My Cat Ate a Napkin: What Now? (Solved & Explained!)

Cats are naturally curious creatures, and there is something about paper products that intrigue them. Whether it is the small, the feeling, or the act of shredding the paper that appeals to them, you aren’t alone if you’ve seen your cat nibbling on a napkin or piece of paper from your printer tray. But, what happens if your car eats an entire napkin? 

While cats can generally pass small amounts of paper products, such as napkins, without any issue, large amounts can be problematic. Cats can not break down the cellulose found in napkins and if consumed in large quantities there is the risk for a blockage in their gastrointestinal system. 

In this article we will discuss the dangers of your cat eating napkins, when to call a veterinarian, why cats eat napkins, and how to prevent this from happening. 

What Are the Dangers Of Your Cat Eating A Napkin? 

When discussing the dangers of cats eating napkins it is important to know how much your cat has ingested. If they have simply taken a few bites of a napkin, chewed some and spit it out, shredded some, etc. then this isn’t a huge cause for concern. 

When consumed in small amounts, although it isn’t digestible, the pieces will simply turn to mush in their digestive tract and be passed along with the rest of their food. 

However, if your cat has consumed an entire napkin or potentially an entire stack of napkins, then you may have reason to be concerned. 

In this situation it is possible for the napkins to create an obstruction in their gut. This would prevent the cat from passing any of their food and can be severe if not taken care of. 

You should treat gut obstruction as an emergency and contact a veterinarian as soon as possible. 

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How Do I Recognize Gut Obstruction In My Cat? 

If you aren’t sure how to tell if your cat has a n obstruction in their gut from the napkin, consider how much they ate. If it seems like a large amount, look for the following signs: 

  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Abdominal pain

If you see any of these signs in your cat you should contact a veterinarian professional immediately. It is important that you do not try to induce vomiting in your cat without receiving specific guidance from your vet to do so. 

Your vet will likely recommend an ultrasound or radiograph to identify where the blockage is. Depending on the location it can be removed with an endoscope or surgery. 

Why Is My Cat Eating Napkins? 

If you’ve noticed your cat has been eating bits of napkins more often you may be dumbfounded as to why this is happening and how to stop it. 

Some cats are just more curious than others and will play with napkins or other paper products out of curiosity. They may decide they like the texture, taste, or smell and keep coming back to play more. 

If your cat only does this every so often and doesn’t often consume large quantities of the napkin it plays with then this shouldn’t be any cause for concern. 

However, if it seems as though your cat is frequently going after and eating napkins this could point to a disorder known as Pica. 

What Is Pica? 

Pica is a disorder categorized by the compulsion to eat non-food items. This disorder isn’t unique to cats and can actually be seen in humans, dogs, and many other animals. If your cat regularly is eating paper then it is possible they may be suffering from Pica. 

Some reasoning your cat may be going after paper as a result of Pica could be: 

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  • Curiosity
  • Boredom
  • Entertainment
  • Teething
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • OCD
  • Medical conditions
  • Nutritional deficiencies

You should consult with your vet if you believe your cat is suffering from Pica to determine the root cause of the issue.

What Are Basic Ways To Stop Cats From Eating Napkins? 

If you want to help encourage your cat to stop eating napkins or other paper products before it becomes an issue there are a few things you can do. 

The first and perhaps most obvious way to stop this behavior is to keep all paper products out of reach. You may consider placing them in a room and shutting the door or keeping them in a locked cabinet. This will prevent your cat from accessing them and should solve the issue.  

Other options include providing enrichment for your cat and training them. 

Enrichment simply means making the environment your cat lives in more entertaining and stimulating. You should spend time playing and bonding with your cat everyday. You can also consider providing them with safe cat toys and scratchers around the house to release their energy. 

Your cat may even benefit from you adding vertical spaces to your home, such as cat shelves that they can explore. 

If you need to take it to the next step you can try training a stubborn cat to stop going after paper products. Most cats, especially those that are food motivated, respond fairly well to clicker training. If you implement this with your cat and remain consistent you will likely be able to curb their napkin snatching behavior. 

Final Thoughts: Napkin Consumption Only Problematic In Large Quantities

If your cat has simply taken a few bites from a napkin this isn’t any reason for concern, and in fact is perfectly normal cat behavior. Most cats will attempt to ex[lore their environment and may be drawn to shredding and nibbling on napkins. 

However, it is important to know how to recognize gut obstruction in your cat and know when their behavior is out of control. Always contact a vet if you notice signs of gut obstruction. 

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If this behavior is problematic and causing health issues in your pet it may be best to start training them to avoid napkins, placing the napkins out of reach, or enriching their environment. 

Most often if a cat eats a small amount of paper product such as a napkin they will be able to pass it without any issue, just monitor your pet to make sure they are behaving normally.