Why do cats chew on plastic? Is there an attractive gelatin in the plastic?

Our question this week was:

I have several cats that love to chew and or try to eat plastic wrapping items like what is used to wrap sports drinks, bottled water packages, toilet paper packages, etc. Although I try to keep them put up it is almost impossible to keep all the plastics away from them. I read an article in Catnip that says some plastics are coated with a gelatin that attracts cats. I am concerned about the health complications it presents and why the makers of these plastics cannot make changes so as not to attract cats to want to chew or eat it.

Linda Hagen


Hi – thanks for your email. Interesting question! I don’t know why companies would coat plastic with a substance that attracts cats.

There are several theories as to why cats may lick plastic. I think the main problem is that cats are attracted to things that move, things that are shiny and sparkle – things that can mimic prey. Some believe that cats like the texture of plastic when they lick. Another theory is that some plastic is made with some rendered animal fat which cats may be able to smell or detect. Another explanation is that some plastics have petroleum products and gelatin as ingredients.

Regardless of why they do it, cats will often play, pounce, prey and sometimes eat those objects. It becomes a problem when cats cannot digest it and it becomes a gastrointestinal obstruction.

For cats that have this tendency to eat strange items, it is very important to keep plastics picked up and unavailable to cats. For more information about a disorder – go to Pica in Cats.

As to your questions about why plastics are created why they are, I have no idea. I recall years ago thinking about something similar – I was looking at the different medications – some are actually very colorful such as one called Keflex (Cephalexin) is a grey and red capsule– perfect for the Buckeye State and other pills are pink, blue, red, etc. I recall wondering why drug manufacturers didn’t make the pills “less attractive” to kids. This was after a client’s child took a bunch of “colorful pills” that were accidentally dropped. I know this isn’t the same thing but the logic that goes behind some manufacturers can be quite different than yours or mine.

Does anyone else have thoughts on this? Email me!


Dr. Debra

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