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Why do cats eat paper and cardboard?

black and white cat in Monster Cheese Wedge. Cardboard is bitten.

Why do cats eat paper and cardboard?

Look closely at this picture of S’mores. No, more closely. What do you see?

 

I’ll tell you what you see: teeth marks.

 

Get enough cats in a room with some paper or cardboard and somebody is bound to start munching away.

 

shredded paper

Cats eating cardboard is a common problem

“Why do cats eat paper and cardboard?” is a common thread topic on cat forums, and the questions and comments posters submit range from “Why do cats love to tear apart paper?” and “Does anyone else’s cat like to munch Kleenex tissue and toilet paper?” to “Cat licking paper, boxes, etc.” and “Cat chewing paper…Pica? Needs fiber?”

 

toilet paper and toilet paper tubes

 

 

Dig deeper into the forums and you’ll find that some cats are connoisseurs of particular varieties of cardboard and paper. One poster mentioned her cat’s proclivity for chewing diaper boxes, another loves paper towels, and yet another prefers paperback books. One bulletin board contributor complained that her cat was biting her daughter’s homework. Let’s see if her daughter’s teacher buys that excuse.

a jumble of cardboard boxes

 

While there are no scientific studies to explain cats’ penchant for chewing, shredding, or even eating paper and cardboard, there are some good theories that might explain this behavior.

 

Cardboard and Paper Shredding May be Predatory Behavior 

knife

 

Wild cats do not have access to steak knives. In order to ingest prey they have just killed, they may have to break their meal into bite-sized pieces by ripping or shredding it. It is possible that our domesticated pets are seeking to indulge this natural behavior by ripping or shredding paper and cardboard.

 

veterinarian

 

Cardboard and Paper Shredding Could be Related to Teething or Health Concerns

 

Kittens have baby teeth just like human babies and it may feel good to them to chew on something with a little “give” as the adult teeth erupt. Anyone who has or has spent time around a teething human knows the value of those rubber teething rings.

 

Is your cat beyond the kitten years and still chewing cardboard? Perhaps he has irritated gums and rubbing them against cardboard feels good. Or perhaps your adult cat’s diet is lacking in some crucial nutrient. Other medical problems, such as thyroid issues, can also lead a cat to eat a non-food item. Check with your veterinarian if you are concerned about any of these things.

 

Biting or Chewing Paper and Cardboard Could be a Cat's Way of Marking or Claiming

 

Cats deliberately leave their scent on objects and humans, often by rubbing against the things they are claiming as their own. Biting or chewing an object might be a way that a cat says, “This box (or paper towel tube, or magazine) is mine.”

 

bored cat

 

Cats Can Chew Cardboard and Paper Out of Boredom or Anxiety

 

Do you have a very spirited cat or an anxious one? Perhaps, when she’s shredding up today’s mail she’s bored, or nervous, or looking for a way to expend some of that excess energy. Be sure to provide her with a variety of appropriate cat toys and engage her in play on a daily basis to be sure she’s getting what she needs from you.

 

Whatever the reasons behind your cat’s interest in paper and cardboard, observe him carefully. Is he playfully and harmlessly shredding and discarding the paper or cardboard, or is he ingesting it? Ingested non-food items can cause dangerous intestinal blockages, so keep paper and cardboard away from cats with a tendency to consume.

 

And finally, give some thought to the kinds of materials your cat puts in her mouth, even if she’s not actually eating it. What kinds of inks are on that paper? What has that shipping box come in contact with on the way to your house? Cat in the Box boxes are all made in the U.S.A. and the inks are soy-based and human grade.

 

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24 comments

  • Stephanie – thank you for posting! I can see why you might be concerned about your baby. If it was just chewing on things, I wouldn’t worry. Kittens and puppies and human babies are forever putting things in their mouths that they shouldn’t (I’d be vigilant about what I leave lying around, however. You don’t want your kitten getting into something he shouldn’t.) What concerns me is the chronic meowing, especially around the litter box. That can be a warning sign of something very serious (especially if he seems to be straining while peeing). For his sake (and yours) get him checked out by a vet as soon as you can. If everything checks out, at least you’ll know you have nothing to worry about.

    Dawn LaFontaine
  • So my 7month old kitty Monkey has been eating paper, cardboard and plastic. It has me worried. Is this normal in a kitten his age??? I don’t want to freak out and worry if it’s normal. Oh and he keeps meowing over and over like he’s hungry but he has plenty of food and water, or he is meowing while in the litter box and I again am worried something might be wrong. What do does everyone think? Please feel free to give ANY advice or comments to help me, or if u have any experience or knowledge on the subject please feel free to leave a comment and let me know thank you and have a great day

    Stephanie 🐵's mommy
  • Beans – Weight loss and constipation are both serious concerns for a cat. The newspaper eating and shredding may be incidental and have nothing to do with her other symptoms. Please consult with your veterinarian as soon as possible.

    Dawn LaFontaine

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