12

For quite some time now my cat's new hobby have been destroying cardboard boxes. He can spend sometimes up to a few hours in a box chewing the walls non-stop and ripping it to pieces. My cat used to destroy loose sheets he found laying around and the corner of a few boxes, but now it seems more serious as there's cardboard pieces everywhere (and I even drag some to work without knowing). I doubt eating that much cardboard is normal.

At first I thought it was because I wasn't feeding him enough, but the fact that he is spitting the pieces around makes me think otherwise. Could it be toothache or is chewing cardboard is a "normal" cat thing?

Here's one of the boxes, took less than three weeks :

Box destruction

3
  • Since you noticed this behavior last year, have you been to the vet, and if so did the vet say anything about the behavior and or about your cats teeth and gum health? – James Jenkins Oct 10 '14 at 18:01
  • 1
    @JamesJenkins At her last annual check-up (A couple months ago) her teeth were fine, no sign of damage. Same thing for the gum, they were not irritated or swollen. Totally forgot to ask him about pica though :( However since it's probably that (My cat also love to eat hair / rubber bands I forgot to pick up, which is a sign for pica), I have been removing any cardboard box from the floor or reachable areas. I will probably reintroduce them in a couple years to see if my cat will have forgotten this behavior. I introduced even more toys to compensate that loss. – Pierre-Luc Pineault Oct 10 '14 at 18:30
  • The last photo is hilarious. I just figure my cat is teething, she's a year old. How old is yours? – SimplGy Sep 23 '16 at 16:45
8

Chewing cardboard, amongst other things, can be a sign of pica in cats. Basically, this is an eating disorder that could be a consequence of dietary deficiencies or cognitive dysfunction (old age, senility), and some others. This isn't entirely normal, though not all that uncommon, so it would be a good idea to get him checked out by a vet to make sure that he's generally healthy (he looks it though).

4
  • 1
    Is it still considered pica even if the product is not ingested? He's not actually eating the pieces, only chewing and spitting it. – Pierre-Luc Pineault Dec 10 '13 at 3:19
  • Don't know if he's ingesting some or not, so I can't entirely say. I think pica covers both cases though. – John Cavan Dec 10 '13 at 3:25
  • By that, by the way, I mean that he's appearing not to ingest, but that may not be entirely the case. – John Cavan Dec 10 '13 at 3:33
  • Pica seems plausible then, I'll definitely look into it. Thanks! – Pierre-Luc Pineault Dec 10 '13 at 4:12
4

TL;DR

No one else has mentioned this, but dissection is often cited as part of a carnivore's prey drive. This is most often discussed in dogs, e.g. Predatory Behavior in Dogs, but is likely to be relevant to other predatory species likes cats.

It is possible that your cat's observable behavior is a form of play, which often contains components of the predatory sequence. It could also be boredom, a type of marking, a self-reinforcing tactile experience, a thwarted chewing/dissection instinct, or any number of other things.

Prey Drive

The behavior may be prey-drive related. In particular, it may be related to the dissect step of the sequence. The predatory sequence steps vary by source, but are often defined as:

  1. orient
  2. stalk
  3. chase
  4. grab-bite
  5. kill-bite
  6. dissect
  7. consume

One web site references Dogs, A New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior, and Evolution by Raymond and Lorna Coppinger, University of Chicago Press, 2001; page 116 as the source of one variation of this sequence.

Possible Options

If this behavior bothers you, and once you've ruled out medical issues, you can try a number of things to see if they reduce or redirect the behavior.

  1. Offer more suitable objects with a similar taste or tactile feel, which may satisfy the oral component of the behavior.
  2. Switch to a raw diet that includes raw meaty bones, which may satisfy the chewing or dissection instinct.
  3. Treat the area with a pheromone like Feliway to see if scent-marking is a component of the behavior.
  4. Feed your cat through treat balls (e.g. Kong Active Treat Ball for Cats, feeding puzzles, or other boredom-fighting objects to see if this satisfies your cat's play or prey instincts.
  5. Keep lots of spare boxes on hand, as chewing boxes (as long as it doesn't result in a medical issue like intestinal blockage) seems like a relatively harmless pastime.

You can't ask your cat why he's chewing the boxes. Empirical evidence and the process of elimination are your friends in cases like this.

2

Could be pica, and could also be (as Dennis Graves points out) just this cats entertainment. A vet visit might be able to rule out pica. I actually suspect your cat is just doing this for his own entertainment. It's not a "normal" cat thing but it isn't unheard of either (some cats do entertain themselves by taking things apart. One of my cats (Pounce de Leon) used to do something far less extreme, she used to destroy some of the cat toys she had (biting tails off of fake mice...).

0

Is he eating it or just destroying? (In other words He might just be having fun with cardboard, bored or seeking attention) looking at the photos - granted they aren't hi res or super focused, but he looks pretty healthy and bright eyed (his fur doesn't look matted or cloudy eyes, etc )

however check with your vet about his diet just in case but TBH I think he's just having fun Xxxoo

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.