CattyCorner: Why Does My Cat Lick Plastic And Other Surfaces?

Written by: Kelli Brinegar
For more than five years, Kelli Brinegar has been using her ability to write and her passion for research to tell the tale of what cats are thinking and why. She has provided care to more than 30 cats in her lifetime.Read more
| Published on September 29, 2020

Greetings my pawsome human minions and cat cohorts.

Forrest the cat, back again, with more info that might shed light on why your cat does odd things! And today’s topic is one that often leaves humans scratching their heads and not because of fleas.

I’m a curious sort of guy. It comes naturally and I’ve used the trait to my advantage. I am the wisest set of whiskers on the block and most everyone knows me around here. Which is good because my curiosity does get me into some ‘trouble’ as mom calls it. As I’ve said before, you call it cat crimes, we call it a lifestyle.

cat licks plastic

A Lick of Adventure

For example, the other day I wandered through the back garden into the neighbor’s yard. The humans were bringing in groceries and the door was open, so I slipped into visit the feline friend who lives there.

When mom discovered me over there thanks to my collar tracker, she was in a tizzy, but that’s beside the point. The visit with my feline friend is the meat of our topic today, though mother says I should compile an article on what stress over a missing cat does to a human’s heart. Good gravy, a cat can’t have any fun sometimes!

cats lick surfaces

Anyhow, let us return to my neighbor friend, a Siamese of strangeness. She just sees the world a little differently through her crossed blue eyes. She’s got a few quirks for sure and today she was licking the bags her mom was hauling in from the car. Ms. Meezer was going to town, a silly cat licking plastic bags. There wasn’t even cat food in those grocery sacks either!

When her mom walked in and saw Ms. Meezer licking the bag, she shook her head. As I watched the whole scene, she asked me, “Forrest, why does my cat lick stuff?”

I helped unpack the groceries, earning myself a tuna fish treat in the process, and explained there are a couple of reasons cats lick nonfood surfaces.

cat licks metal

Why Cats Lick Plastic and Other Surfaces

I fostered with a cat who had an obsession with licking the base of a lamp. He’d come from a house where he didn’t get much attention or stimulation. So, for entertainment, he’d lick surfaces that felt funny on his tongue. He said magazines were his favorite because they were so smooth.

Our foster mom whisked Cliff to the vet, worried about pica, which is a fancy word for craving or consuming nonfood items.

But what causes pica?

Some breeds, like Ms. Meezer the Siamese, are more prone to pica. In addition to the Siamese, other Eastern breeds like the Birman and the Tonkinese are more likely to lick strange stuff.

pica cats

In Cliff’s case, the licking behavior developed due to under-stimulation. Cliff the cat licked things because he was bored. It was his only form of fun. That and tearing up the carpet. Which found him bounced from that house and into the shelter. Sad, but now, I’ve heard he’s living with two other kitties in a swank house with their very own catio.

Even though we could never be bored at our foster home, the habit stuck with him when it came to the lamps. He said the cold metal felt good on his tongue.


Luckily, Cliff wasn’t sick. Pica can also be an indication of poor health or nutritional deficiencies in cats.

At the shelter, nervous cats licked things when they got their fur up. Stress had the cats licking everything to calm their frazzled nerves. Maybe my mom needs to lick a magazine to calm down. She’s still grumbling at me for my visit with Ms. Meezers.

cat licking surfaces

By the way, Ms. Meezers has an appointment with the vet this week for a check-up to see if she’s got any nutritional imbalance issues going on. I think her diet is fine though and her breed answers the question behind her licking quirk. But all this talk of cat nutrition reminds me…

Don’t forget to feed the cat.

Feature Image: @orphansofthestorm/Instagram