The Crinkle Factor
Some cats simply enjoy playing in and around plastic bags because, well, it's fun. The crinkly noise those bags make a sound similar to prey scuttling through grass and leaves - which could be part of the reason some cats find it so enticing. Cats are innate hunters who need mental stimulation. If you notice your cat is attracted to the sound of a crinkling bag, find them crinkly cat toys that imitate this sound to encourage them to play with the toy instead. Plastic bags are potential choking and suffocation hazards, even for cats. Crinkly cat toys are often filled with catnip, too, making it extra fun!
Leftover Food Smells
Plastic bags are soft and porous and readily absorb the smells of their contents. It could be as simple as that yummy rotisserie chicken you picked up from the grocery store left its tantalizing smell on the bag, and your cat just has to have a taste.
Plastic shopping bags are often created using biodegradable materials containing corn starch. Some cats might find this starchy, corny smell, and taste delicious. The more likely cause? Plastics, and plastic bags, are often treated with stearates, which are derived from animal fat or tallow. Others use materials like fish oils or even fish scales to keep the plastic from sticking together. All these flavorful materials attract a cat's keen sense of smell, especially as a carnivore. Animal fat and fish oil are right up their alley!
They're Just Plain Bored
Cats are intelligent creatures that need mental and physical stimulation, just like us humans. So if your cat's playing around in plastic bags (or whatever might be lying around), it could be because your cat is simply looking for something new and exciting. If you're not home during the day, leave your cat toys that will that give indoor enrichment for your kitty in your absence.
Provide your favorite feline with toys that they can bat around and play with at their own leisure. Catnip-filled toys are a great choice as the catnip also stimulates and encourages your cat to play - instead of nap all day.
Some veterinary behaviorists believe that licking or sucking on plastic (or other strange materials) may be a mild version of a compulsive disorder called "wool sucking." This disorder is linked to pica, which is the compulsive eating of non-food items. It is thought some cats do this as an attempt to get nutrients that aren't present in their diet. If your cat seems to get into a licking frenzy when stressed or upset or they lick frequently, it might be time to see a vet.
Is it Dangerous?
Licking plastic bags might not be the best idea for your kitty - you don't know if they were treated with any chemicals or substances that shouldn't be ingested. And when it comes to chewing and swallowing plastic bags, things can get dicey. Plastic isn't digestible and can lead to blockages in your cat's intestines, which can be dangerous. Like human toddlers, cats probably shouldn't be left unsupervised to play with a plastic bag. Provide your kitty with fun alternatives, like crinkly cat-safe toys, or just make the switch to a reusable grocery tote!