How to Redirect Chewing Behaviors in Cats

Most cats love to rub their faces on the edges of things to deposit their scent there. It's very satisfying for them to do so. But what if that rubbing becomes chewing? Judy C. writes:

My cat, Buffy, chews metal. She has chewed off bars for adjusting a lamp and has chewed a hole in a window screen. Not sure why she does this.

Judy, what cats choose to rub on depends greatly on what items are available to them. Things that stick out, like the bars on your lamp, are prime choices because they're easy to access and the ends rub Buffy's face in just the right way to satisfy her.

Our black spokescat loves to rub her face all over a used coffee cup because she likes the feel of the edge of the cup and the smell of the coffee.

It's a short step to go from rubbing on something to chewing on it and Buffy's clearly taken that step. You need to redirect her rubbing and chewing toward something she'll like even better. Many cats respond to the prickly surfaces on toys such as these self-groomers:

All three of these have been a huge hit in our house! To get Buffy to transition, you might want to put one of these toys close to spots where she used to rub against the lamp. Cats are creatures of habit, so it may take a little bit of time to get her to move to the new groomer, but once she tries it, she'll probably like it much better than the prickly metal she's been using. Just observe her and make sure she isn't chewing bits off the groomers. The nubs are usually short enough that this isn't an issue but with a particularly chewy cat, it's a possibility.

You'll also want to discourage Buffy from using the old items, so just rub a little bit of lemon juice on them. Cats generally hate citrus and one whiff should send her running to her new toy. It also has the advantage of not having anything but natural ingredients. Never use a citrus cleaner or air freshener for this purpose as they often contain things that could actually kill cats! Just use plain old lemon juice.

You should be able to redirect Buffy's behavior, but it will take a little time. Just be patient with her and you should see results. We wish you and Buffy all the best!