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Why Does My Cat Shred Paper? Does it Matter?

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Why Does My Cat Shred Paper?

Any solutions or thoughts as to why cats shred paper are based somewhat on speculation.  

Often boredom is given as a reason however our cat would shred paper right in front of us and in the wee small hours, so was he just bored in the middle of the night?  Our cat was a master paper shredder. Sometimes it was funny and sometimes it was not. Tax information! Homework!

One Reason

One theory that does hold merit is that the paper tearing relates to the way in which cats hunt and kill prey.  This involves tearing and ripping of prey. Look at the explanation of how cats use their teeth – towards the end of this article.

As our cat was also a master rat catcher (I know, yuk) and we had seen the results of rat decapitation many times, the hunting theory does hold sway.  Not that the cat is hunting paper, however the opportunity to rip and tear is there with paper and it is too good to pass up. 

Another Reason

Cats love to play and paper actually does respond in a satisfying way, by obligingly submitting to being torn up.

This also applies to cardboard and other paper products. The shredded toilet paper roll is a great example of this.  How satisfying for the cat!

cat on the bed with shredded toilet paper
OH OH! Caught in the act!

Is It Ok For Cats To Eat Paper?

Most cats when tearing paper do not actually eat the paper or maybe they might ingest a tiny amount. Our cat would shake his head to get rid of any paper that stuck to his face. That is not a concern.  What is a concern is if your cat shows signs of having Pica.

Pica is a medical issue where cats want to eat things that are non edible.  Here is a link that explains Pica if you have a suspicion your cat may have this problem.

How Do I Stop My Cat From Shredding Toilet Paper?

The toilet paper roll must seem like a fun toy to the cat. A couple of swipes and look what happens. 

cat shredded the toilet roll
Compelling Evidence! This is a case of extreme shredding!

As the toilet paper moves easily on the cardboard roll, one solution is to stop the toilet roll from rolling so easily. Ah ha!

Here are two ways to achieve that

1. Squash the cardboard roll a little so that it doesn’t roll smoothly anymore but it can still be used easily.

2. Another simple method to stop the toilet paper roll from rolling is to jam something into the space inside the cardboard roll so that the roll won’t roll.  Something like the handle of a wooden spoon, a small stick or something similar. This can be removed and replaced as needed.

The cat will soon tire of this game when the desired results fail to materialize.

Is the Cat Bored?

Frankly, this is hard to know and really depends on your situation and how much time the cat spends alone. 

There are inexpensive toys filled with cat nip that are made especially for a kitten or cat to chew.  Some of these toys can be refilled with fresh catnip, extending the life of the toy.

Safety is taken into consideration in the making of these toys so this could be something to explore and would keep your cat occupied.

What is with the staring behavior? Cats sometimes seem as though they are staring into space or out into the yard at night or stare at a wall.

Our Cat And His Paper Tearing Exploits

Our cat always liked tearing paper, although not toilet paper.  Maybe he just hadn’t figured out the toilet paper. His specialty was Christmas wrapping paper.

why does my cat shred paper
The fun is just beginning!

On Christmas Day, it is tradition at our place that all of the Christmas wrapping paper is thrown into the middle of the room as each person opens a gift.  

Many Christmas moons ago, when the cat was actually a little kitty, he climbed into the middle of all the paper and to our surprise and amusement began tearing and ripping the paper and flipping his head from side to side. 

He held the paper down with his paws, grabbed the paper in his mouth and just ripped.

He didn’t eat the paper and when paper did stick to his face, he shook his head to dislodge it. 

Are you ready? I’m about to begin!

We were probably unintentionally supporting paper shredding behavior as we responded positively to his efforts and as it was Christmas Day, he did have a larger audience than he would have had normally.

We noticed that he preferred the cheaper, thinner Christmas paper probably because it was easier for him to tear.

That started a tradition where we had to include the cheaper, thinner paper when wrapping gifts, so that kitty could have his own little Christmas tearing session.

It was always a bit touch and go as to whether he would actually go ahead with the tearing. Cats being cats, nothing behavior wise is entirely predictable except unpredictability. Cats can be trained if you have patience and the end result is worth the work.

He has never let us down, even though we have had some slow starts and even thought the paper tearing was going to be a ”no go” that year.

His paper tearing did become a bit problematic there for a few years and it was not safe to leave any documents on A4 white paper, within easy kitty reach as there was a pretty good chance it would be shredded overnight.

Newspaper was fair game too.

the cat tearing newspaper
You can’t ignore it kitty. We know you have been here.

Look at the two bite marks on the edge of the paper. It looks as though he had a tentative nibble, before going in for the full on newspaper kill.

Does your cat headbutt you? This is cute. Um – do you headbutt back?

No Paper Was Out Of Bounds

Newspaper, Christmas Wrapping Paper and Plain Old A4 Paper were all on the hit list.

Several important documents have been shredded. One was a document that I needed to submit to the tax office.  I had to tape the pieces back together like a jigsaw and attach a note of apology. I’m sure it gave someone a laugh but I had no choice.

No the dog did not eat my homework but the cat did shred my tax information.

Several of the kids’ assignments suffered kitty attacks as they were always on white paper and office documents were also shredded until eventually we remembered to put away any potentially tempting pieces of paper.

Why do cats knock things over? This is another fun pastime for cats.


In conclusion there are probably two main reasons why cats shred paper.  

The first relating to the hunt and kill instincts of cats and the second relating to boredom of the domesticated cat.

It is quite possible that as cats have become domesticated these behaviors are interrelated.  There will always be some behaviors from domesticated animals that simply can’t be explained.

In addition, the tactile feel of the paper may also be a trigger for paper tearing.

If paper tearing is bothersome simply remember to put away any documents that look as though they may be fair game for ripping and tearing. 

Does your cat shred paper?

cats reading the paper
Not for us dear!

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