Categories: dangers to cats

Scotch tape is a household hazard for domestic cats

I didn’t know it because I’ve never seen my cat try to eat Scotch tape i.e. transparent, one-sided tape that we all use, but too many cats like to sniff it, chew it and even eat it. Why do they do this? And is it dangerous? Well, you can answer the latter question very straightforwardly: it is dangerous. It must be dangerous because it is a non-nutritional, non-food item which is hard and which is liable to become lodged in the throat or in the intestinal tract. It will be a foreign body inside their body and that is something no cat guardian can accept.

Quincy a cat addicted to eating tape. Photo: Artway blog author.

The first question is the more difficult one and the truth of the matter is that the experts don’t know the answer for sure. Clearly there is something in the plastic or the glue (or both) which attracts domestic cats. One person says that the glue is made with animal fat. If that’s true (it is) then it could be attractive. Some cats actually like plastic. Perhaps it is the way it looks or the noise it makes which attracts them. Or perhaps it is animal products in both plastic and glue which is the attractant.

If he [Quincy] happens to stumble upon anything remotely adhesive in nature, he is on it like a crack head, chewing away until he becomes sick to his stomach and makes a mess on our floor. – Author of the Artway blog on WordPress.

Michelle Burch DVM, a veterinarian and writer, agrees that cats may be attracted to the smell of the adhesive and the taste of it. The texture of the tape and the fact that it crinkles may be of interest to a domestic cat.

An alternative viewpoint is that is a simple case of Pica which is a desire by cats to eat non-food items. The reasons for this are also unknown if we are honest. It may be caused by their environment or experiences i.e. boredom or possibly being weaned too early. It is an uncomfortable feline behavioural trait which is often written about but little understood.

I used to have a cat called Sooty who adored licking plastic carrier bags from the supermarket – although not all supermarket bags – and soap – Ellie Ansty – Soap contains animal fat.

There may be a link here with the fact that some domestic cats like to lick plastic carrier bags from the supermarket. There is something in the plastic which attracts them. It is probably traces of an animal product. I’m told that plastic bags contain “slip agents”. These are made of animal fat and they reduce the friction in the material. Although plastic is made from petroleum products the manufacturers use additives of animal origin to improve the material. This then is the probable reason why cats lick plastic supermarket bags.

Glues contain boiled-down animal tissue and bone, depending upon the glue being manufactured. This too probably helps to explain why domestic cats like Scotch tape. The animal products in both glue and plastic is my personal reason why a domestic cat might like to chew Scotch tape encouraged by boredom.

I have the exact same problems with my cat….Currently I’m monitoring her because she’s swallowed a length of scotch tape, possibly as long as 3 1/2 inches. I’ve learned to keep it out of reach, I don’t know how on earth she finds it. – Commenter on the Artway blog.

As it is dangerous for cats to do this, the only solution is to be careful not to leave bits of tape lying around the home. It’s another example of a household hazard for the domestic cat of which cat owners need to be aware. There are many others. Christmas is a time when it is more likely that bits of tape are lying around. And it is not only Scotch tape. All tapes are potential hazards.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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