Is Your Cat a Feline Shredding Machine?


Picture this scene: You’ve finally settled down for the night to watch your favorite TV show. One of your cats has installed himself in your lap and has curled himself up in a super-cute ball of purring fluff. You get ready to take a sip of your favorite beverage, and just as you’re about to put the glass to your lips, you hear it.

“Pop, rrrrrrip. Pop, rrrrrrrrip. Pop, pop, rrrrrrrrip.”

"Oh, no. What’s she getting into this time?" you ask yourself as you discombobulate the comfortable cat (and get a side-eye scowl for your efforts) and run to the source of the noise.

You arrive to find your cat hard at work, ripping something to shreds. She looks at you, startled … and then goes right back to mangling the object of her toothy passion.

This happens to me on a regular basis.

My cat, Bella, just loves to chew. Cardboard is her favorite, but if she can’t find cardboard, she’ll be glad to chew on paper. Envelopes, important notes, junk mail, to-do lists, magazines — you name it, she’s shredded it.

Bella’s favorite target these days is the edge of a Trader Joe’s double-wide cardboard scratcher. I have three of them in my house, and all of them have tooth marks along the side. I’ve caught her in the process of mangling my bills, which I wouldn’t mind except for the fact that I don’t think the power company would accept "the cat ate my check" as an excuse for being delinquent on my payment.

If there’s anything good about Bella’s annoying habit, it’s that she doesn’t gnaw on plastic or fabric — although she has chewed through the wires of a cell phone headset and a USB cord — and she doesn’t actually eat the stuff she shreds. She just leaves pieces of it all over the floor.

Teething is a fairly common reason for cats to start chewing on stuff, but at 18 months, Bella is well past that stage of her life. Nonetheless, I give her plenty of toys to satisfy her chewing urges.

Does that help? Well, sort of. I was thrilled when she went crazy over the chirping cardinal toy I bought her. Every night she played with it, and the cheeping and chirping of the toy as Bella bit, swatted and pounced on it made me smile with delight. But in about a week, she became bored with it and went back to shredding.

What else do I do in an attempt to minimize the damage?

  • I exercise Bella until she’s exhausted. But it’s been so hot in my top-floor apartment that I’ve backed off on the exercise for fear of giving the cats heat stroke. It’s all fun and games until you have to rush your kitty to the emergency clinic!
  • I hide my new phone headset and every other piece of important wire in a Tupperware container or a drawer, and pray that she doesn’t decide that the wires connecting my keyboard and mouse to my computer are tasty chew toys.
  • I put every piece of precious paper in my office and close the door. Even so, the recycling bin and the other two cardboard scratchers provide Bella with material for her gnawing fix, so I still get the joy of the aural stimulation and the mess.

Needless to say, none of these methods work all the time. And sometimes I’m just too tired (and hot and sweaty) to deal with them.

Do you have a feline shredding machine? What have you done to put a stop to the destruction? Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments.

About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal shelter volunteer, and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their cat advice column, Paws and Effect, since 2003. JaneA dreams of making a great living out of her love for cats.

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