is almost always necessary, as the reasons can be stress, anxiety, or other mental and health issues. The utmost priority for the cat’s well-being, as well as the well-being of those in interaction with it, is very important.