Why Is My Cat Fake Chewing? (More Than Meets The Eye)

Why Is My Cat Fake Chewing

One thing that my cat is good at is making me guess and laugh at his behavior. But there can be times when our cat’s behavior can leave us feeling somewhat concerned.

What if you notice that your cat is chewing at something but there’s nothing in your cat’s mouth?

Cats may ‘fake chew’ as a form of displacement behavior when they are conflicted or anxious. This can be due to changes in the environment, medical conditions such as dental problems, or even just an eccentric personal habit.

Dive in with us as we unscramble this baffling feline behavior, exploring every possible explanation, from the benign to the worrisome.

What Is Fake Chewing?

‘Fake chewing’ refers to the behavior when your cat seems to be making a chewing motion without anything present in their mouth.

It might seem as if they’re chewing gum that isn’t there. Your cat will just be opening and closing its empty mouth.

You can even hear a ‘smacking’ sound as your cat chews.

Here are some possible causes of fake chewing in your cat.


“Cats have 26 baby teeth that will give way to 30 adult teeth.”

Just like human babies, kittens go through a teething phase.

This is the period in their early life when they lose their temporary ‘milk teeth’ and develop their permanent adult teeth.

Kittens start teething at around 3 months of age and by the time they’re about 6 months old, they should have a full set of adult teeth.

Cats have 26 baby teeth that will give way to 30 adult teeth.

If your cat is around this age, teething can be an uncomfortable time for many kittens.

The process can lead to an itchy or sore mouth and you can see your poor cat chewing on many things to try and ease the soreness, including the air!

Giving your kitten ice cubes or cold water can help soothe their aching and inflamed gums.

Symptoms of teething in kittens include:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Excessive chewing
  • Slight bleeding of the gums
  • Drooling
  • Pawing at the mouth

The good thing about teething in kittens is that it only lasts for a couple of months.

You can help your cat by letting it chew on a cold towel to help with the soreness.

Flehmen Response

We always talk about how great a dog’s sense of smell is. But do you know that your cat’s smell is just as good or even better?

Cats do a better job of detecting different types of scents with the use of their Jacobson organ.

This organ is a sensory system that is located on the roof of your cat’s mouth.

When your cat detects an unusual scent, it will keep its mouth open to absorb the scent into its Jacobson organ and analyze it.

Some cats can even make a chewing motion as they try to figure out the scent

Oral Diseases

Do you know that more than 50% of cats older than 4 years of age have some degree of dental disease?

This can be due to poor dental hygiene or health problems such as FeLV or FIV.

My cat has the majority of his teeth extracted at the age of 4 due to his FeLV.

The majority of dental diseases start with the accumulation of plaque and tartar on the teeth. When not removed it will start to eat away at the cat’s gums and teeth.

Here are the common types of dental problems in cats:

  • Gingivitis
  • Periodontal disease
  • Abscessed tooth

When it comes to dental diseases, it usually starts with the gums before slowly spreading down to the root of the tooth.

Symptoms include:

  • Bad breath
  • Loss in appetite
  • Bleeding gums
  • Drooling
  • Hiding more than usual

When your cat is experiencing mouth pain, fake chewing might be a way for your cat to self-soothe, similar to how a person might rub a sore muscle.

The best way to prevent dental problems in your cat is to brush its teeth regularly.

I have done it many times with my cat and he hates it every time.

So be prepared for a lot of resistance but it is definitely for your cat’s benefit in the long run.

Make sure to use a cat-safe toothpaste as human ones contain artificial sweeteners which are toxic to cats.

Mouth Injury

An injury to your cat’s mouth can also be a reason for the sudden onset of fake chewing.

This isn’t similar to dental diseases and can be caused by physical trauma, a fight with another animal or an accident.

A mouth injury could involve:

Your cat’s mouth is such a sensitive area and the slightest injury or impediment can cause your cat to start chewing to try and ease the discomfort.

Signs of a mouth injury include

  • Bleeding
  • Swelling
  • Unable to eat
  • Drooling
  • Pawing at the mouth

It is important to get your cat examined by a vet as soon as possible.

Mouth injuries can become serious if left untreated and can be very painful for your cat.

Anxiety And Stress

“This fake chewing thing is your cat’s way of dealing with its anxiety.”

anxious looking cat

Cats, like humans, can experience a range of emotions, including stress and anxiety.

Their reactions to these feelings can be quite diverse and fake chewing might be one of those manifestations.

Your cat’s chewing of nothing is also known as displacement behavior where it engages in one erratic behavior to help offset an emotion.

In humans, some will binge eat or drink when feeling these negative emotions.

This fake chewing thing is your cat’s way of dealing with its anxiety.

As cat owners, we all know that our feline friends are very sensitive creatures and can get freaked out for many reasons.

My cat has asthma and needs to use the nebulizer on a daily basis. He can tolerate the treatment but gets anxious about it.

cat in nebulizer chamber
My cat in his customized nebulizer chamber for asthma

He does this thing where he lips his lips together with a chewing motion. Sounds like he is eating peanut butter.

The most common causes of anxiety and stress in cats are:

  • Change in environment
  • Addition of a new pet or family member

Cats are creatures of habit and don’t take too well to sudden changes.

But with time, they can adapt and learn to socialize better.


“Some speculate that it could be due to the excess of vitamin D in commercial cat food.”

Bruxism is also known as teeth grinding and can be another possible cause of your cat’s chewing thing.

It involves the grinding, gnashing, or clenching of teeth and is usually due to an underlying medical reason, especially dental disease.

Feline tooth reabsorption is said to be a major cause of bruxism in cats and it can affect up to 60% of adult cats.

And the scary thing is that scientists don’t really know what causes this problem in cats.

Some speculate that it could be due to the excess of vitamin D in commercial cat food.

As the name implies, the cat’s body will start to break down and reabsorb the tooth.

Cat breeds that are prone to having misaligned teeth such as the Persian or Siamese are at greater risk of Bruxism.

Digestive Problems

Your cat’s fake chewing could also be an early indication of a digestive issue.

These tummy problems can include:

  • Indigestion
  • Dietary allergies
  • Acid reflux
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Gastrointestinal obstruction

Any of the above problems can start to increase the amount of saliva and also make them feel nauseous.

One sign that your cat is about to regurgitate or vomit is when it starts licking its lips.

Quirky Habit

All of our cats are special individuals and come with their own quirky set of behaviors and habits.

My cat loves announcing to the entire neighborhood before and after he takes a dump.

Maybe yours just likes to make a fake chewing motion just for the fun of it.

Just another cute cat being weird.

Should I Take My Cat To The Vet?

cat at vet

If your cat’s fake chewing doesn’t seem to be linked to any health issues and isn’t causing it any distress, there isn’t a need to be alarmed.

But if you do notice a change in your cat’s behavior especially a lack of appetite or hiding more than usual, please take to your cat to the vet asap.


Why Does My Cat Make Weird Chewing Noise?

Your cat could be making strange chewing noises due to a dental issue, such as tooth decay or gum disease, that causes discomfort while eating. It may be a sign of a behavioral issue, such as anxiety or stress which may result in unusual chewing or grinding sounds.

Why Does My Cat Randomly Bite The Air?

Your cat may randomly bite the air due to itchiness or irritation, a compulsive behavior or even a reaction to perceived prey. It could also indicate a dental problem if the cat is trying to relieve discomfort in its mouth.

Why Does My Cat Keep Moving Its Mouth?

This can be due to oral discomfort from dental issues or gum disease, a foreign object in the mouth or nausea. Sometimes, this behavior can also be related to respiratory problems.

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