When I first adopted Beau, I knew he had a lot of energy. Beau especially had bursts of energy at night when he would have been hunting on the streets or in my grandma’s backyard.
In the first few weeks, I had no clue that Beau had Pica, which caused Beau to chew on plastics and other non-food materials.
Although we solved how to get Beau to stop chewing on plastics, it seems we were later blessed with another problem.
Upon adopting our youngest cat, Kalista, my partner and I joked about how funny it would be if Beau taught Kalista naughty things like chewing on bedsheets. Little did we know that Kalista came with some problems of her own.
Not only did Kalista refuse to eat when we first got her, she also loved to chew on cardboard and to this day, has an obsession with tearing up pieces of paper.
Being that I teach, I’m sure you can imagine how much paper I bring home on a regular occasion. Well, to Kalista, all of my students’ scripts and notes are a delicious meal.
Actually, the picture above is Kalista by some of my student’s coursework from the semester that just ended. Lovely, right?
So, what do you do when your cat is being silly and is eating all of the papers you bring home? What exactly is going through your cat’s head when they tear up and chew on paper?
YOUR CAT IS BORED
Boredom has been known to cause cats to climb walls, to beg for attention or boredom can cause cats to dart across your home for seemingly no reason.
Similarly, boredom can lead cats to become destructive or take out their extra energy on household objects you’re not super fond of them touching. One of the most common examples of a cat taking their boredom out on a household object is scratching or tearing a couch.
If your cat is tearing or chewing on paper because they are bored, think about buying them safe passive toys such as Spot Cat Springs, the JW Cataction Spring String Cat Toy, Petstages Tower of Tracks, or OurPets Corknip All-Natural Compressed Catnip Teeter Egg.
It can also be helpful to give your cat slow feeder toys or puzzle feeders to help stimulate them when they are eating.
Although feeder can’t be left out all day, technically, they do help engage cats for the time being. Feeder toys will also make sure that your cat doesn’t eat too fast, so really, they are a tremendous two-in-one combo.
At the same time, you don’t always have to spend money to keep your cat entertained.
Cats love light objects that they can swat around the home freely, so things like tin foil balls, rubberband balls or corks make great toys.
When using household goods or supplies, you must keep an eye out for your cats. Unfortunately, household goods tend not to be as durable as manufactured toys and may either prove to be messy or a choking hazard.
The same precaution should still be used for manufactured cat toys, especially when the toys get older.
My favourite toy to this day is still the SlimCat Ball. The SlimCat ball is a teaser toy that slowly dispenses food as your cat bats at it, making it one of the most beneficial toys we have.
YOUR CAT IS TREATING THE PAPER AS PREY
It’s very easy to forget that cats have built-in “killer instincts” even if they have never lived a day outside in the wild.
The instinct to hunt is relatively powerful in cats, leading them to simulate hunting by attacking inanimate objects around the home. Often cats will begin their hunt by pouncing on the objects they are interested in, later kangaroo kicking the object as a form of “killing” the object.
Cats will also exhibit this instinct by trying to tear the inanimate object apart, as they would the flesh of an animal. Similarly, cats will do this to soft or malleable objects such as paper or cardboard.
In cases where your cat is treating the paper as prey, I would recommend trying to find a large toy for them to kick around and play with. A great example of a toy is the KONG Wrangler Scratch Mouse.
I would also look into getting your cat some soft catnip toys, that way they have something to kick around and bat at if larger toys aren’t their thing.
The biggest issue with cats who treat paper like prey is that they often swallow the pieces of paper. Though paper is not the most harmful thing a cat can swallow, paper can cause blockages if it bunches up in a cat’s stomach/intestines.
Not only can paper get stuck in a cat’s stomach, but some paper is also considered toxic towards cats. Make sure that you always keep an eye on your cat to ensure that none of the paper is actually being swallowed.
If you are concerned that your cat has eaten too much paper, I strongly recommend contacting a vet.
Symptoms of obstruction include lethargy, vomiting, changes in behaviour, straining while using the litter box, and lack of appetite.
In most cases where an obstruction is assumed, a vet will proceed by conducting a full-body physical to see if they can feel any abnormalities. If nothing is felt during the physical, a vet may recommend getting an X-Ray, ultrasound or another test dependant on what is accessible in their facility.
Which leads us to the next point.
YOUR CAT MAY BE HUNGRY
Cats are odd little creatures who don’t always make the best decisions when they are hungry, but I can’t blame them.
Whether your cat’s hunger stems from not being fed enough, or in our case, stems from a medical condition from Pica. It’s a good idea to reassess how much you feed your cat and how often.
We feed our cats 4-times through the day, this makes sure that there’s always something in their stomachs and has really slowed down the amount of chewing and tearing that both Kalista and Beau do.
It’s important to note that feeding guidelines on bags or cans of food are not always correct and should only be looked at as a starting point.
Every cat is different and will need a different amount of food based on their size, weight, activity level, and breed.
Because there are so many factors that affect how much your cat needs to eat, it is essential that you’re always renegotiating how much your cat eats.
As much as we want to cut back how much Beau eats because he’s a bit of a tubster, anytime we cut his intake back, even by a bit, he always starts chewing on foreign objects again.
If you are unsure how much your cat should weigh or how much they are required to eat, I highly recommend speaking to a vet. The vet will help you break down how much food your cat should eat and will be able to help you decide what food to feed your cat.
A vet specific diet or “prescription diet” will not be required for the majority of cats; however, each food has a different amount of fat and protein, making some foods much more ideal for some cats and not others.
Although less common, sometimes cats will tear up paper because they are experiencing dental problems.
The reason I say it is less common that cats will tear up when they have a dental disease is that a cat usually chooses a more solid object to chew on, such as cardboard.
Dental disease is frighteningly common for cats to experience, and the majority of cats will face some sort of dental problem by the age of 3.
Dental problems can be avoided by brushing your cat’s teeth, providing dental toys and of course, getting yearly cleanings from a vet.
OTHER WAYS TO DETER YOUR CAT FROM TEARING/RIPPING PAPER
The first thing you can do to make sure your cat doesn’t tear or rip up paper is by making sure that no paper is accessible to them. I know, I know, this seems to be obvious, but I mean all temptation.
I try my very best to make sure that there are no binders out, no file folders, grocery lists, etc. because Kalista will try to nip at paper even if she only sees a sliver. It’s like she can sniff the paper out or something.
Any time your cat approaches a piece of paper to try to tear or rip it, I would recommend clapping to scare them off.
I would avoid yelling or physically scolding your cat as this can traumatize the cat and make them feel like you’re cross with them. Yelling or physically scolding your cat can also leave the cat fairly traumatized and may cause the cat to start avoiding you altogether, which why it is best to choose a sound/training tactic that the cat does not associate to you.
Things like blow horns, or spray bottles are sometimes recommended, though I’m not a massive fan of either.
I’ve used spray bottles in the past when trying to train my cats out of extremely naughty behaviour, such as jumping on kitchen counters and the stove. For less “serious” things like tearing up a paper, I choose training sounds like “uh-uh,” or as mentioned, I clap reasonably loudly.
My only concern with blow horns is how deafening and frightening they can be.
Since we already know that Kalista is a delicate, scaredy-cat, we know obnoxiously loud noises will cause her to want to hide and not come out for some time. So save this tactic if the behaviour continues with no end in sight.
So while tearing up paper and chewing on paper can be an annoying habit that cats develop, there are usually some clear reasons your cat is doing it.
If you are ever concerned that your cat is chewing on foreign objects because they have a nutritional deficiency or have a dental disease it is important to take your cat to the vet to get some tests done.
It can be very serious if your cat swallows enough paper to obstruct their digestive tract, often leading to the need for surgery.
So pet parents, I’m curious, does your cat chew on paper? Does your cat just tear the paper apart? How did you try to get them to stop? Let me know in the comments below!