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Cats Lick Plastic Bags

Why do some cats lick plastic bags? This is potentially dangerous as cats also like to crawl into spaces and play and that could lead to suffocation. Ideally, cats should not have access to plastic bags. Clearly if the bag tastes good to a cat that makes it potentially more dangerous!

cat in plastic bag
Milo likes plastic bags. He might just like playing in them. It could be as straight forward as that. Photo by Malingering

What is in or on the bag that makes it attractive to lick? This is a hard one to crack. Plastic bags are usually made of polyethylene, which is made from ethylene. The bags are pretty much just that except for some lubricants used in manufacture. It is hard to see what is attractive to lick if the product is plastic. After all it shouldn't taste like food. However, the other type of "plastic bag" is biodegradable and is made of starch. The starch is obtained from corn or potatoes and converted to lactic acid, which can be polymerized into biodegradable plastic called polylactide. Starch is also used in the manufacture of dry cat food as it is needed in the manufacturing process. So there is a connection here between cat food and plastic bags but I am not sure that it is one that explains why cats lick plastic bags. This is just a thought I had (but see below)

The conventional view is that the plastic originates in manufacture from animal fat, which provides the attraction. I am not sure about that as it is made fro ethylene. There is also the medical condition called PICA. Cats and other animals including humans can suffer from it. They have a compulsion to eat non-food products or non-nutritious objects and/or food ingredients such as flour, starch or raw potato. We have here then another connection with biodegradable bags mentioned above as they are made of starch .

My current theory as to why cats lick plastic bags is because they are suffering from a mild version of PICA and the bag is a biodegradable one. The underlying cause of PICA is unclear but could be due to biochemical deficiency, and more often, iron deficiency (src: Wikipedia). In short it may be due to a mineral deficiency and the substance eaten or licked contains that mineral. The first port of call would be the vet and a look at the diet, I'd guess.

Your Cat: Simple New Secrets to a Longer, Stronger Life and see my review of this book.

Cats Lick Plastic Bags to Cat Health Problems


bhodges said…
This is fascinating - thanks! You might want to check out this discussion based on your blog -

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