Why Do Cats Eat Cardboard? Is It Bad For Them? What Happens?

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Why do cats eat cardboard?

Cats don’t need to rip and shred their food these days, however they still show an instinctual preference for doing so.

This can lead many felines into tearing up paper or cardboard when given the chance! Tearing up or chewing cardboard is harmless enough. If your cat starts to eat cardboard, a trip to the vet may be necessary and you will need to remove any cardboard eating opportunities.

I have been a cat parent since 1992 to over 40 cats. Some chewed cardboard and some didn’t. 

Table Of Contents
cat chewing the corner of a cardboard box
This is tough cardboard!

Chewing Cardboard Versus Eating Cardboard

Some of the cats in my care have enjoyed chewing on plastic bags, wood furniture, or anything made from cardboard.

Of course, plastic bags and wood furniture were off limits to my cats. Some cats eat cardboard.  

Perhaps I may think the cat is eating cardboard when he is doing is chewing on the cardboard.

Quite often cats chew the corners of the type of corrugated cardboard cat scratchers that sit within a cardboard frame.

The action of chewing on cardboard will not hurt my cat and is an enjoyable pastime for my kitty.

When my cat does this, I always expect to get my sweeper out to clean up the mess.

This holds my cat’s attention and seems enjoyable, it will not hurt my cat. 

Watch your cat, making sure he is not eating and swallowing the cardboard.

a cat chewing through an opening in a  cardboard box
I’m nearly through!

Reasons Why Cats Like Eating cardboard

Indoor cats still have the natural prey hunting instinct. They love catching prey, tearing it apart, and eating it.

Cat owners and researchers find that there may be different reasons why cats like to eat or chew cardboard See below:

  • Is my cat hungry?
  • Cat researchers find that all cats at some point develop sore gums and find that a cat chewing cardboard, soothes its dental pain and inflammation.
  • Kittens habitually chew on many things, including cardboard, because they are teething.

  • Boredom comes easy for cats who do not have enough exciting toys to keep them busy and interested. I always felt that cats should not exist alone and need a playmate. I currently have six fur babies and there is no room for cat boredom in my household.

  • Chewing on cardboard offers cats a way to release pent-up energy using their nails and teeth. 

  • Does the cat have a nutritional deficiency?

  • Boxes offer some element of warmth.

  • Cats may mark their box by chewing on it, making the box their territory.

  • Cats who are naturally anxious, stressed, or scared may chew on cardboard more than cats that are totally comfortable in their surroundings.

  • Cats who feel angry or frustrated may chew on cardboard.
cat poking head through hole chewed in a cardboard box
This is hard work!

What Happens If My Cat eats Cardboard?

If I find my cat chewing cardboard, I do not find it too concerning.

If one of my cats enjoyed chewing cardboard, I would monitor the cat closely to determine if they were actually eating and swallowing the cardboard or simply chewing the cardboard apart.

Usually when cats chew cardboard as when they chew paper, they fling their head to get rid of the paper or cardboard.

If I was at all worried that the cat was eating and swallowing cardboard, the first thing to do is remove the cardboard, observe the cat and take him to the vet if you are concerned that he has actually consumed cardboard.

Cat chewed a hole in a cardboard box
Hooray! I did it!

Related: Here is a list of food that cats should NOT eat and WHY! There is also a FAQ of commonly asked questions like – Can my cat eat bananas?

Pinterest image - why do cats eat cardboard

Why Is My Cat Eating A cardboard Box?

For many years, I have said, 

“Why do I buy my kids and cat, toys, when free, empty cardboard boxes offer them so much enjoyment?” 

Kids and cats are thrilled to play with an open cardboard box. You may discover that your toddler and kitten enjoy chewing on the sides of the box because they are cutting their teeth.

Just make sure that they are not eating the shreds and swallowing the cardboard. 

Our Cats Like cardboard scratchers

I have always had a cat scratcher with a round cardboard insert in the center. This toy has an outside rim that holds a small ball. My cat pushes the ball around the perimeter with his paw. 

The toy below has replacement cardboard pads and ball if the ball should get lost.

 Cardboard Cat Scratcher Toy with Catnip

Two of my five cats frequently play together with this cardboard scratcher.

Lil’ Luke sits on one side. Willow sits on the other side. I place a bit of catnip in front of both cats, and they spin the ball at each other.

They also use this cardboard to scratch their nails. When the cardboard becomes too shredded, I pop it out and turn it around, and it is as good as new for a while. 

When that side becomes shredded, I replace the used cardboard with a new one.

Related: My cat shreds paper. He has become quite an expert at paper shredding. It can be funny but it can also be a nuisance.

I have never seen any of my cats eating and swallowing cardboard shreds.

I am not concerned if I see my cat chewing cardboard and not eating or swallowing the cardboard.

Sweeping up the mess takes a matter of seconds, and I find this no problem if it brings enjoyment to my cats and keeps them entertained and busy.

vector - two cats reading
I’m not really into cardboard dear unless it’s a delivery box for me!

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