Updated: August 9, 2022 by Kristen Chapple
Cat lovers know that cats can behave strangely sometimes. It is surprising if your cat doesn’t surprise you from time to time. There’s a scientific word for weird cat behavior – it is cat behavior. Your cat can perform all kinds of crazy stunts and show peculiar curiosity for the most unexpected items. And you will find this hilarious, super cute, funny and sort of expected. But, licking plastic? Seriously!? Why do cats lick plastic? It should be tasteless and unappealing. Nevertheless, many cats disagree. They lick plastic items, especially grocery bags, even furniture!
So, how to deal with this habit? Is it just another of your cat’s harmless antics? Or should you worry and consult a vet? We still don’t have a universal answer to any of these questions. Many theories try to explain this strange affection. Most of them are plausible, but none of them can cover the majority of cases. Let’s take a look at what we know about cats and plastic.
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Cats have a fantastic sense of smell. Most plastic bags absorb odors of whatever they have had contact with. Your cat will easily smell if the bag contained anything yummy. The plastic industry also uses chemicals derived from animal fat. Some cats might find that appealing. Corn starch is another possible culprit, as it is used to make plastic bags more eco-friendly.
Sound and Texture
Plastic bags produce a sound that may trigger the cat’s hunting instincts. It’s because some rodents can make a similar noise. For house cats, hunting becomes playing and eventually – licking. Smooth and unusual texture of plastic might be an alluring thing for some cats.
While you can find some facts to support these theories, it would be even easier to find arguments to deny them. Obviously, even if these premises may be true in some cases, more often they are not.
Boredom and Stress
Cats can display odd behavior when they are unhappy. If your cat doesn’t get enough opportunities to play, boredom can cause anxiety. Any changes in your household can trigger stress as well. Cats can cope with stress and anxiety in many ways including licking or even chewing on plastic. In some cases, they even develop obsessive-compulsive disorder.
These theories seem to be plausible. Of course, not all the cats that lick plastic have psychological issues. It should be easy to distinguish stress-connected plastic licking from let’s call it ‘normal’ licking. If your cat looks for plastic when she’s nervous, does it obsessively, and might even show aggression, it’s time to help her out.
What Can You Do?
If the licking is connected to more behavioral issues, you should address those first. Provide a healthy environment with enough mental and physical stimulation for your feline companion. It’s amazing how quickly your cat can change to a happy-go-lucky attitude. But, if you neglect your cat, she can become distressed even quicker. Taking care of her basic mental and physical needs will help your cat to abandon troublesome behavior.
If it looks like your cat is licking plastic just for fun, or some hidden smell, it’s not a big deal. As long as your cat doesn’t eat it, you don’t have to worry. However, I would recommend moving plastic bags out of her reach. You can get many stimulating toys for your cat to play with. If your cat keeps on playing with plastic bags, there’s always a chance to end up in her stomach. And that can be very dangerous and urgent.
Cat’s mysterious fondness for plastic will remain a mystery for now. If your cat behaves normally, other than licking plastic bags, don’t worry. Try to keep plastic away from her, just in case. If your cat shows mood changes or any other symptoms along with her affection for plastic, consult your vet. If your cat is healthy and happy, enjoy your companionship until the next mischief.