Is There A Medical Issue?
When cats urinate outside the box, whether that’s on a plastic bag or anything else in the house, there may be an underlying medical problem that needs to be addressed. If your cat has suddenly started urinating plastic bags, the first call you make should be to your veterinarian.
While a variety of conditions can cause cats to urinate outside the box and on items like plastic bags, the most common fall under the category of feline lower urinary tract disease or FLUTD. FLUTD is actually a collection of conditions like urinary tract infections and bladder stones. Other diseases that fall under the FLUTD umbrella have no apparent cause and are referred to as idiopathic cystitis cases– which is just a fancy way of saying we don’t know what’s causing these urinary issues.
Once a cat is suffering from FLUTD, all kinds of strange behaviors can take place including urinating on plastic bags. Cats may have a painful experience urinating in the litterbox as a result of a painful stone and decide that a litterbox is no longer a safe place. They’ll then try different surfaces and for the reasons we’ll cover below, plastic bags are often at the top of the list.
In other cases, like a urinary tract infection, cats may have a powerful urge to frequently urinate and might not feel they can make it to the litterbox. Again, the texture and smell of a plastic bag make it a great option.
Of course, there are plenty of behavioral reasons for a cat to urinate outside the box too and that’s what the rest of this article will focus on. But ruling out medical concerns should always be the first step when our cats decide to pee anywhere strange.
Reason 1: It’s A Chemical Attraction
This isn’t the first time that cats have been fooled by a modern chemical though! Many cats are actually attracted to the smell of ammonia and chlorine because both of these chemicals seem to smell like cat urine to our feline friends. Ammonia makes sense (since it’s in urine) but chlorine is certainly a little strange!
But it’s not only pheromones that could be motivating our cats. Most plastic bags contain animal fats which are used in the manufacturing and production process. According to veterinarian Arnold Plotnick, it’s possible that cats can smell the animal fat in plastic bags which can lead to licking, sitting on plastic bags, or even urinating on it. This can also explain why cats may choose to lick some types of plastic like shower curtains.
Reason 3: Your Cat Likes The Smell
While it might sound similar to our first reason, it’s possible that plastic bags have interesting smells that have nothing to do with the plastic they’re made of.
Two things are going here: first, plastic has a tendency to hold onto the smell of whatever has been inside it, and second, plastic bags are obviously used to carry things! I know, this isn’t breaking news but when you consider the chemical smell plus the smell of whatever you carried in the bag it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that cats are interested in plastic bags.
In some cases, this may lead them to pee on the bag as they try to cover up the strange combination of smells and claim their territory.
Remove Access to Plastic Bags
Yep, it could be that easy and if it is then you’re lucky! If your cat is only peeing on plastic bags, and not other areas of the house, then it’s best to simply ban bags from the house. Go with paper before your cat develops a real habit!
Avoid Punishment and Aversions
What you don’t want to do is try to punish your cat for urinating in unwanted places. Techniques like spraying your cat with water are ineffective and pretty confusing for your cat. It’s very difficult to get your cat to understand that urinating on the bag is the issue and not urinating itself.
What you definitely don’t want to do is lead your cat to believe that urinating is bad behavior!
Our cats do weird things and while it’s easy to just say that cats pee on plastic bags because they’re cats (and that’s what cats do), it’s fair to assume that there’s a good reason why cats take on this strange behavior.
Of course, the first thing we want to rule out is medical issues. But once we know that our feline friends are healthy and fair to say that a combination of chemicals and other smells are probably the most compelling reason for our cats to pee on plastic. The leaf-like sound and texture don’t hurt either!