Hey, Stop Chomping the Charmin!
January 4, 2008 10:45 AM   Subscribe

I have a cat who is a wonderful and well-behaved affectionate little guy in most respects. He has an annoying compulsion I don't know how to cure: he loves to eat toilet paper and Kleenex.

I've tried two things. I tried filling a can with coins, sealing it with duct tape, and resting it on top of the roll so that when he starts futzing around with the toilet paper, it would fall and the loud noise would scare him off. He got pinged once or twice by the can, then learned to ignore the roll for a while. I took off the can after he left the roll alone for about two weeks. About four to five days went by and he went back to savaging it.

I also tried a childproof/catproof toilet paper guard. Although he did not unroll the toilet paper, he savaged the heck out of one of the edges.

Additionally, if a Kleenex box is left on my desk, he will take a tissue out and start methodically ripping off pieces of it and eating it (and he knows he's not supposed to go on the desk, either).

This essentially means I need to keep my toilet paper roll resting on my towel rack and my Kleenex on an upper shelf in my closet. I can live with that if I need to; these are not tremendous problems but merely minor-to-middlin' annoyances. But I'd like these things back where they "should" be. (Rescrewing the toilet paper holder up high is something that occurred to me but is not feasible given I'm renting.)

He only does this late at night in the dark when I am in bed, either falling asleep or more usually when I'm already asleep; it's thus impossible for me to spray him with a water bottle in the act, which is the usual disciplinary measure.

Any clues on how to get the cat to once and for all quit it, or, barring that, any other kind of solutions to positively affect the situation?

Linkage to stuff on the Web detailing how people handled this problem also quite welcome.
posted by WCityMike to Pets & Animals (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
does he actually eat it as in swallowing it (this is called pica), or is he just being a brat? also, how old is he? I've found this subsides with age. I've also found that throwing crumpled up bits of paper gives him something to play with so he leaves the TP alone.
posted by desjardins at 11:05 AM on January 4, 2008

Furball #2 did/does this sometime, with ours we noticed when she gets in to that mood it's time to trim her claws and make sure there is something else to scratch. During these periods we generally dose both Furball #1 and Furball #2 with catnip.

I'd go back to the can thing, it sounds like boredom to me, maybe invest in some new toys ?
posted by iamabot at 11:07 AM on January 4, 2008

Response by poster: > does he actually eat it as in swallowing it (this is called pica), or is he just being a brat? also, how old is he? I've found this subsides with age. I've also found that throwing crumpled up bits of paper gives him something to play with so he leaves the TP alone.

I'm fairly certain he does swallow it ... at least, there were pieces missing of the Kleenex, if memory serves. The toilet paper usually had a fairly ragged edge.

Be honest with you, I'm not sure if the answer to your question re: pica is yes or no ...

I shall definitely contemplate the rolled bits of paper ...
posted by WCityMike at 11:11 AM on January 4, 2008

Just because there were pieces missing doesn't mean he ate it. In my experience, they just enjoy ripping stuff up for its own sake. Mine did this with the kleenex/TP for at least a year and suffered no ill effects. You don't need to remove the kleenex; simply turn the box upside down on your desk. They're not that smart. And just close the bathroom door.

You really don't need to BUY toys for cats. The most convenient thing is a cash register receipt of the type of paper that crinkles when you crumple it up. The crinkling noise will almost certainly get his rapt attention, and he'll be eager to hunt it down once you throw it. Of course, he may well eat this too, but it's not likely as long as it's firmly crumpled up (so he can't bite off an end). The other "free" plaything my cats enjoy (and can't eat!) is a plastic bottle cap. If you're a light sleeper, expect to be awakened by the sound of it hitting your baseboards at 3 am.
posted by desjardins at 11:24 AM on January 4, 2008

I've just learned to love it. My cat chews (but doesn't eat) Kleenex, leaving a sacrificial Kleenex at the top of the box with a crunchy edge. I try to keep the Kleenex out of her reach, but she will go to some lengths to find it. She also likes to lick plastic bags, and is unstoppable when she's trying to find one. It's sometimes a little annoying, but mostly I just laugh at it and her -- it's part of what makes her the weird cat she is, and it's one of the things I love about her.
posted by katemonster at 11:36 AM on January 4, 2008

I find that my paper trasher is happy as long as there is a piece of wrapping tissue paper on the floor for him to assault. Otherwise, look out toilet paper. He also loves plastic bags as a diversion.
posted by mightshould at 11:38 AM on January 4, 2008

First, take kitty to the vet for a checkup just to make sure nothing is ailing him physically. Likely it isn't, but CY(and the cat's)A.

Second, provide him with fun kitty toys (mine really does like catnip mice!), some cat grass (wheat and/or oatgrass in a little pot) to nibble on, and places to climb. A kitty perch or condo overlooking a window is like Kitty TV.

Finally, most cats hate the smell of citrus so you might try dabbing orange or lemon oil on the Kleenex box and near the toilet paper roll (no lemon oil ON the TP for obvious reasons!). Put some citrus air freshener near the TP roll. Citrusify the paper goods environment as much as you can. That usually works to keep Kitty away.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 11:52 AM on January 4, 2008

My kitty loves plastic bags. And yes, he eats them. I know because they result in poo lanyards in the litter box, which I'm sure he doesn't enjoy passing.

Anyway, it's mostly been cured by making sure he has something he likes more available... wheat grass! Kitty grass is widely available, and it's actually good for kitties. Try making some available and see if his TP attentions don't wane.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 11:54 AM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

It could be worse, my cat is obsessed with those little desiccant packets that come in shoes that say DO NOT EAT. She will try to destroy anything that gets in the way. Who knows what's going on in her little brain?

I'm seconding pretty much everyone who is saying that he's just bored, especially since it happens after you're asleep (and not there to provide entertainment). He might really enjoy the challenge when you hide it/try to protect the toilet paper. It's kinda the equivalent of those toys they give polar bears, where they have to work to get to the raw meat.

With dogs, you can put some peanut butter into one of those thingies and it will keep them occupied and challenged, but I'm not sure if there's an equivalent for a cat. Maybe someone else has a suggestion.

I know my smarter cats never did like just a plain ball of paper sitting on the ground. This might be the case with your cat as well.
posted by sondrialiac at 12:03 PM on January 4, 2008

Since the cat only does this when you're not right in the area and/or asleep, what is the feasibility of closing the bathroom door when you're not home/asleep? Is the litter box in there too? When we had a cat we left the litter box in the laundry room and closed the bathroom doors.
posted by Doohickie at 12:31 PM on January 4, 2008

Does the kitty have a large scratching thing (post or box or whatever), a cat condo, or some fun cat toys?

Sounds like he's bored and/or lonely during the time you sleep. Make sure there are some fun noise making toys around. Little balls with bells in them (cats enjoy them but you *will not* enjoy them the first time your foot finds one in the dark), crinkly toys with catnip, little mouse shaped toys, etc. Start with the cheap alternatives first - go to your favorite big box store and get some cheap toys. My cat's favorite thing is a piece of carpet that hangs from a doorknob - it was supposedly made so she could scratch it - however, my cat (she is psychotic) loves nothing more than to launch herself at it and swing back and forth on it.

As to solving your toilet paper problem - little guy knows it's always going to be in the same place. You have trained him well on that front. Either move the toilet paper or get a nice decorative box to put it in. (Do not place the toilet paper on the back of the toilet if you leave the seat up.)

You can turn the box of kleenex on your desk upside down and backwards so the kitty can't see the fluffy tissue sticking out. (He will also view this as a game.) You might try stowing the desk kleenex in a drawer or pulling out a wad of kleenex for your use and putting them in a ziploc.)

Also: Be aware that the cat is rubbing his butt all over your desk the second you leave the room. I'm betting your desk is also his favorite napping spot when you're away. You and he both know he's not supposed to be there. Only one of you actually cares about where he's allowed to go, though. And it ain't him.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 12:38 PM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

When I had a paper chewing cat I found the best diversionary toy was an egg carton, one of those ones made of recycled paper mushed up and formed into cardboard. She used to destroy it into bite sized pieces with great relish (I think the thick fibrous paper felt good against her teeth) and this, in turn, made the carton fit better into the recycling. She did grow out of the whole paper thing after eight or nine years, but while she was younger the weekly egg carton was the only thing that stopped her eating my home work.
posted by shelleycat at 2:55 PM on January 4, 2008

my dog actually does this. i figure it's not harming him so i just let him go at it.
posted by violetk at 3:01 PM on January 4, 2008

I'm sorry, no real help except that my kitties have outgrown both of those. I kept the tp and kleenex out of their reach until they outgrew it.

And thank you TheNewWazoo for that incredible phrase (and visual) "poo lanyards." I will be using that (hopefully not too)frequently.
posted by pywacket at 7:14 PM on January 4, 2008

Response by poster: I ended up having the superintendent move the toilet paper roll. Worked like a charm. :)
posted by WCityMike at 8:50 AM on July 8, 2008

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