Everyone knows dogs will chew on pretty much anything. Shoes, stuffed toys, your eyeglasses, everything is fair game to an untrained pup. But what about cats?
With most kittens inappropriate chewing can indeed be a problem. In some cases, chewing turns into a stress-relieving habit and carries on into adulthood. Cats have smaller mouths compared to most dogs and so they tend to chew on smaller objects. Shoes are still on the menu but cats are more likely to slowly and methodically gnaw on a particular spot on the shoe, often a strap. Cords seem to be a hit with some cats, while others are dedicated cardboard shredders. For many kittens, a human finger is just too tempting not to chew on. Some kittens just love chewing their human's hair.
Why do cats chew on things?
Kittens often chew to relieve the pain and discomfort of teething. As their first teeth grow, fall out and are replaced with permanent teeth, kittens are likely to seek out objects to munch on. This can become a habit and the cat can keep on chewing as an adult, long after the permanent teeth have fully grown in.
Chewing seems to provide some cats with stress relief, especially if the stress is related to boredom. In other words, a cat with too much energy and not enough stimuli can resort to chewing to relieve the stress. That said, it's always a good idea to ask your vet about your cat's chewing habits. He or she will check the cat's mouth and teeth, to make sure there is nothing which causes them physical discomfort.
Why stop my cat from chewing on things?
If done excessively, chewing can gradually erode the surface of the cat's teeth. A more pressing concern is safety: chewing on electric cords can be very dangerous. Some items may be toxic, or break apart with small parts being ingested by the cat.
Many owners complain about the damage caused by inappropriate chewing.
Other owners want to stop their cats from gnawing on their fingers. It certainly can be painful!
While it can be tolerated with young kittens, inappropriate chewing often turns into a behavior problem with adult cats.
How to stop inappropriate chewing in cats?
Safety first. Does your cat chew on something that poses an immediate danger, such as electric cords, toxic plants or items that could splinter and hurt Kitty? Make sure you keep these dangerous objects out of the cat's reach.
The second step is to identify the motivation for chewing. With kittens, the chewing is a natural part of the teething process. They will have to chew on something and you need to provide them with appropriate chew toys.
With adult cats, a small amount of chewing is acceptable, but if you suspect the behavior is becoming destructive, try enriching your cat's environment and lowering stress levels.
Here are a few ideas for re-directing Kitty's chewing behavior to more acceptable outlets -
1. Engage your cat with interactive playtime at least once a day. This keeps your cats from getting bored and lowers stress levels.
2. Try switching the type of food or add treats to your cat's diet. Some cats like the added crunch of dry food while others may enjoy chewy treats like these -
3. Add some natural grass to your cat's diet by planting a little Kitty garden. This can both alleviate boredom and provide an extra crunch.
4. Keep Kitty from getting bored by creating an environment for your cat which encourages exercise and play.
5. If your cat's chewing behavior became more frequent or intense, look into potential stressors and stress management techniques.
6. Offer alternatives, especially if your cat is young and could still be experiencing the growing pains of teething. You can try safe homemade alternatives, such as cardboard, or invest in appropriate chew toys for cats -
Need more help with destructive chewing behavior? Why not start a thread about it in the Cat Behavior forum?