What can I do to stop my cat from chewing?

During exploration and play, kittens (and some adult cats) will chew on a variety of objects. Not
only can this lead to damage or destruction of the owner’s possessions, but some chewing can be
dangerous to the cat. The first step is to ensure that the cat has appropriate opportunities and
outlets for play, scratching, climbing, chewing and exploration. (See our handout on ‘Feline play
and investigative behaviors’). Next, potential targets of the cat’s chewing should be kept out of
reach. When this is not possible the cat may need to be confined to a cat proof room, or the problem
areas may have to be booby-trapped. (See our handouts ‘Behavior management products’). String
and thread, electric cords, plastic bags, twist ties, and pins and needles are just a few of the objects
that cats may chew or swallow resulting in intestinal foreign bodies and possibly the need for
surgery.

Another common target of feline chewing is houseplants. The best solution is to keep the cat away
from household plants whenever the cat cannot be supervised. Booby traps may also be effective.
Placing rocks or gravel in the soil, mothballs, or a maze of wooden skewers can help to keep the cat
from climbing on, digging in, or eliminating in the soil. Some cats may be interested in chewing on
dog toys or biscuits, and feeding a dry cat food may help satisfy some cats need to chew. In some
cats the desire for chewing plant material can best be satisfied by providing some greens (e.g.
lettuce, parsley) in the food, or by planting a small kitty herb garden for chewing.

What can I do for my cat that sucks on wool and fabrics?

Sucking on wool or other fabrics may be seen occasionally in any cat, but is most commonly a
problem of Burmese and Siamese cats, or Oriental mix breeds. Although some cats do grow out of
the problem within a few years, the problem may remain for life. The first step in correction is to
provide alternative objects for chewing and sucking. Some cats may be interested in one of the
many chew toys or chew treats designed primarily for dogs. A well-cooked bone with some gristle
and meat could be considered, provided the cat is well supervised and sucks and gnaws on the
bone without causing it to splinter. Feeding dry and high fiber foods or dental foods and dental
treats may also be helpful. Making food more difficult to obtain by placing large rocks in the food
dish encourages the cat to “forage”. Second, be certain that the cat has plenty of play periods with
the owners, or even a playmate to keep it exercised and occupied. This may require the owner to
not only schedule play time, but to control the cat toys and every 1 - 3 days provide a rotating
inventory of toys to stimulate usage. Other cats will respond well to training interactions with their
owner, and cats can be taught tricks. Finally, cat proofing techniques or booby traps will likely be
required whenever the owner cannot supervise.

Some cats are so persistent in their desire to suck wool that more drastic measures may be
required. Covering chew toys with a small amount of a product containing lanolin (such as hand
cream) for licking is occasionally helpful. For some cats, it may be necessary to leave the cat with
one or two woolen objects to suck on, provided no significant amounts are swallowed. It has even
been suggested that a raw chicken wing a day might be tried as a last resort. However, given the
prevalence of Salmonella in uncooked chicken, microwaving would seem prudent. If these
techniques do not help, then it may be necessary to use a cat cage with perches when the cat is
unsupervised to avoid continued ingestion of material.

Some cats have such a strong and seemingly uncontrollable desire to suck that the condition has
been compared to compulsive disorders in people. The same drugs used for human compulsive
disorders may be useful for some of these cases. If your cat shows persistent efforts to suck, chew
or ingest material, a consultation with a veterinary behaviorist, or applied animal behaviorist may
be necessary to control the behavior.


This client information sheet is based on material written by Debra Horwitz, DVM, DACVB and
Gary Landsberg, DVM, DACVB. © Copyright 2002 Lifelearn Inc. Used with permission under
license. July 28, 2008.
DESTRUCTIVE CHEWING AND
SUCKING (CATS)
763-689-0095
Cambridge VetCare
Animal Clinic, PA
Cambridge, MN