You waited for days for your cat’s new toys to arrive. Finally, they are here. You open the box hurriedly. But before you can even show your cat his new toys, he has settled in his corner, fixated with the packaging paper, as if he found the greatest toy invented.
Feline behaviorists have yet to find a definitive answer to that question. These experts suggest a few possible reasons behind this quirky behavior, including the sound, smell, and feel of crinkly paper and plastic.
Why your cat likes crinkly things
Your cat’s fascination with all things crinkly comes from a long list of puzzling yet entertaining behavior. Experts are still unsure why cats love playing with crinkly objects. However, there are a few theories that can explain this behavior.
1. The sound of crinkly objects is similar to the sound made by rodents.
Cats and mice and rats have been perennial enemies since time immemorial. And while no camp has laid claim to the title of being the victor in this eternal struggle, your pet has a few nifty tricks up his sleeve.
Through the course of evolution, cats’ ears have developed to the point that they can hear sounds that are inaudible to humans. That includes the sounds that rats and mice use to communicate.
Now, it has been suggested that cats love playing with crinkly objects because these sound like rodents make when they communicate. Essentially, when your pet plays with a piece of crinkly paper or plastic, his hunting instincts are engaged.
2. The crinkling sound soothes cats
Another possible reason why cats are obsessed with crinkly objects is that the sounds these make remind cats of dry grass and fallen leaves make.
This harkens back to the time of your cat’s ancestors who sought to find protection from the elements by using bedding made out of available resources, including dried grass and leaves.
To a cat, lying on top of crinkly paper or plastic is more comfortable compared to lying on the bare floor.
3. Cats like the taste and texture of crinkly plastic.
Many cats prefer crinkly plastic over paper. Some prefer the smooth texture of plastic as it touches their paws and fur.
Others like the scent of plastic. Due to the porous nature of plastic, scents like those from food can easily cling on to it. Plastic is often coated with a few substances that appeal to cats, including stearates, cornstarch, and gelatin.
4. Plastic can provide stress relief
Even minute changes in your home can trigger a stress response in your cat, from the addition of new furniture to a room to the arrival of a baby.
Cats respond to stress differently. Some may groom themselves while others find solace in playing with crinkly objects like paper or plastic.
5. Your cat may be suffering from pica.
Your cat’s fascination with crinkly objects, especially plastic, can be attributed to pica. Pica is a condition where a cat eats non-food items, including plastic bags.
The condition may be caused by anemia, endocrine disorders, gastrointestinal problems, or behavioral issues.
Whatever the underlying cause may be, pica is a serious condition that should be immediately addressed. Left unchecked, the condition can lead to the blockage of your pet’s intestines.
Among the symptoms to watch out for are vomiting, diarrhea, bad breath, abdominal pain, and collapse. If you notice that your cat has developed a penchant for eating non-food items, including crinkly plastic, bring him to the vet for a thorough examination.
At the clinic, the vet will check for blockages and perform a battery of tests to root out any underlying medical cause for pica.
If your pet is diagnosed with pica, you must do your best to remove the non-food item that he likes to eat from his immediate environment. The vet will also prescribe medication if the pica is attributed to a disorder. For behavioral disorders, the vet may prescribe psychoactive drugs.
Crinkly things and your cat’s health and safety
Apart from pica, there are a couple of health and safety issues associated with crinkly things.
Tom and Jerry syndrome
As previously mentioned, cats can hear sounds within the ultrasonic frequency range. While this is good for hunting rodents, there is one drawback to this unique evolutionary trait: the Tom and Jerry syndrome.
The syndrome, also called feline audiogenic reflex seizures or FARS, is prevalent in senior cats as well as Birmans.
When an affected cat hears ultrasonic sounds from everyday objects like crinkly foil, clinking glasses, and the sound of spoons, he can suffer seizures and lose consciousness.
Apart from minimizing an affected cat’s exposure to these sounds, the vet may also prescribe anticonvulsant medications.
Plastic bag safety for cats
Apart from pica, another risk associated with plastic bags is asphyxiation. One time you will see your cat playing with a crinkly plastic bag and another moment, he can get his neck stuck around the handles of the bag.
As such, it is best to avoid giving plastic bags to your cat as a toy. Keep plastic bags in a secure place, preferably in a room where your cat is not allowed to enter.
If you use plastic bags as liners for trash cans, make sure that you place the trash cans in an area that your cat cannot reach. Alternatively, you can use a trash can with a lid that will prevent your cat from reaching the plastic liner.
Most cats will avoid playing or chewing with plastic bags used as liners for the litter box. But if your cat has a history of eating plastic, err on the side of caution and use a different type of liner for the litter box.
Your cat and crinkly objects
One of the best things about cats is that they can amuse themselves with everyday objects, from boxes to crinkly objects. There is something pure about that. But exercise caution when allowing your cat to play with crinkly things. Observe if your cat is eating those objects. And as much as possible, avoid giving your cat plastic bags.
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