Can Plastic Kill Cats?

Animals are known for eating bits and pieces from the environment that are not edible or even safe for ingestion. Cats are not excluded from this behavior, no matter how smart they are. What are the risk factors associated with felines eating plastic?

This question is probably on every cat owner’s mind because cats, like dogs, like to eat things that aren’t edible at all. If your cat ate plastic, even a small quantity, what can happen to it? What if your cat ate a plastic bag?

What Happens If My Cat Eats Plastic?

If your cat ate hard plastic or ate plastic wrappers, there are some consequences to it, as not all plastics can easily be passed down the GI tract. If the plastic piece is small enough to pass through the cat’s colon and anus, then the cat may be able to expel it with little harm.

However, if the piece of plastic has sharp or jagged edges, then the plastic may be lodged in the intestines and cause tears and blockage, too.

Vets always advise fur parents to be mindful of what their fur children are doing. This applies to not just playtime but also what your cats are possibly eating.

Small pieces of plastic and other inedible objects should be stowed or kept away as much as possible. If the objects are lying about your house and these stray objects are available, and your cats are also house-bound, your cats will access the plastic objects.  

If the behavior doesn’t go away, then we must consider the possibility that your cat may have some form of a medical condition that is causing the behavior to emerge in the first place. Below are some possible triggers or reasons why a cat would have pica or compulsive eating behavior in the first place:

  • The most common reason is a dietary deficiency. Dietary deficiencies don’t always mean that the quantity of food isn’t enough. Deficiencies can emerge when the type of food given to the cat doesn’t have the right nutrients in the right levels, too.

This can be observed in cats who eat cat litter. Cats are also seen biting grass, but unless the behavior is severe, this shouldn’t trouble you as all mammals like play-biting grass and random plants.

  • Cats with severe medical conditions such as leukemia can also exhibit pica and ‘feed’ on inedible things. The same applies to cats who have developed diabetes or have neurological issues and brain tumors. Cats with brain tumors, in particular, tend to exhibit a lot of strange behaviors, not just with pica and eating in general but also how they move and react to their environment.
  • Sometimes the behavior is linked to genes and the breed of cat. It has been observed that Birman cats and Siamese cats are more likely to develop pica compared to other domestic cat breeds. Pica is linked to suckling and biting behavior that are developed early in life. Biting wool is another precursor behavior that may determine if a cat has certain tendencies toward pica.
  • The cat’s environment is also a factor in these disorders. Boredom and lack of proper bonding time can cause the negative behavior to manifest.

Can Cats Die from Plastic?

Should a cat suffer from a severe blockage due to ingesting plastic, it’s important to call your vet ASAP so you can be advised as to what to do. One severe case of pica or compulsive eating behavior in cats was documented some years ago.

The cat was a seven-year-old Siamese that had a habit of swallowing entire hairbands. Due to the cat’s habit, Kitty was already suffering from abdominal malaise. The cat was no longer eating, and it wasn’t able to ingest food properly.

The cat was also constantly vomiting. The animal was also incredibly lazy, probably due to hunger and the fact that it was already developing a severe blockage because of the hairbands. Fourteen hair ties were removed from Kitty, and if the procedure had not been done on time, the cat would have probably died.

Is Chewing On Plastic Bad for Cats?

Before we discuss chewing on plastic, we have to discuss the chewing behavior of cats in general. In kittens and younger cats, the tendency to chew even without eating is normal when teething occurs.

The teething occurs anywhere from the fourth month of life to the seventh month of life. Yes, cats have baby teeth, and the teeth eventually disappear to make way for adult teeth.

The cats’ teeth are not resorbed, but rather, they fall off like humans lose their teeth. By the time the cat becomes an adult, a total of thirty teeth would have already emerged.

Cats also tend to play with small objects, including plastic objects that are not meant to be played with. Cats aren’t picky – they are drawn to small objects like bottle caps, the nipples of milk bottles, hair ties, rubber bands, and the like.

A cat will put stuff in its mouth and nibble on it, and if small pieces are fragmented or torn off, your cat may ingest the pieces.

What’s interesting about feline behavior is that if a small cat grows up nibbling on plastic things, it will grow up with the same behavior. If a cat suddenly starts nibbling on a plastic object which it doesn’t pay attention to before, then it’s possible that a treat or something pleasurable to chew on or tasty was placed on that object before.

Winding back to the question – is this behavior good or bad for cats? We’d have to say that despite your desire to give your cat whatever it wants, it’s not something that you would want to encourage. Plastic is not edible, and it can leach chemicals to any surface even when it’s physically stable. So if the plastic goes into your cat and is exposed to gastric juices, then the leaching may occur more rapidly, exposing your cat to a higher risk of exposure to noxious chemicals that will eventually degrade your cat’s health.

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