Cats like to chew and bite! It’s part of their nature, stemming from their wild predatory heritage. Even tiny baby kittens will pounce and bite on their litter mates or mom cat’s tail, as the instinct is strong from that early on. Since we’ve domesticated cats as house pets, part of our job is to teach them what they can bite and chew on, and what is inappropriate – both for their own safety and for the preservation of our belongings! While it is natural for cats to chew, some cats and kittens are more aggressive chewers than others. In the past decades I’ve fostered hundreds of cats and kittens, from newborns to older cats. In my experience, the kittens and cats that are more prone to destructive chewing are extremely smart. Energy level may also play a role, but it seems like intelligence is a key factor. I used to think that the kittens separated from their mother too early were more likely to be chewers, but even with sibling cats, there’d often be one who trying to chew on everything from the plastic sides of the litter box to the wood frame of the door, while their other was content to chew on toys and each other. My theory? Intelligent cats get bored more easily. One way bored cats act out is… you guessed it, chewing!
Knowing that boredom is a likely primary cause of your cat or kitten’s chewing will help you figure out how to alleviate their boredom by engaging their intelligence, as well as redirecting their energy into more appropriate activities and making their environment as chew-proof and safe as possible. You should certainly rule out a possible medical cause with your vet, and make sure your home is as cat-chew-proof as possible (unplug and tape down those cords!) while you work on modifying their behavior. In addition, here are three ideas to help stop your cat or kitten from chewing things….
1. Engage your cat with new interactive toys and games.
Some cats love chasing stuffed mice. Others do backflips for a feather on a string. Do some exploring of all the different types of toys and games you can play with your cat, to find the ones that make his ears perk up the most! Intelligent cats need variety too. Buy or create 14 or more different toys and games to play, you can play a “new” game every day for 2 weeks! Hide the toys or game items in a closet and only take the one toy out for that day’s play session. That helps make them more exciting. New toys and games don’t have to break the bank. A new paper grocery bag or perfectly sized cardboard box can be the best new toy ever!
2. Enrich your cat’s environment.
When cats are bored, they may turn to chewing. You can make your cat less bored by enriching their environment. Try things like: adding a cat resting spot near a screened-in window with a view. Add a bird feeder outside that window. Add a cat-proof fish tank with fast moving fish. Some cats enjoy watching TV! Try a DVD designed just for cats or the nature channel with birds or fish. Move your furniture around. Buy or build them furniture like cat trees they can climb up (if they are tree-dweller type) or hide inside of (if they are the cave-loving type). If your cat likes human guests, invite a friends over for a dinner party. Give them different kinds of edible cat treats, like fresh cat grass, soft treats, crunchy treats.
3. Adopt your cat a friend.
For a cat-social cat, nothing beats boredom like a feline playmate! This isn’t a sure-fire solution, but if you’re not sure if your cat would really be happier with a cat (or even a dog) friend, you could try fostering a pet temporarily from your local animal shelter or rescue. Keep in mind that it can take weeks to months for a cat to adjust to a new four-pawed roommate, so this isn’t an instant fix. You can find foster opportunities in our volunteer database at http://www.adoptapet.com/volunteer/opportunities and of course you can look for a friend to adopt at www.adoptapet.com