I recently adopted an 8-year-old cat from a local shelter. She likes to chew paper. She tears off tiny pieces and spits them out. She will lay on the paper like it’s her toy and gets upset if my other cat tries to play with it. Is she chewing the paper because of anxiety? Should I let her do this? What do you suggest?
Chewing and/or ripping paper is not that uncommon. It’s usually based on boredom. If the cat has been examined thoroughly by the veterinarian and has no nutritional deficiencies or dental problems, then the behavior is probably self-soothing or a displacement.
Don’t let the cat continue to eat paper. It would be better to find other ways to ease anxiety and ease boredom. Conduct two or three interactive play sessions daily with your kitty. Use a fishing pole-type toy and create a mock hunting session. Move the toy like prey, allowing your cat to stalk, pounce and capture the toy. This way your kitty is getting both mental and physical stimulation. It’s a great way to strengthen the bond between the two of you and also works wonders on boredom and anxiety. If you set up a schedule of doing these sessions faithfully and make sure there is no paper left around then you should be able to break the kitty’s paper-eating habit.
In-between play sessions you should set out some activity toys for your kitty. Use Play-n-Treat balls if your cat is food-motivated. These are hollow plastic balls with a hole in them so you can fill them with dry food. The cat rolls the ball and periodically a treat comes out. This gives the cat activity and also helps them to eat slowly. You can also create paper bag tunnels and other interesting games for your kitty to discover during the day.
I would also recommend the use of the Feliway Comfort Zone diffuser. This is a product that contains synthetic feline facial pheromones. The pheromones (scent chemicals) that cats release when they rub their facial scent glands on objects, have a calming effect. Cats facially rub only in areas where they feel comfortable. The Feliway pheromones can help a cat calmly and securely identify with a territory. The diffuser is available at pet supply stores and will last for about a month.
When you are home with your cat and you notice she is looking as if she’s getting anxious or she’s looking as if she’s searching for paper to chew on, that’s the time to conduct a mini play session to distract her. Keep a couple of interactive toys stashed conveniently so you can quickly get to them to distract her. The Cat Dancer is a great toy for this because it’s easy to stash away in a drawer. It’s a very simple design but cats love it. It’s a wire with some tightly rolled-up cardboard on the end. When you move the toy it moves almost like a fly or cricket. Its movements are erratic and wild and cats go crazy for it. The Cat Dancer is inexpensive and easy to find in pet supply stores as well as online.