Cat playing with toilet paper

My cat constantly plays with the toilet paper — she unrolls it and bats it around and makes a huge mess. Why does she do this, and is there some way to put a stop to this behavior?

Having your house TP’d from the inside by your own cat may seem like a cruel prank. Toilet paper streamers aren’t anyone’s ideal home decor, and the constant cleanup may well feel frustrating.

Your cat may play with the toilet paper for several reasons: She may be acting on her instinct to hunt, imitating your actions in the bathroom or just trying to keep herself occupied during the day. Regardless of her motivation, the solution is to redirect her away from the TP and get her focused on something more constructive — and less messy.

To end the mess, focus on redirecting your cat’s energy to more acceptable alternative behaviors.

Put a Stop to the TP Party

You will have the best chance of putting a stop to the constant TP party if you focus on prevention plus redirection. Closing the bathroom door when you’re not around makes this space off-limits to your cat. A toilet paper holder that covers the roll may be another useful alternative, especially if it’s difficult to keep the bathroom door closed all the time.

Provide other outlets for your cat and reward her when she chooses them. Cats have an instinctive desire to hunt, and because of this, they appreciate interactive toys that respond to their movements and can be ripped and pulled apart similar to killing and devouring prey. Food puzzles are one good option. There are a range of food puzzles for cats designed to provide a more natural hunting-type experience. Movable puzzles where contents are unearthed with paw action may be especially beneficial in this situation.

Start with easy-to-access food puzzles; as your cat learns how to make them work, increase the difficulty. Puzzles may be filled with kibble or treats.

Additionally, you can encourage explorative behavior by hiding food puzzles, kibble, treats, cat grass and prized toys throughout your home in areas your cat is particularly fond of, like perches or climbing structures. Rotate toys and hidden items to help keep the activity interesting for your cat.

Keep Kitty Busy

Your cat will also benefit from regularly scheduled daily training, play or interactive time. Choose activities that are fun for both of you, like learning a trick or playing with a feather toy. Set aside five to 15 minutes one to three times a day to spend interacting with your cat.

When you’re not around, interactive, independent toys, such as those with remote-control options, motion-sensor toys, timed toys or hanging toys for batting, can also help entertain your feline. Keeping her occupied may make it less likely that she will attack the toilet paper.

If your cat has a special preference for paper-like items, consider offering designated alternatives she can claw up and bed down in, such as stuffing a cardboard box with shredded or crumpled-up paper or newspaper (but only if your cat doesn’t eat paper). Additionally, ensure that scratching posts are placed in easily accessible areas.

When kitty plays with the right toys or engages in appropriate activities, reward her with things she finds reinforcing like treats, play, petting or praise. If kitty’s caught in the act of clawing up paper, nonchalantly redirect her away and clean up the scene of the crime while she’s out of view. Punishment only heightens problems and relationship tension and may inadvertently reinforce the behavior.

Finally, if your cat is eating the paper, seek help from a specialist like a veterinary behaviorist.

More on Vetstreet: