Cats do lots of things that make our minds wander, “what are they doing?!” One often pondered cat behavior is licking. And not just that, but why it is that cats lick certain things. I recently asked my wonderful army of cat fans what is a behavior that their cats do and they have no idea why on Earth it is that they do it, and “why does my cat lick plastic” was by far the most asked question. We know that cats like to lick, and not as much as dogs per se, but there are some cats who like to lick often.
When cats lick us, their humans, they are usually doing this because they are literally wanting to taste what it is that they smell. And they happen to be drawn to our specific human perfume!
Cats also like to lick fresh water off of us from the shower, which is mainly because cats actually prefer to drink room warm water, unlike cool water like we humans do. (Maybe next time you give your cat some water, serve it up room temp for your feline friend!) Additionally, cats like the fresh water possible, and they’ve come to realize that your shower faucet is perfectly fresh to their liking.
So, in regards to why do cats lick plastic, there are a few specific reasons why cats do this. Let’s break it down for, cat lovers!
First off, there’s a difference between licking plastic and eating plastic. Both humans and animals can develop an eating disorder known as Pica. When humans or pets suffer from this condition, it causes them to crave items which are typically undesirable and not intended for consumption. Should your cat be trying to ingest plastic regularly, medical intervention is absolutely necessary.
A Sound They Want to Taste—Literally!
Although we might not love the sound of crinkling plastic, think as if you are your cat for a moment. To a cat, even one that spends all of their days hanging out in the safety of their own home where all their meals are guaranteed, your cat is a natural predator at heart. And that crinkly sound of plastic? In their mind, they might imagine it’s a tasty mouse scurrying in the leaves, or something else an obligate carnivore like them would love to snack on. In addition to this, your cat might find the feel of plastic pleasing to their barbed tongue as they lick it.
Let’s Taste That Smell
Okay, this is a no-brainer right here. But if you’ve had a turkey sandwich or some beef jerky in a plastic bag, of course this will trigger your cats senses to want to lick that plastic bag or container. That domestic cat taking up residence in your home has a sense of smell that’s roughly 14 times what yours is. So, even the faintest odor can trigger it to send their smell senses into a frenzy.
And when cats lick plastic, it often triggers that funny face we all love, AKA the Flehmen response, more on that here on our article: You Know That Funny Face Your Cat Makes? This Is Why It Happens
Cats Lick Plastic Because Chemicals Draw Them to It
Of course we’ve come a long way in this modern day and age, but there are still many everyday products that contain things that we have no idea why they do. When it comes to plastic bags, it seems that many plastic bags contain tallow, which is animal byproduct. Animal advocates have raised awareness as to why commercial shopping bags contain this, along with other everyday items that contain animal byproducts. Such as like shampoos/conditions and toothpastes, for example.
Plastic bag fact cat lovers should keep in mind when they ask themselves why cats lick plastic: plastics are treated with stearates, a saturated fatty acid found in animal and vegetable fat.
Business Insider explains that many commercial shopping bags contain these “slip agent” chemicals which are derived from the stearic acid in animal fat. Manufacturers do this because it’s inexpensive and helps to prevent the polymers from sticking on to the metals during manufacturing, and to prevent from clinging afterwards. So, when your cat licks plastic simply because, they are doing this because they want to get a taste of the corresponding smell.
In response to concerned consumer demand, certain plastic makers have made changes to their plastic shopping bags to offer an animal-friendly alternative that’s also biodegradable. These options might be safer for the environment and serve to protect wildlife, but the cornstarch that many of them contain are alluring to cats given the smell and the taste of them. Which means, you guessed it, cats still want to lick them.
Where, Oh Where Has That Plastic Bag Been?
By the time that plastic bag has made it into your home, think of all the smell-tastic places it has been! Well, not to you, but in the eyes of your feline friend who has a super-heightened sense of smell. So, if your cat licks plastic, and you know for a fact that plastic has been around the block and then some, your curious cat is wanting to get a taste for himself of the many scents outside his home.
Did you learn anything new and interesting about the feline mind? Share this article with other curious cat lovers so they can learn something, too!