Cats are playful beings, and you can never really estimate their ability to turn household things into toys. They will play with whatever they come across with, from shoestrings, grocery bags to Q-tip or even plastic. As much as it is unusual for some cats to delve into plastic, you will find other cats happily licking on a piece of plastic.
This begs the question; Why does my cat licks plastic? Well, cats lick on plastic because of a condition called Pica. It makes them lick or eat non-edible items. Sometimes they lick on such items because of the lingering smell of food, satisfy that crackling sound, or have the smooth texture of plastic on their sandpaper-like tongue.
They also lick on plastic to taste that gelatin or cornstarch that is usually added to such items. Most cat parents usually write off this behavior as a phase, or it’s just in their cat’s personality to do this bizarre behavior. But is it really a weird phase or just in their personality to do this thing? Read on to find out.
It could be a Medical Condition
Most kittens struggle with an unusual behavior to chew and eat on a non-edible item. In the same way, some people have an uncontrollable desire to eat chalk, dryer sheets, or drink gasoline. When you notice your kitten sucking on plastic, it’s an indication that your felines may have been weaned when he was not ready to.
Other reasons may be due to;
● Unbalance diet-missing nutrient in a diet
● Medical issues like diabetes, FIV, and anemia
● Breed (Oriental kittens are prone to struggle with Pica)
● Digestive and dental issues-some kind of relief from such problems
● Stress and anxiety
If your cat starts to lick on plastic out of the blue, then there could be an underlying medical issue. Take the kitten to the vet to be in a better position to determine if your cat lacks nutrients or needs more playtime. It can be hard to tell if your cat is sucking the item to self-soothe or licking plastic due to pica. A trip to the veterinarian can answer all these questions.
Smell of Food
Is it a grocery bag that your kitten can’t stop playing with? If so, then it may be because of the meaty aroma they smell on the plastic. The cat’s carnivorous scent is very strong. They will smell that meaty aroma on a plastic bag that was once used to carry meat.
The meat-like aroma on the plastic induces olfactory receptors in your cat. It is for this reason that the kitten can’t help but indulge in a snack.
Gelatin, Cornstarch, and other additives
There is more to plastic than just plastic. Most manufacturers add cornstarch and gelatin to their plastics. For instance, gelatin is a jelly-like substance that comes from pig ligaments and bones. Others add fats from animals.
The plastic bag to humans smells like ordinary plastic. But cats with a sense of smell 14 times that of humans can smell that gelatin in the grocery bags. They may even be allured by cornstarch added to biodegradable plastic and would wish to indulge their taste buds by licking the plastics.
Cats have an impressive hearing range of 45 to 64000 hertz. So they can hear sounds that normal humans wouldn’t be able to. For instance, they can hear the sound of rusty pipes rustling in the attic or the ultrasonic sound of mouse communication.
They find the crinkling sound of plastic soothing. Such a sound reminds them of their instinctive nature to chase a mouse; therefore, when they hear that crinkling sound, they will want to lick it in their nature.
Some cats eat on wool when they have Pica, while others are lured by smooth texture like a plastic water bottle or grocery bag. Most smooth surfaces are usually a bit colder than the rest of the items in the house.
The smooth feel on the barbs of a cat tongue plus that coldness will drive any cat into a licking spree.
Is Plastic Licking Bad in Cats? When to be concerned
There is no cause for alarm when your cat is only licking the plastic. But you have to be worried when the kitten starts to eat plastic. Normally, cats can digest tiny pieces of plastics, and you can notice them on their poop or when they vomit within 24hours.
If your cats start to eat large pieces of plastic, it can cause blockage in the intestines, limiting blood flow. It is detrimental as it can make your cat die. It would be best if you rushed your kitten to the vet as soon as the cat injects plastic for further checkups.
It doesn’t stop here; sometimes, you may not know that your kitten has eaten plastic and is causing it to have diarrhea and abnormal lethargy. Since you don’t know the cause for this unusualness, you may wait to see if it’s because of a new diet you’ve been trying out. The most you wait, the more the kitten is in harm’s way. As soon as you see any weird symptoms, it’s best to visit the vet.
If your cat was not chewing or eating plastics, then this might simply be a weird behavior they picked up, and there is no reason to be alarmed. It can also be that the licking is comforting your kitten and is not even hungry. But accidents may happen, so it is better to put plastics away from their reach to be on the safe side with intestine blockage due to plastic indigestion.
A trip to the vet doctor now and then will help you a whole lot, especially when your cat likes to chew or lick on plastics. The doctor will find out whether or not there is an underlying medical issue that gets rid of this unusual behavior altogether.