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What is Chewing?

Cats chew for a variety of reasons; they chew when they are playing with their toys and sometimes chew when they are grooming their fur. Excessive chewing, however, happens when cats chew compulsively. Cats that chew compulsively may chew on furniture, rugs, and other household items and also chew their skin to where it is irritated. They may also repeatedly feel the need to groom other cats by licking, scratching them, and even chewing their fur. There are several different reasons why a cat may chew too often. These reasons include:

  • Anxiety
  • Boredom
  • Parasites
  • Allergies
  • Health conditions

Why Chewing Occurs in Cats

Cats exhibit behaviors that may seem strange, but typically they are doing it for a reason. It may not make sense to humans, but it does to them. Cat chewing can happen because of the following reasons:

Anxiety

An overly anxious cat may find solace in chewing things. This is how they may “act out” or relieve stress. Anxious felines may feel very relaxed by chewing.

Boredom

Boredom is another reason cats may chew. If they are left alone for long periods of time, they may want to find something to entertain themselves. Often, owners of a bored and lonely cat come home to find furniture and rugs chewed and scratched.

Parasites

Cats that are affected by parasites will lick and chew their skin more often. The skin may even be raw and red and loss of hair may occur. Secondary infection can occur if parasitic infections are not cleared up in a timely manner.

Allergies

Cats that suffer from allergies, such as food allergies, may have irritated, dry, flaky skin. This will prompt cats to groom more often, which may result in over-chewing. Your veterinarian can assist you with an elimination trial to determine a food sensitivity.

Health Conditions

Health conditions, such as mouth and gum disease or gastrointestinal disorders may cause felines to chew in order to self-soothe. Oral health is important as many other illnesses can result from an infected or abscessed tooth. Gastrointestinal issues can lead to secondary conditions such as intestinal irritation or weight loss.

What to do if your Cat is Chewing

If your cat is chewing more than normal, either his skin or things around the house other than food, make an appointment with your veterinarian. Typically, this is a behavioral disorder, and your veterinarian can give you advice on what to do to help him stop. The veterinarian will also perform a complete physical examination to check for any underlying physical conditions with his health. This is very important to do, because if an underlying health condition is causing the chewing, it will be important to treat it. Your cat may have dental issues, and chewing on odd items, such as plastic or the wooden leg of a chair, may help him feel better. He may also have gastrointestinal issues, and with an upset stomach he may feel he needs to chew on something “different” such as wool or carpet. 

Your veterinarian will conduct laboratory testing on your cat. He may perform a urinalysis, biochemistry profile, and blood work. He may perform other tests to check for any nutritional deficiencies in your cat.

You also want to know when you noticed the excessive chewing, when it began, and other behaviors that accompany the excessive chewing, such as licking and over-grooming himself and possibly other cats. He will also want to know what he chews on, such as wood, wicker, fabric in the furniture, carpet, rugs, or bedding. 

After the tests are complete, treatment will depend on the specific diagnosis. If your cat has a health condition, your veterinarian will explain the condition in full and communicate treatment options with you. If your veterinarian feels his chewing is a result of a behavioral issue, he will give you advice on how to treat this issue on your own or with the help of a behavioral therapist.

Prevention of Chewing

If you keep your cat occupied with a healthy play environment, this may help eliminate chewing of household items. Some owners find that getting the cat a “brother” or “sister” cat can help keep him occupied while they are at work or out for the evening. 

Taking your cat to regular veterinary visits can prevent dental issues or gastrointestinal issues due to the fact that the veterinarian performs a physical examination for every visit. Also, keeping up with parasite control, such as flea and tick treatments, can help your cat avoid being infested with parasites. This will prevent any skin chewing due to fleas and ticks.

Overly anxious cats that chew their skin raw may need a prescription medication to help keep them calm. This will depend on the advice and decision of your veterinarian, after he has ruled out all health conditions.

Cost of Chewing

The cost of treating a cat with excessive chewing can begin at $150 and go as high as $500 for a behavioral therapist. For other conditions, such as dental health conditions, the cost may be approximately $850.