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- Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
Does your cat’s love of shoes run deep? While we can appreciate a stylish new pair of loafers, cats seem to take this fondness for shoes to the next level. They love chewing shoes, sleeping on shoes, playing with shoes, and hogging them at inopportune times (before work is a favorite). This feline obsession with footwear had us wondering why cats like shoes.
For the most part, cats like shoes for comfort and play. One of the best sources of comfort for cats is smell. Cats love shoes and feet because they smell like their favorite human! A cat who nuzzles or lays on shoes could also be marking the shoes (and their owner) as familiar and safe.
Let’s dive into other common reasons your cat loves shoes.
Your Cat Is Marking Their Territory
Does your cat like to roll around on your shoes? Or maybe they rub their head against them? “Cats secrete pheromones all over their bodies, but glands in the cheeks are some of the most active,” explains Dr. Patrik Holmboe, lead veterinarian at Cooper Pet Care.
Dr. Holmboe adds that this is the reason you so often see cats rub their heads against shoes. “Shoes (for better or for worse) have strong smells individual to that human, so cats take the opportunity to mark them particularly,” he explains.
While head-butting is one of the cuter ways cats mark their territory (including your shoes), it isn’t the only way. Sometimes cats will spray or urine mark to establish turf boundaries.
They’re Obsessed With Shoelaces
String is a favorite for cats. This could stem from their natural prey drive, or maybe they’re interested in the unique way string moves. But the number one reason cats are drawn to shoelaces and string: it’s FUN!
“Most cats (and especially kittens) love to play,” Dr. Holmboe explains. “In the wild, cats will play with all sorts of things—from actual moving animals such as mice and insects to inanimate objects such as twigs and other plant material.” Whether this fascination with laces is rooted in instinct, a desire to learn, or just a means of entertainment, it’s always hilarious to watch.
They Are Interested In The Smell
Shoes are one of the smellier items in our homes—and that’s a good thing. At least for our cats, who are partial to the smell of their favorite human’s feet. Your cat likes sniffing your shoes because they smell like you. So, if your kitty can’t get enough of your shoes, they’re probably just enjoying your unique aroma (aww).
Cats have extraordinary sniffers, with 40 times more olfactory receptors than humans. They’re also equipped with an extra scent-detecting organ on the roofs of their mouths called the vomeronasal organ. Smell is a fundamental part of how cats interpret their world. Some smells spell danger (citrus, for example), and other smells (like strong spices) are just overwhelming to our sensitive friends.
They Want A Comfortable Place To Sleep
If your kitty likes cuddling with your tennis shoes, they might just find them comfortable. Sure, a shoe might not be our first choice of mattress. But if our cats’ peculiar sleeping positions are any indication, their concept of comfort differs vastly from our own. In any event, cats like what they like, and sometimes what they like is a smelly shoe. Since cats sleep anywhere from 15-20 hours per day, finding the right sleeping spot is a top priority for them.
They Are Asking For Attention
A cat might gravitate toward their pet parents’ shoes when they want attention. The signs your cat wants attention are subtle: look for extra purring and rubbing. Some cats will even become agitated or aggressive if their social needs aren’t met While cats tend to be more selective than dogs when it comes to human interaction, this doesn’t mean they don’t want (and need) human attention.
If your cat keeps chewing or playing with your shoes, they might be bored. So if your kitty can’t stop chewing on your shoes, you may want to provide some better outlets for play, including puzzle toys or other interactive activities.
Contrary to popular belief, cats do get bored. Though they appear content to sleep the day away (with intermittent breaks for eating and cuddling) cats actually need regular mental and physical stimulation. If they’re not getting it from appropriate sources—toys, cat trees, perches, treats—cats will often turn to shoes as a boredom-buster.
How Can I Stop The Shoe Hogging?
It may be amusing at first, but your cat’s shoe-hogging can quickly lead to annoyance. If you’re tired of hair-covered or chewed-up shoes, there are some simple ways to discourage this behavior.
“Just like with any unwanted behavior, stopping a cat from shoe-stealing comes down to two basic training tenets: reducing the ability to perform the unwanted behavior, and positively rewarding the alternative desired behavior,” explains Holmboe. Here’s what that looks like:
- Keep shoes out of reach: Perhaps the simplest solution—put your shoes where your cat can’t get to them. Remember that cats are climbers, so a high shelf probably won’t work. Better spots include drawers, cabinets, totes, or behind closed closet doors.
- Give your cat something else to chew on: Cats chew for all kinds of reasons: curiosity, anxiety, and even to soothe achy gums. If your chew-happy cat can’t get enough of your shoes, it’s a good idea to redirect their attention to appropriate chew toys in a few different shapes and sizes.
- Provide other sources of entertainment: If boredom is to blame for your cat’s thievery, try offering an array of mentally-stimulating cat toys. Scratchers, window perches, and cat trees are all enriching options.
- Offer different resting options: Cats like having their own safe place to sleep. If that’s been your shoe lately, offer a better alternative with a comfy cat bed or window perch. It’s also nice to offer your cat something that smells like you, such as an old hoodie or a favorite blanket.
- Reward good behavior: When your cat cuddles or plays with appropriate non-shoe items, encourage them with plenty of delicious treats and stimulating playtime.
Learn More About Cat Behavior
In the end, our cats’ love of shoes is just one of many quirks we find both beguiling and exasperating. From their love of running water, their propensity to bring us toys, and a never-ending curiosity, we love our cats’ quirky yet endearing behaviors. The best way to decode your cat’s (sometimes odd) behavior is simply to spend more time with them — we’re all for that!