The common consensus is that cats hate aluminum foil. In fact, many sources claim that you can use aluminum foil to keep your cat out of areas you don’t want them in.
You can put it behind your TV to keep them away from your wires. Put it on the counter to keep them from raiding your pantry at night.
This may be true for most cats, but some of them actually love aluminum foil, and will even eat it. Of all the things for a cat to eat, why would they eat aluminum foil?
Why does my cat eat tin foil?
Cats are predators, but they aren’t scavengers. At least, they aren’t supposed to be. Still, I find my cat scavenging through my trash on a regular basis. One of their favorite treasures is tin foil.
I didn’t think that much about it at first, but when I found her snacking on the foil, I decided it was time to do something. Starting with learning why they eat aluminum foil in the first place.
Mistaken for Food
One of the most common uses for aluminum foil is to cover food. You cover a dish with aluminum foil, and then place it in the oven. Perhaps you even line your pans with foil, to make clean up easier.
If the aluminum foil has the smell or taste of food on it, it’s no surprise you find your cat eating it. To them, it smells like food. It tastes like food. It must be food, right?
Most cats love playing with aluminum foil. Some cats love loose foil. They will paw at it, enjoying the crinkling sound and feel of it. Others may be scared of loose foil, but love to play with balls of foil.
These can seem like a perfectly safe toy for your cat. After all, household items, I’m looking at you cardboard box, can be some of the best cat toys of all. However, aluminum foil can actually be dangerous for your kitty, particularly if they eat it.
Cats may play with their food, but it may catch you by surprise if you see them eating something they are playing with.
Why do they do this? It’s likely because its part of their instinct. Hunting and playing are very closely linked for cats. With hunting, comes eating the prey. It’s possible that cats will eat things they are playing with because consuming it is a natural end of the hunting process.
Pica is the term for eating nonfood items. It occurs in cats, dogs, and even humans. Some cats with pica will be indiscriminate, eating many types of nonfood items. Others may eat only one inappropriate thing, like aluminum foil.
Physical Causes of Pica
There’s no concrete cause of Pica, but experts have several ideas as to potential causes. These include being weaned too young, genetics, and dietary deficiencies. Cats who are weaned too early are more likely to suck nonfood items, but they can eat them as well. Blankets are the most common choice for these cats, but they may also eat other items, including foil.
Dietary deficiencies can drive cats to eat nonfood items like tin foil as well. This is similar to a woman having strange cravings during pregnancy. Her body says she needs nutrients that she is not getting, and provides cravings to get her to eat foods that contain these nutrients.
Sometimes, the wires seem to get crossed. I had a horrible craving for fast food hamburgers when I was pregnant. For about a month, I struggled to keep anything else down. I am sure that whatever my body was craving, it wasn’t getting from McD’s.
It can also have behavioral causes. Stress and boredom are the most common behavioral causes of Pica. When a cat is stressed, they may eat strange items as a way of comforting themselves. It’s their version of eating ice cream when upset.
Other cats may eat aluminum foil out of boredom. They eat strange objects just to have something to do.
If a cat is bored or stressed, they will show other behavioral signs as well. These include excessive grooming, meowing, and clinginess. Some cats can become aggressive or destructive when experiencing boredom or anxiety as well.
How to get my cat to stop eating tin foil?
If your cat has an affinity for chowing on tin foil, you’ll need to keep an eye on them. Cats are notorious for doing what they want, but there are some ways you can keep them safe, and foil their foil desires.
Put Away the Foil
The most obvious way to prevent your cat from eating tin foil is to not allow them access to any. This means never putting tin foil in an area your cat can reach. Don’t toss it in your trash can, unless you have a lid on it. Don’t use it as a cat deterrent, obviously.
Find Appropriate Toys
If your cat is editing aluminum foil because they enjoy playing with it, you’ll need to find them more appropriate toys. If they love the sound of the foil, a baby crinkle toy can work well. This gives them the sound they love, but prevents them from eating foil.
If they love batting aluminum balls, ping pong balls are a great substitute. They are light like aluminum balls, and cats love the way they bounce.
High tech toys can also provide your cat with entertainment. There are many power operated toys, that can entertain your cat when you don’t have the chance to play with them.
Find Another Deterrant
If you are using aluminum foil as a cat deterrent, there are other options that your cat can’t eat. Plastic mats are an excellent choice. Choose the type with bristles. Most cats hate walking on them, and will avoid them.
Scent deterrents are another option. They can be used to keep your cat out of areas where they can get into trouble. You can buy a deterrent spray, or make your own from orange or peppermint essential oils.
Lastly, you can use a physical barrier. If your cat likes going behind the TV, for example, a piece of metal, plastic, or wood can prevent them from hanging out back there. A decorate sign or screen is a great way to keep your cat out without ruining your decor.
What happens if a cat eats tin foil?
You just caught your cat chowing down on the aluminum foil you used when cooking dinner. You stare at them, and wonder what will happen now. Will they be ok? Should you rush them to the vet? Induce vomiting? Or just wait and see?
In most cases, the cat will pass the tin foil with no problems. However, tin foil can be dangerous to cats if they eat it. It can cause a bowel blockage or intestinal bleeding.
An intestinal blockage is a possibility when your cat eats anything they are unable to digest. Foreign objects, including aluminum foil, are the most common cause. However, hairballs can also cause a blockage.
When your cat eats something their body can’t digest, the only option their body has is to allow it to work its way through the digestive tract and out in their poop. However, the object can get caught in the digestive tract, causing a blockage. The body isn’t designed to pass solid objects through the system, but digested food pieces.
A blockage can be partial, linear, or complete. A complete blockage is the most dangerous. It completely blocks the digestive tract, preventing food from digesting or waste from coming out.
A partial blockage allows some things to pass through, like an incomplete dam. Some partial blockages don’t show any symptoms, but they can also show the same symptoms as a complete blockage.
A linear blockage occurs when the cat eats something like fishing line or string. In this case, it’s the length of the item that causes it to get stuck.
Depending on the blockage and how long ago it occurred, treatment can consist of inducing vomiting, endoscopy, or intestinal surgery.
Signs of an intestinal blockage include:
- Abdominal pain
- Vomiting and Diarrhea
- Lack of appetite
The other concern when a cat eats aluminum foil is internal bleeding. Aluminum foil may seem benign, but it’s possible for the edges or sharp corners to cut or puncture the delicate digestive tract.
You probably know how badly paper can cut your fingertips. It seems harmless, until you get a paper cut. Aluminum foil is similar. You think it can’t hurt you, or your cat, until you experience it for yourself.
The good news is that internal bleeding from aluminum foil is uncommon. The thickness of the foil makes it difficult, but not impossible, for it to cut soft tissue. Unfortunately, internal bleeding isn’t readily visible, so it’s easy to miss the signs if it does happen to your kitty.
Signs of internal bleeding include:
- Faster breathing
- Collapse or unconsciousness
- Pale mucous membranes
If your cat has internal bleeding, it’s easy to notice that something isn’t right. As the blood leaves the bloodstream, your cat will have less blood flow and oxygen. This will cause lethargy, weakness, and faster breathing.
You may also notice that their gums are pale, because they have less red blood cells. Their paws may be cold due to reduced blood flow as well. Their stomach can be swollen. You may notice bleeding from their butt as well.