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Why Do Cats Lick Plastic?

Petmate Academy

October 19, 2021

After a shopping trip, you may have noticed your cat paying special attention to your plastic shopping bags. They may bat at the bags and try to play with them, but you may also catch them licking or even chewing on the bags. Why is your cat doing this? Should you be concerned?

There are several reasons why cats may lick the plastic, and you'll be glad to learn that most of the time, it's nothing to worry about.


This first and possibly more serious reason why your cat may be licking plastic is an eating disorder called pica. This is a disorder that causes your cat to have a desire to lick (or attempt to eat) inedible objects, mainly due to an object's texture. How and why does a cat develop pica? One way is through a vitamin or mineral deficiency in your cat's diet. Other people think that some cats may develop pica if they were weaned too early on in their kittenhood. Regardless, talk to your veterinarian about any concerns you may have if you've noticed your cat repeatedly attempting to eat plastic.

The second reason simply could be that it's fun! Cats love new textures and sounds, and plastic bags provide just that! They are crinkly, they rustle, and they're easy to bat around and play with. This makes them perfect stimulation for a cat's senses!

Another reason why cats may be drawn to plastic bags is because of the materials they're made with. Some bags are coated with different oils and lubricants, such as fish oil or beef fat, which makes the bags more slippery. Additionally, many plastic bags these days are being made with biodegradable, eco-friendly materials that are better for the environment. One of these elements is corn starch. Cats may be curious about these smells and drawn to the subtle flavors. Some plastic bags may also contain chemicals that act like pheromones which attract cats. Their licking of plastic, then, could be related to the flehmen response, which is when a cat will hold its mouth open for a few seconds in order to analyze a scent. 

Last of all, cats may enjoy licking plastic bags if there are any traces of leftover food on them. Soft plastics easily trap scents, especially those of food. If you have plastic bags that were holding groceries or takeout food, your kitty will likely be intrigued by these. After all, cats have a strong sense of smell, even stronger than that of dogs, and can easily notice even the smallest traces of food scents.


As stated earlier, cats licking plastic bags is usually harmless, but it's something you want to keep an eye on because there are a few risks and potential dangers.

If your cat ingests parts of a plastic bag, it could cause serious problems and complications. Bits of plastic may get stuck in your cat's throat and cause them to choke. Ingested plastic could also get caught and tangled in the stomach or intestines and cause blockages or other issues. Watch your cat to be sure they're not displaying any signs of discomfort or out-of-the-ordinary symptoms such as diarrhea or weight loss. Bring your pet to an emergency vet clinic if you suspect they're eating large amounts of plastic.

In general, it's best to keep your kitty away from plastic bags whenever you can to avoid any potential risks. After you get home from a shopping trip, immediately put your plastic bags in a place out of your kitty's reach. If you're using plastic bags to line trash bins around your home, consider putting bins in places that your cat cannot reach, such as in cupboards or closets. Also, consider opting for paper bags when possible or bring reusable shopping bags with you when you visit the store. Don't forget to make sure your cat is stocked up on plenty of fun cat toys that are safe for them to play with and will keep them from getting bored and looking for additional entertainment.




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