The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish
December 30, 2009

My Cat Eats Plastic

Many of you have seen Chris Jordan’s recent heartbreaking photos of dead albatross chicks on Midway Atoll with bellies full of plastic.

albatross eats plastic

And perhaps you have seen, or at least heard how sea turtles eat plastic (PDF), mistaking it for the jelly fish upon which they usually dine.  (Photo courtesy of Seaturtle.org.)

sea turtle eats plastic

Most recently, beached whales have been found with plastic in their bellies.

People see these images or read these stories, maybe feel sad for a minute, and then go on about their lives. Albatrosses and sea turtles are creatures most of us don’t encounter on a daily basis. Their fate is sad, but it doesn’t directly affect us. Well, I want to show some photos and relate a story from the Terry-Stoler household that brings the issue of harm to animals a little closer to home.

My cat eats plastic.  I’ve said this before.  Arya eats big holes in polyester fleece blankets:

cat eats plastic

cat eats plastic

You should have seen how she went for the polyester Snuggie my dad sent for Christmas last year. No sooner did I open the box, then she was upon it, snarling and hissing and biting. When I couldn’t find anyone to take the Snuggie, it went to Goodwill. Right away.

But while eating plastic fleece meant damage to blankets, thus far, it didn’t seem to harm the kitty. It just came out the other end. Red poop. That’s what we were scooping out of the litter box for a while, confused until we figured out what was going on.

Then, while displaying my plastic collection for a friend, Arya pounced on a plastic wrapper and started chewing away.

cat eats plastic

I managed to get that one away from her. But not this one:

cat eats plastic

It’s a cheese wrapper coughed up in a hair ball.  So why was there a cheese wrapper in our house? Don’t forget, I am not the only one who lives here or comes into our house.  I’m just saying.  And yeah, I know it’s a gross picture. But I think it’s important to show.

Thus far, the incidents with plastic had been minor. The cheese wrapper hair ball was surprising, but apparently not a cause of lasting damage.

But a few months ago, Arya got very sick. She had diarrhea and was vomiting all over the house. We took her to the vet and found she even had a little fever. We spent over $200 on tests and medication for her. But the blood tests were inconclusive and the medicine didn’t seem to help. We were worried as hell. Until one morning, she vomited up the final hairball. It was full of plastic. Plastic from a piece of a disposable dry cleaner bag that had been hanging in a closet.

After the plastic purge, Arya was fine. No more diarrhea. No more vomiting. At all. It was amazing and frightening and ironic that in our household, one in which less plastic waste is generated than probably any other household in America, this could happen. And that we would be the ones with a cat who loved to dine on plastic.

But we are not the only ones whose kitty thinks plastic is nom nom nom. After this incident, I Googled, “Why does my cat eat plastic?” and came up with a whole host of results:

From Askthecatdoctor.com: Cat Eats Plastic Bags and Vomits

From Catster: Why does my cat eat plastic bags?

From the Snopes.com message boards: Topic: Why does my kitty try to eat plastic?

From Askville: My cat tries to eat plastic bags of any kind like its an addiction. Has anyone seen this happen? Why does he do this?”

From Yahoo Answers: My cat eats plastic, what should i do?

The most popular answer to these questions is “Keep plastic away from the cat.”

My question: How much harder would it be to keep plastic away from this cat if our home was actually full of plastic like most are?

Plastic is a problem for animals of all kinds. They eat it; they get tangled up in it; and they get sick from the toxic chemicals associated with it. But humans are the ones who create this plastic. We bring it into our environment, even if the environment is inside the walls of our homes. We allow it to harm animals that don’t understand that plastic is not food.

But unlike other animals, humans have the power to do something about it.

A version of this post appears on Blogher.com.

39 comments
loyalalways
loyalalways

Thanks Valerie. 

I used to give my cats food called, "Orijen". It had no fillers or any kind of junk in it. It was very expensive. However, it had too much protein in it. It was making them constipated. I'm fussy what I feed my cats. I guess I'm going to have to look for something with a reasonable amount of protein in it. I don't give them people food because I heard it was bad for them. I may try giving them chicken, though.

Cheryl

loyalalways
loyalalways

Thanks Valerie. 

I used to give my cats food called, "Orijen". It had no fillers or any kind of junk in it. It was very expensive. However, it had too much protein in it. It was making them constipated. I'm fussy what I feed my cats. I guess I'm going to have to look for something with a reasonable amount of protein in it. I don't give them people food because I heard it was bad for them. I may try giving them chicken, though.

Cheryl

ValerieRussell
ValerieRussell

Cat food is not nearly enough protein as cats need. Plastics, particularly plastic bags, are coated with animal fat to keep them from sticking together. Cats have an amazing sense of smell, even stronger than dogs and they can smell the protein. Often, they eat plastic out of desperation for protein. Give your kitty some boiled chicken or any other kind of meat (cooked) and unseasoned. Never give them meat canned for humans! Too much sodium.

ValerieRussell
ValerieRussell

Cat food is not nearly enough protein as cats need. Plastics, particularly plastic bags, are coated with animal fat to keep them from sticking together. Cats have an amazing sense of smell, even stronger than dogs and they can smell the protein. Often, they eat plastic out of desperation for protein. Give your kitty some boiled chicken or any other kind of meat (cooked) and unseasoned. Never give them meat canned for humans! Too much sodium.

loyalalways
loyalalways

BethTerry loyalalways Thanks so much for your information. I really appreciate it.

BethTerry
BethTerry

loyalalways Yes it's harmful.  It can block their intestines.  Read the last part of the article about how sick she got and how we spent money on tests to find out what was wrong with her.  Even if it doesn't block them up, plastics contain toxic additives that can disrupt their endocrine systems.

loyalalways
loyalalways

I've been looking online to find out if eating plastic by cats is harmful. I find things on why they eat it and articles on other articles that are harmful, but I haven't been able to find anything stating if cats eating plastic is harmful to then. Please answer this  question for me. Thanks for your help.

loyalalways
loyalalways

I've been looking online to find out if eating plastic by cats is harmful. I find things on why they eat it and articles on other articles that are harmful, but I haven't been able to find anything stating if cats eating plastic is harmful to then. Please answer this  question for me. Thanks for your help.

How to Clean Up a Beach « Simple Savvy
How to Clean Up a Beach « Simple Savvy

[...] reaching for seashells instead of styrofoam and seaweed instead of plastic.  Too much time.  As Beth Terry (among others) has been saying for years, plastic looks like sea life.  No wonder our animals are [...]

Michael
Michael

I've seen others asking this online and have set up a quick page with info on why cats might be eating or licking plastic : http://www.mycateatsplastic.com/ Frankly, many of the other articles were long winded with other stories, etc and wanted to compile the info/theories on one page. Hope this helps!

Lara
Lara

I am so glad you wrote this. People need to see what plastic is doing to the environment! I also have a cat who eats plastic among other things. Luckily, he hasn't started eating fabric yet. I also have an 8 year old daughter and he loves eating her little plastic toys. They never get chewed up very well probably because he is in such a hurry to eat it before he gets caught. We just know what he took after he vomits it up because you can never catch him when he grabs it and runs. It is frustrating because my husband thinks it is funny and he is his cat. We are trying to get our daughter to keep her stuff put away but she has so much of it, it is almost impossible. I don't know if anybody else has noticed any changes in your cats appearances but our cat his fur doesn't look right anymore and he looks like he swallowed a ball with his rolly polly mid section. At one point we thought he had some sort of skin problem because he was losing his hair and had patches of rough scaley skin all over. All I know is I can see a trip to the vet in his near future! Take care everyone and good Luck!

lizzy
lizzy

OK, Henry, my hemi also has a plastic addiction. He dosent like plastic shopping bags, he likes granola wrappers, cereal bags, mostly the crisp shinny kind, but occasionally will go for any other available plastics. right now he is very upset, running a fever and has a very strange meow... and keeps doing this weird thing with his tounge. im worried he is getting sick from something :( such a weird loveable fat !

Molly
Molly

I have 2 cats one older and the other a teenager. the older one started on the plastic when he was a kitten. now teen does the same thing. I have noticed that If i give them "hariball soulution" by petag about 2 times a week and there is about 1 inch to them both. it seems to slow down the chewing. and the hairballs come up better. the teen still has problems but hes getting there.

Snuggie Cult
Snuggie Cult

What an amazing cat! The power of the Snuggie brings out the mysterious side in many beings, though. .-= Snuggie Cult´s last blog ..Weezer Snuggie Letterman – band Weezer joins Snuggie Cult =-.

My Father-in-Law Has Throat Cancer « Jennife
My Father-in-Law Has Throat Cancer « Jennife

[...] don’t want the polar bears to go extinct. I don’t want the baby albatross to wash ashore dead with their bellies full of plastic, I don’t want my children to grow up allergic and [...]

Anne Moss
Anne Moss

I see you already got your answers as to why some cats eat plastic. I have seen many cats with weird eating habits back when I was a practicing cat behavior consultant and we often see questions about it on our forums on thecatsite.com. Still, looks like your Arya is quite the addict for it - good pictures there. .-= Anne Moss´s last blog ..Super Sleeper Cat Scratcher =-.

Ash
Ash

The damage to our wildlife caused by discarded plastic is heartbreaking. The photos vividly capture the results of our actions on Earth and I pray people will take action to change their habits. My dog loves to counter surf, but fortunately he doesn't like plastic (only the food inside)

Jenn
Jenn

I have the same problem with my beloved cat Yang and it is a constant worry for me. While I try to avoid plastic to begin with, some still comes into the house. Yang loves eating the plastic window out of envelopes so I have to keep the mail away from him. Once in a while I forget and he finds it immediately. Plastic tape on UPS packages is another favorite which is a shame since being a cat, he loves playing in boxes ...

Fr. Peter
Fr. Peter

That photo of the Albatross chick, utterly heartbreaking, and Midway is 2,000 miles from any major landfall... .-= Fr. Peter´s last blog ..In the rush and noise of the last few days, please listen to this... =-.

Billie
Billie

My older cat does some chewing and lots of licking but no actual swallowing that I am aware of. I am in total agreement with how annoying it is to wake up to a cat that is licking a plastic bag left lying around by the kids. ARGH!!!!! I may not be into plastic but my husband believes that it is his right to use whatever resources he wants to with no regard to how they impact the planet. Result? Even just his shopping inundates us with plastic bags! .-= Billie´s last blog ..Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night! =-.

OrneryPest
OrneryPest

Our cat used to eat plastic grocery store bags before we started keeping them away from him. Cost us a $600 vet bill to get him emptied out when his digestive system got clogged full of the fragments.

Lacey
Lacey

My dog used to chew on plastic too! Especially bottle tops. At the time I did not worry too much about it because I was unaware how toxic plastic is and she wasn't eating it, just chewing. I thought better a bottle top than my shoes (she also used to go for flip flops). Thankfully she grew out of it. Good luck with your kitty! .-= Lacey´s last blog ..Fish Fiesta! =-.

Tracey
Tracey

Kids eat plastic, too! My youngest just got a load of gifts from her grandparents - most reallt cool, but with shocking amounts of plastic. Plastic fleece outfit. Craft activity with 5 individually plastic wrapped envelopes, and the box shrink wrapped. Paper tree house book with a plastic clamshell and several plastic wrapped pages, of course entirely plastic wrapped. So kids tear that crap open with their teeth and the bits fly everywhere, static clinging to clothes. One little section of that can get inhaled and cut off the airway. Horrors! Seriously. Total hazard. I don't feel entirely safe until the crap is out of the house And kids are ENCOURAGED to eat and suck on plastic with all the plastic candy, toys and even plastic wrapped fruit and cheeze sticks! My best hope is that someday people will be around to look upon the ubiquitousness of plastic the way we look at ancient Romans sweetening their tea with lead. .-= Tracey´s last blog ..2010: New Year / Old Question, Is Ignorance Bliss Or Is Knowledge Power? =-.

Pam Wheelock
Pam Wheelock

So if plastic bags and wrappers are not great to eat why is eco-fleece made of spun plastic OK to chew on? I get that reprocessing plastic may be eco-friendly but fabrics made mostly of plastic should not be used in cat toys-- these are not pet friendly. It would be great if they were, but they are not. An important Danish study was done a few years ago showing how chewing on plastic toys can lead to a migration of phthalates via the breakdown of fragments of plastic into its monomers in the gastric track. We worry about drinking from plastic bottles for babies because of the monomer components-- babies don't have teeth but our pets do.

Jennifer Margulis
Jennifer Margulis

These photos are so disturbing. I hate plastic. It's truly awful and, as you explain so eloquently in this post, it's lethal. I'm eager to read your blog carefully and find ways to cut down on this horrible human substance. .-= Jennifer Margulis ´s last blog ..Prenatal Testing and Informed Consent =-.

Jennifer Margulis
Jennifer Margulis

These photos are so disturbing. I hate plastic. It's truly awful and, as you explain so eloquently in this post, it's lethal. I'm eager to read your blog carefully and find ways to cut down on this horrible human substance.

.-= Jennifer Margulis ´s last blog ..Prenatal Testing and Informed Consent =-.

Pheas
Pheas

Amber, I'm glad my household doesn't have the only artificial-tree-nomming kitty. Every year, Cat #2 predictably eats fake needles from both trees and barfs them on the floor. After about two weeks' of the trees' being up, he thinks better of it and stops ... until the next year. I swear he taught this to Cat #3. Cat #1 cares nothing about the fake needles. Cat #2 will also eat and barf up real pine needles that arrive via shoes and dogs, so a real tree wouldn't be a huge improvement from that perspective.

asrai
asrai

I'm glad one of our cat's only likes to lick plastic. Sorta, really annoying to wake up to it when I leave a plastic bag in the bedroom. Glad that plastic bags are in my past. Despite the checkout guy at the grocery trying to convince me I'll save money using plastic for my bulk items. Is the weight difference that much? I'll take the extra cost. .-= asrai´s last blog ..The other options =-.

Hillary
Hillary

One of our cats loves to chew plastic, too. Her specialty is to chew through the handles of plastic bags, thus rendering them unusable (and no, we don't accept new plastic bags...these are old ones we're trying to reuse). She doesn't seem to consume the plastic, though -- she just likes to gnaw on it. I never thought about cats having plastic bits in their innards like those birds and fish -- how awful!

Rob
Rob

Maybe Arya is trying to come up with a way to dispose of plastic naturally. But no, kitty shouldn't nom the plastic. Luckily my cat never does anyhting he id not supposed to, and is well behaved like a kitty angel. BUy that??? .-= Rob´s last blog ..THE YEAR IN REVIEW PART II- The Challenges =-.

Eleanor
Eleanor

My littlest cat eats everything. Her favorites as a kitten were plaster, pain chips (old house = lead), screws, nails, and of course plastic bags. We've cleaned up and cured her of everything but the plastic. Luckily she's scared of it too, so it's 50/50 whether she'll run away from it or try to eat it (independent of size, color, movement), and she's never succeeded in breaking off any pieces, I think she's biting to kill not eat. But she learns new "tricks" all the time, never healthy ones. Beth you are 100% right - we (humans) made it, we put it out into the world, we are responsible for the havoc it may wreak . The fact that my pet is also troubled at times only adds to my guilt by heaping individual responsibility on top of the collective responsibility I already feel. It's tricky having these creative brains and opposable thumbs - they get us and our furry/feathered neighbors in to so much trouble. The trick is to use our powers for good... Something I think you're managing in spades with your blog :D

Condo Blues
Condo Blues

My dog isn't a big chewer anymore. He used to when he first came to live with us - he was an abuse case and chewed out of boredom and anxiety. Lots of behavioral rehab and physical activity curbed the chewing. So it surprised me that he ate a Styrofoam packing peanut used in a box of gifts a family member sent us. Fortunately it moved on through and I sent the peanuts back to the sender but it was a good reminder on why I don't use those things in the first place. .-= Condo Blues ´s last blog ..How Do You Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions? =-.

Amber
Amber

My cat eats plastic, too, although nothing like Arya. My own Dorothy favours plastic pine needles, of the variety that you find on artificial Christmas trees. And we have one of them. I wouldn't buy it again, but as we've owned the thing for 4 years it seems as if using it is the most environmentally-friendly thing that we can do. But keeping the cat away from it is not much fun, I'll admit it. .-= Amber´s last blog ..Homemade Holiday Show and Tell =-.

Jennifer Taggart, TheSmartMama
Jennifer Taggart, TheSmartMama

I cannot believe that blanket! My dad's cats (actually, his girlfriend's at the time), used to love photographs (the silver gel kind before digital became popular). My dog (the puppy) loves plastic too. I try to keep it away, but he will pick up bottle tops when we are walking or anything else left by others. He also loves broken balloon pieces. I'm sure his stomach is full of plastic bits. As we enter the new year, I think everybody should resolve to reduce/eliminate the use of disposable plastic - reduce is the key, not recycling. .-= Jennifer Taggart, TheSmartMama´s last blog ..Understanding the CPSC’s New CPSIA Interim Enforcement Policy Step 1 – Is It A Children’s Product? =-.

mudnessa
mudnessa

Oh I so feel your pain with the cat. That is one reason it has been really easy for me to cut down plastic in my life and why it is something I really feel committed to, I was already cutting out plastic bags and film because my cat likes to eat it too. Luckily she isn't as bad as yours, she chews it up pretty well and so the bits come out in her poop pretty well, and she only really goes after bags and film and stuff not blankets, that's crazy! She gets impacted once a year or so because she refuses to puke up hairballs and so she gets a big glob in her bowels. I have to FORCE hairball meds on here, she is beyond picky and will only eat her food, can't even get her to eat treats. She is actually having issues right now with a hairball, it's so nerve racking. A few years ago we spent close to $1000 for a two night stay at the hospital and all sorts of treatment because of a huge hairball in her bowels. .-= mudnessa´s last blog ..My mostly handmade Christmas =-.

BethTerry
BethTerry moderator

@loyalalways Yes it's harmful.  It can block their intestines.  Read the last part of the article about how sick she got and how we spent money on tests to find out what was wrong with her.  Even if it doesn't block them up, plastics contain toxic additives that can disrupt their endocrine systems.

Beth Terry
Beth Terry

Thanks, Michael. Will you please add the link to this blog and the others you have found online with stories? That way we can maybe connect with each other to brainstorm, and it will draw more people to your page as well as the other blogs that have mentioned this issue.

loyalalways
loyalalways

@BethTerry @loyalalways Thanks so much for your information. I really appreciate it. I've looked at several sites and just couldn't find anything on whether it was harmful or not.

Trackbacks

  1. […] don’t want the polar bears to go extinct. I don’t want the baby albatross to wash ashore dead with their bellies full of plastic, I don’t want my children to grow up allergic and […]

  2. […] reaching for seashells instead of styrofoam and seaweed instead of plastic.  Too much time.  As Beth Terry (among others) has been saying for years, plastic looks like sea life.  No wonder our animals are […]