Why Do Cats Chew?

Pet owners expect dogs and puppies to chew, but it’s somehow much more surprising when a cat starts chewing. Cats that chew often target books, lampshades, curtains and other similar household items. This can be frustrating to a pet parent who has never dealt with a chewing cat before. More frustrating still, most cats are very particular about what they chew and are difficult to redirect toward more appropriate items.

Why Cats  Chew

Cats may chew for a variety of reasons. Kittens, like puppies, experience pain when teething and may chew to relieve this pain and pressure. Adult cats with dental problems sometimes chew for the same reason. Few cat owners are fortunate enough to have a cat so placid that its teeth can be easily examined without sedation or the assistance of a vet. For this reason, many feline dental problems go unnoticed until the cat starts chewing problematically or suffers other health problems are a result of dental disease.

Many kittens who were orphaned at a young age chew. Some of these kittens continue to chew throughout their adult lives. This is a self-calming behavior learned in kittenhood to replace the suckling that would be normal for a kitten with a living and attentive mother. Habitual suckling of blankets and human hands or clothing may also occur.

What to Do About Cats Chewing

Adult cats that chew should see a veterinarian to determine whether or not a health problem is responsible for the behavior. In many cases, dental disease is to blame and a dental procedure will correct the behavior easily. If no medical problem is found that relates to the chewing, behavior modification can be attempted. Redirecting cats’ chewing requires patience and consistency above and beyond that required to train dogs.

Behavior modification should start with making the inappropriate chewing objects inaccessible or unappealing as much as possible. Sprays like Bitter Apple dissuade some cats from chewing. If possible, simply move the objects the cat has been chewing into a room or closet where the cat can’t get to them.

Next, provide alternatives and reward your cat with praise, attention  and treats if she chews them. Several manufacturers now sell chew toys designed for cats. If you can’t find these or your cat doesn’t like them, you may be able to convince the cat to gnaw something as simple as a frozen washcloth or a wad of paper.

Each time you find the cat chewing an inappropriate item, gently remove it and replace it with an appropriate chew toy. Praise the cat for taking the new toy. If she is too upset about losing her prize to pay any attention to the replacement item, distract her with a play session and then offer the new chew item again. This will need to be repeated over the course of anywhere from a few weeks to several months before the cat will consistently chew her possessions rather than yours.

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12 Responses

  1. jelenawoehr
    | Reply

    @PetLvr PetLvr [Blog] \ Why Do Cats Chew? http://cli.gs/Sa83D

  2. HART (1-800-HART)
    | Reply

    (new PetLvr post ).. Why Do Cats Chew?: Pet owners expect dogs and puppies to chew, but it&#.. http://cli.gs/gUMA0

  3. Marco Fratelli
    | Reply

    The answer seems obvious at first glance… 🙂 RT @friendpets: Why Do Cats Chew? #pets http://bit.ly/45X7Z

  4. Risa Hanley
    | Reply

    Why Do Cats Chew?: PetLvr.com Blog — http://ow.ly/jVHF

  5. Frank J
    | Reply

    I had a cat that chewed on door mats. I have no idea why.

  6. HART (1-800-HART)
    | Reply

    Besides my unshaven face and whiskers .. my cat likes to come in my home office starting around 3pm every afternoon and starts chewing my client files, boxes that I have the records in, and other stuff .. trying to get my attention to feed him probably, although we don’t feed him until after 6pm.

  7. Scott Hagan
    | Reply

    RT @friendpets: Why Do Cats Chew? Find out why and how to stop them from chewing your household items! #pets http://bit.ly/37Mxsv

  8. KittenRescue
    | Reply

    “Why Do Cats Chew?” http://ow.ly/kfJG [Bitter Apple spray never helped me stop biting my nails but maybe it will work better with your cat]

  9. Kristen
    | Reply

    My cat likes to climb under my computer desk and chew on the cables. I’ve had to unplug everything (and resort to a laptop) so she doesn’t electrocute herself. I’ve never seen her chew on any other cords, just the heavy duty ones.

  10. Isabel
    | Reply

    We have a tortie kitten about 7 months old. We took her in after finding her outside. She was tiny and only about 6 weeks old. She is ripping the wallpaper off the walls and chews whole corners off of harcover books. She chewed the corner off a wooden box. I can’t leave any artwork, photos or valuable paper around for fear it will be destroyed. What do I do?

  11. LindaforPets
    | Reply

    Our Siamese uses chewing to get attention … the 3 pm assault on the home office – or whatever room I chose to work in is a big one. Night time its lamp shades and the metal arms of the little reading lamp that extends from the headboard of the bed. For a long time I was giving in and going to the bowl and adding wet food and peace would return. Today I took him to the loathed all day kibble and stroked him until he gave in and ate some. First time I tried to walk away he looked up and stopped, but after some steady munching I was able to walk away. He just jumped down (I heard it) but he hasn’t been back to bother …. YET.

  12. JES
    | Reply

    I have my first chewer — and also a fabric sucker. He’s a rescued tabby about 2 years old now and a regular ball-of-energy wild man. I figure the fabric sucking is something left over from kittenhood — probably separated from mama too soon. Since he generally confines that to one chenille throw, I can live with his “comfort behavior”. It’s the chewing on wood that drives me nuts. He’s sampled chair arms, the banister, the handle on the toilet, doorknobs, cabinet pulls, the handle of my hairbrush…well, you get the picture. Never very destructive, it’s mostly a combination of taste testing and hyperactive boredom, I think, but I’m headed out this weekend to get some bitter apple. Here’s hoping. Meanwhile, I’ll keep distracting him with a laser pointer. (That lad never learns he can’t really catch it. Handsome fellow, but the soul of a frat boy; if cats had keggers, he’d be so there!)

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