My Cat Chews Cardboard – Should I Worry?
You’ve been there. You’ve ordered $78 worth of cat toys from Amazon. Your order arrives and you unpack the toys and excitedly offer them to your cat. Your cat completely ignores you and the toys, hops in the box and chews the cardboard instead.
Why do some cats find chewing cardboard irresistible while others never lay a tooth on it? And if your cat does chew cardboard, is there anything to be concerned about?
In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the most common reasons it is believed cats chew on cardboard and if there are any dangers. But first, some important housekeeping…
Chewing Vs Eating Cardboard
It’s important to point out that chewing and eating cardboard are two entirely different things. Cats that chew on cardboard aren’t actively trying to eat the stuff. Sure, maybe on a rare occasion a tiny piece gets ingested. But if you watch, most cats simply tear off chunks of cardboard and then immediately spit them out.
On some occasions, cats may deliberately eat cardboard, and this points to a condition called pica. Pica causes some cats to eat things that are non-food items. Though pica in cats is uncommon, it is something to be concerned about.
Pay very close attention to your cat to see whether they are chewing cardboard – or eating it. If they’re eating it, you’ll want to consult your veterinarian right away.
Here’s Why Cats Like to Chew Cardboard
Until a cat agrees to sit down with one of us lowly humans to have a frank discussion, we can only speculate as to why some cats are really into chewing cardboard. Here are some of the best guesses cat experts have come up with so far:
It Satisfies Your Cat’s Prey Drive
Most of us see our cats as furry, soft, warm cuddle buddies. But the truth is your cat is a natural born predator – AKA – killer. And this means they have a natural instinct to hunt and, well, kill things and rip them apart. If you’ve ever seen a cat hunt a bird outside, and then saw the remains of that hunt… you know what I’m talking about!
So if your cat is an inside cat with nothing to kill but time, they may direct their prey drive onto cardboard boxes.
It’s Just Plain Ol’ Fun!
Most cats act like 14-year-old boys. They do things because it’s fun or because they want to see what will happen or to annoy you. If you’ve ever watched your cat up on your mantle, systematically knocking things off… just because… you know this statement to be fact. A cat will bat around a pen enthusiastically for 7 minutes, then suddenly become bored. They’ll work like mad for 12 minutes to knock their water bowl over, then skulk off to find something else destructive to do.
And so it’s believed by some that cats chew on cardboard simply because… it’s fun. They enjoy the sounds the cardboard makes and the texture of it in their mouth.
It Feels Good
Studies have suggested that 50% – 90% of cats over the age of 4 suffer from some sort of dental disease. In addition to tarter and plaque on their teeth, most cats will suffer from gingivitis and sore gums. Chewing on cardboard might sooth this pain, similar to how babies chewing on a teething toy helps their pain. In fact, this is why your kitten may be chewing on cardboard.
Obviously, chewing on cardboard should NOT be a substitute for proper dental care, so be sure your cat gets in to see the vet regularly for a dental exam and cleaning!
They are Marking Their Turf
Cats are territorial by nature. You most likely have seen your cat marking your furniture and doorway by rubbing their cheek on it. This is called scent marking, and most cats do it.
It is believed that some cats may chew cardboard for the same reason. Why not all cats that chew cardboard do this, some will rub their cheeks on it in between bites. There is typically nothing to be concerned about with cats marking their turf, so long as your cat is not showing aggression to other pets in the house.
Is Chewing Cardboard Safe for Cats?
Most of the time, chewing cardboard boxes is completely safe for cats. Again, you want to make sure your cat is simply chewing and not purposefully ingesting the pieces of cardboard. This could definitely lead to issues, such as a blockage, so watch closely.
Here are some other things to keep in mind so your feline friend stays safe while chewing:
Beware of Sharp Edges
Not all boxes are created equally. Boxes from Amazon and other retailers will most likely be fine for your cat to chew on. But be aware that there are some heavy-duty boxes that may have sharper edges on them and your cat should stay clear of these.
Avoid Toxic Chemicals
Again, your average plain cardboard box from Amazon should be fine. But recognize that some boxes, particularly those used to transport food, may be treated with chemicals or have special coatings to make the cardboard more water-resistant or sturdy.
Cats are interesting and as much as we marvel over them, we’ll never really fully understand why they do most of the stuff they do. While chewing cardboard is pretty common among cats, they all have their different reasons for why they do it!
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- Fries, W., “Why is My Cat Eating That?” Retrieved from: https://pets.webmd.com/cats/features/unusual-cat-cravings#1
- “Feline Dental Disease.” From the Cornell Feline Health Center blog: https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/feline-dental-disease#:~:text=To%20treat%20feline%20periodontitis%2C%20your,numerous%20teeth%2C%20may%20be%20required.
- Woodnutt, J., MRCVS., (2022) “Why Does My Cat Chew on Cardboard?” Retrieved from: https://allaboutcats.com/why-does-my-cat-chew-on-cardboard
- Simon, L., DVM. (2021) “Cat Chewing Cardboard: Why Does My Cat Chew On Cardboard? Vet Advice.” Retrieved from: https://thepets.net/cat-chewing-cardboard/