Paper Chewing May Indicate Boredom

A feline behavior expert offers other methods to relieve a cat's anxiety.

By Pam Johnson-Bennett

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Q: I recently adopted an 8-year-old cat from a local shelter. She likes to chew paper. She tears off tiny pieces and spits them out. She will lay on the paper like it's her toy and gets upset if my other cat tries to play with it. Is she chewing the paper because of anxiety? Should I let her do this? What do you suggest?

Pam Johnson-Bennett discusses boredom in catsFeline behaviorist Pam Johnson-Bennett, author of Think Like a Cat, says:
Chewing and/or ripping paper is not that uncommon. It's usually based on boredom. If the cat has been examined thoroughly by the veterinarian and has no nutritional deficiencies or dental problems, then the behavior is probably self-soothing or a displacement.

Don't let the cat continue to eat paper. It would be better to find other ways to ease anxiety and ease boredom. Conduct two or three interactive play sessions daily with your kitty. Use a fishing pole-type toy and create a mock hunting session. Move the toy like prey, allowing your cat to stalk, pounce and capture the toy. This way your kitty is getting both mental and physical stimulation. It's a great way to strengthen the bond between the two of you and also works wonders on boredom and anxiety. If you set up a schedule of doing these sessions faithfully and make sure there is no paper left around then you should be able to break the kitty's paper-eating habit.

In-between play sessions you should set out some activity toys for your kitty. Use Play-n-Treat balls if your cat is food-motivated. These are hollow plastic balls with a hole in them so you can fill them with dry food. The cat rolls the ball and periodically a treat comes out. This gives the cat activity and also helps them to eat slowly. You can also create paper bag tunnels and other interesting games for your kitty to discover during the day.

I would also recommend the use of the Feliway Comfort Zone diffuser. This is a product that contains synthetic feline facial pheromones. The pheromones (scent chemicals) that cats release when they rub their facial scent glands on objects, have a calming effect. Cats facially rub only in areas where they feel comfortable. The Feliway pheromones can help a cat calmly and securely identify with a territory. The diffuser is available at pet supply stores and will last for about a month.

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Paper Chewing May Indicate Boredom

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Reader Comments

Jim    Kutztown, PA

4/27/2015 1:22:28 PM

Paper Bag Tunnels? Hello, the cat is eating paper.

janet    bethlehem, PA

9/10/2013 9:39:12 AM


marykatherine    colorado springs, CO

9/20/2010 7:31:05 PM

my cat also chews cardboard.compared to the other things he could chew on, i'm pretty happy with cardboard!

christine    wilmington, DE

9/7/2009 10:43:03 AM

About a year ago, a friend gave me some items to take home and put them in a solid cardboard box. The box was too nice to throw out, so I gave it to my cats to play with since they like playing/hiding in paper bags and boxes. Eventually, my cat, Caesar, started tearing big chunks out of the box 'til there was practically nothing left of it. Personally, I think it is just a unique idiosyncrasy of his, none of the other cats do it, but he truly gets a bank out of tearing up chunks of cardboard boxes. It might also be good exercise for the teeth. My cats get plenty of exercise and attention and I think have a pretty good life. As long as they don't swallow the pieces of paper, it shouldn't be a big deal.

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