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I have an 8 month old kitten and she has recently started destroying (chewing through) treat bags, food bags (both cat and dog food), and anything else that looks like it has treats in it.

I have already ruled out a lot of possibilities. She gets lots and lots of love, she is never ignored, and she gets lots of food daily. I have 4 cats and my kitten is the only one who has been doing this... There was a time that I was training her, so she would get some treats while learning, but never too many. I always split the treats into half or thirds, so she wasn't getting many treats in one training session.

My kitten is getting a lot of food already, so she doesn't need any of the food that she is trying to get to. What should I do to stop her from chewing through bags of food and treats?

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    Because she's a cat. Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, cats gotta cat.
    – Valorum
    Feb 13 at 9:55
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    To get to the other side! Feb 14 at 11:29
  • The correct answer to this question is "yes". Feb 14 at 20:43
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Some cats are convinced they're "starving" regardless of how much food they get. Some have a particularly strong "treat drive," and will do anything to get a treat. Some just like to chew on things, particularly certain plastics. Any of those factors can lead to a cat chewing through anything that looks like a food or treat bag, and it's certainly not limited to just "food" and "treats;" a bag of potato chips, cat litter, or even just a plastic shopping bag may be a target as well.

I have found only one solution to this, though decades of cats who exhibit this behavior: Put the bags they're chewing on out of their reach. This may mean transferring food to plastic pet food bins, keeping treats in a drawer or on a shelf they can't reach, or using different containers they can't get into. Personally, I don't feed kibble, I keep (open) treats on a high closet shelf in sealing containers, and keep litter in a plastic bin, and even then sometimes I'll come home to find a closed treat bag has been knocked down and ripped open, or a hole's been chewed in the litter bag. Pet ownership is a compromise, and you'll need to learn to restrict what damage they can do, and live with them occasionally outsmarting you anyway.

Be aware that, if your cat is of the first variety I mentioned (convinced they're "starving" all the time), she'll be at a high risk of obesity if you're free-feeding kibble. At eight months, she's still growing, but you'll want to consider starting to move to feeding times for all the cats in order to prevent her from becoming overweight.

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    Yep. Bags of dry pasta ripped open and spread all over the kitchen floor. For the most part, magnetic latches on cupboard doors help, but Laser is a tenacious opportunist usually spots a forgotten open cupboard door. Feb 12 at 22:23
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    My first thought: because it's fun.
    – arp
    Feb 12 at 23:45
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    Note that "being convinced they're starving" is usually a hunting drive, where you don't know how long it'll be until the next meal and therefore you jump at every opportunity you get. Some cats just never shake that instinct, even after years of being fed on a schedule. Others learn to wait and only tear through a bag after you've missed their scheduled meal.
    – Flater
    Feb 13 at 9:08
  • @Flater my cat who's always convinced he's starving was from an owner-surrendered litter, so apparently it's pure instinct, since he's never not had food available on a regular basis. :) (My stray rescue, on the other hand, controls herself just fine around food bags. Cats!)
    – Allison C
    Feb 14 at 1:42
  • @AllisonC Our big eater lived on the streets as a <3 month old kitten when we picked him up. He was unhealthily skinny. To this day (4 years later) he still scarfs down every meal like it's his last and chases us for every scrap whenever we eat, even to the point of vomiting due to overeating. He doesn't learn, but we think he learned that lesson out on the street. But, to his credit, he's still a lean cat and runs it off, whereas the other two eat less and have been getting a bit fat.
    – Flater
    Feb 14 at 12:27
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When a cat chews through a bag and gets a treat, operant conditioning reinforces that behavior. From then on, they have positive associations with chewing through bags, and that can exist independent of hunger (it's not like they want treats only when they're hungry in the first place). You may be able to curb the behavior with operant conditioning that goes the other way, such as finding something she doesn't like (e.g. cinnamon) and putting it in bags.

There may also just be an urge to chew. See whether you can find a chew toy she likes. Just as the response to scratching is to get a cat tree, the solution to chewing bags may be to get something that it's okay for her to chew. If she's only on wet food, giving her some dry food may help.

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Some great advice in all the answers.

My puppy liked chewing electrical wires! I couldn't put them in drawers. Instead I got some bitter apple spray. It tastes horrible - I tried it! Once it dries (after a few seconds) there is no smell but the taste lasts indefinitely.

Search for bitter apple spray online - there are plenty of suppliers. Spray the outside of the bags very lightly with it (or some dummy bags). She will soon learn and this learning should transfer easily to unsprayed bags.

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    You're not kidding when you say it tastes horrible; I had it blow back in my face once and it really is foul
    – Allison C
    Feb 14 at 1:43
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    @Allison Ugh - I can't even imagine. I waited for it to dry before licking the surface and that was bad enough! Feb 14 at 1:51
  • Oh, it was awful! I mistakenly had a ceiling fan going when I sprayed, and it wafted back into my face and, by extension, my nose, sinuses, mouth, throat... I made sure to turn the fan off and wait for it to stop before spraying after that!
    – Allison C
    Feb 15 at 14:23
  • @Allison C - Did you use it for a cat or a dog? Did it work? Feb 15 at 23:59
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    For two cats obsessed with chewing a plant, and it didn't seem to be particularly effective in that application (I don't think enough could settle on the plant to be helpful). It's the only thing they've shown any interest in chewing on that could be dangerous (mildly toxic) and I ultimately solved the issue by moving the plant to my desk at work.
    – Allison C
    Feb 16 at 14:42

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