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My Cat Is Chewing on Clothes

 
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. May 11, 2021
My Cat Is Chewing on Clothes

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Cats are multifaceted animals which is part of the reason we love them so much. Their idiosyncratic behavior makes them cute, fascinating and confusing in various measures. However, some behaviors might seem funny to us, but there may be a more serious reason behind them. Others are a means of feline communication which we may not quite have registered.

If you notice your cat is chewing on clothes, it is understandable you will want to know is it normal? At AnimalWised, we explain why your cat chews clothes and whether you need to take action.

Is it normal when a cat is chewing clothes?

As is common knowledge, cats are curious animals. Unlike humans, cats do not have dextrous hands to manipulate objects in their environment. Felines will often use their mouth in a way we humans would not wish to do. By chewing or nibbling on clothes, the cat might be investigating an interesting smell, engaging with a texture or have any number of reasons their curiosity is piqued. In this case, it is a completely normal behavior.

We should also look carefully and see if the cat is actually chewing on clothes. If you see your cat is suckling on the clothes and kneading with their paws, they will actually be nursing on your clothes. In these cases, nursing behavior may be related to being removed from their mother too early. There are many negative repercussions on a cat which has been separated too early, but if occasional chewing and kneading on clothes happens, we can tolerate it to a second chance.

However, if we see the cat's chewing on clothes is becoming obsessive, then there is a problem. Whether it occurs gradually or happens all of a sudden, there may be some negative stimuli in the cat's environment or something else threatening their well-being. To better understand why your cat is chewing on clothes, we look into some of the reasons behind this behavior.

Pica syndrome

While it may start with repetitive chewing of clothes, you may see your cat actually starts ingesting the material. In this case, it is not simply nursing behavior (even if this can have its own negative connotations). When a cat ingests inedible objects or material, it means they are suffering from pica syndrome. Pica syndrome in cats is a behavioral problem where they are eating to compensate for something.

In many cases, pica syndrome occurs because the cat does not have sufficient nutrients in their diet. When cats eat things like dirt or clothing, they are trying to get the nutrient they are lacking.

Feline pica syndrome can also have a psychological reason behind it. When a cat is stressed, eating and chewing things they shouldn't can be a stereotypy, i.e. a repetitive behavior which they enact to relieve their anxiety. Cats are sensitive animals and are particularly susceptible to problems when their routine is altered. Whether it is moving home or the introduction of a new family member, chewing clothes can be a sign of stress in your cat.

My Cat Is Chewing on Clothes - Pica syndrome

Reasons for a cat chewing clothes

As stated above, chewing clothes can be a fairly normal behavior. The act of kneading, suckling or chewing on clothes is also known as nursing. It is often related to premature weaning, although all domestic cats are likely to display some infantile behaviors. This is because they never have to fend for themselves. It is also one of the reasons why cats meow at humans, since we are in many ways a surrogate mother for them.

Although chewing behavior can affect cats of any age, it usually occurs before about 8 months. It may stop once they develop further, but for many cats it maintains into adulthood.

Now we look at the reasons for a cat chewing clothes in more detail:

Premature weaning

As we have stated above, nursing and chewing behavior can derive from being prematurely weaned. Separation from their mother can lead the cat to develop many different behavioral problems with chewing clothes being relatively minor. More important are issues such as your cat biting and scratching you inappropriately. Athough they may only be playing, the cat will not have learned boundaries and bit inhibition from their siblings, leading to this behavior.

When chewing or suckling on clothes is the only issue they have, we might be OK to let them do so. It creates a sensation of tranquility which can be positive for the cat. However, we may want to be protective of our clothes. in these cases, we should provide a blanket or similar piece of material which we don't mind being ruined to chew on.

Reasons for a cat chewing clothes

Nutrient deficiency or anemia

Although it may not have developed into full-blown pica syndrome, chewing on clothes may be related to a nutritional deficiency. Anemia in cats is a common problem and is cause by having a dearth of red blood cells. The cat may chew clothes to find iron or other nutrients to help produce these cells. Other nutritional deficiencies can also lead to a cat chewing clothes.

Stress

As a sensitive animal, there are many reasons a cat may become stressed. Changes in routine are particularly problematic. Often the changes can make your cat feel insecure, especially over resources. They may think their practical security is threatened in terms of being fed properly or even having shelter. However, they may also fear they won't receive enough affection from their human guardians. This commonly occurs when a new cat is introduced into the home.

As a result of stress, the cat will seek means of comforting themselves. Not only does chewing on clothes help them to feel less anxious, they may do it because it has our scent on them.

Boredom

A lack of adequate stimuli is detrimental to felines. Boredom turns a cat into a destructive animals, prompting them to engage in unusual behaviors in order to distract themselves. This may be the reason why your cat licks clothes or chews on them. This is usually more common in felines that do not have access to the outdoors or to toys. A lack of environmental enrichment can be very harmful to cats.

Genetic predisposition

Some cat breeds have been shown to have a biological predisposition to enjoy biting and sucking on textiles. In these cases, there is nothing to worry about (other than the condition of our clothes). However, we should always be observant in case they start to ingest the material. Asian cat breeds, such as the Siamese and Burmese cat, are some of the breeds particularly prone to chewing behaviors.

Sign of illness

Finally, and perhaps most worryingly, a cat chewing on clothes may be doing so due to an illness. This is particularly the case with cats which have never shown this behavior before. When a cat starts to chew on something, it may be a way to relieve their pain. One of the most common issues is dental problems such as periodontal disease or other oral disease.

However, since chewing on your clothes is a way to make a cat feel calm and relieve pain, the problem can be anywhere in the body. If you do not know why your cat is chewing on your clothes, and particularly if they do it suddenly, then take them to a veterinarian. They can diagnose the problem and provide a correct course of treatment.

My Cat Is Chewing on Clothes - Reasons for a cat chewing clothes

How to prevent your cat from chewing your clothes

If your cat chews on clothes only once in a while there should be no problem. However, when it becomes a recurring and even obsessive behavior, it is time to take action. The first step is to detect the cause that leads the cat to lick the clothes or bite them. Even if you don't think they have a disease, it is pragmatic to take them to a veterinarian just in case.

If it is not a health problem, we will need to look at both their environment and our behavior. For example, if you have adopted the cat as an adult, you may not know whether they have been prematurely weaned. In this case, you will need to provide plenty of affection and stimulation.

We will also need to check the cat's diet. This may also require a veterinarian visit since it can be very difficult to detect nutritional deficiencies. When the cat suffers from problems such as kidney disease or anemia, their diet may need to be tailored specifically to manage these problems. For others, it may be we are simply providing insufficient food. Check the quality of their feed and change it if it is an inferior product with poor nutrition.

When boredom is the problem, we will need to improve the environmental enrichment of the cat. We should not only provide toys, ut scratching trees, intelligent games and other accessories which can improve their cognition and prevent boredom. Moreover, since a cat may chew our clothes to feel close to us, we need to ensure we spend enough time playing and engaging with them in an active way.

If the cat is stressed, we need to find out the reason. For example, if a new cat is causing them stress, we need to ensure we are providing them with enough affection and attention. Too often new cats in the home get attention when the older cat is neglected. Our actions can also cause cats a lot of stress. For example, even if we think we are only playing, rough handling of a cat can make them very stressed.

Never scold or punish your cat for chewing on your clothes. The reason behind it is not their fault and it will only worsen the problem. Instead, find the root cause and make changes to their routine, their environment or your behavior.

Finally, if the cat is sick, then the veterinarian will be able to provide the right treatment options. Ensure you carry out this treatment as closely as possible.

If you want to read similar articles to My Cat Is Chewing on Clothes, we recommend you visit our Behavioral problems category.

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