Cats are inherently curious creatures. Anything that moves fast, makes noise, or looks interesting is bound to attract their attention, even if it’s something as simple as a piece of paper. While there is little in the way of scientific explanation for cats’ tendencies to “if it fits, I sits” in or on just about anything, there are some general theories. Like many kitty quirks, these explanations range from pretty simple to simply strange but then, these are also the reasons why cats are so uniquely…cats.
1. It’s new and interesting
As noted, cats are curious creatures. Anything new in their domains–even a scrap of scratch paper–is usually immediately inspected by sight, smell, and touch. If it looks ok, it’s probably worth a sit or a roll to further explore.
2. It is fun
Once this new item is fully investigated and a little touch or nip reveals the item to be safe, a more intense nip or scratch can reveal the item to be reactive–like, it will shred, or, I can get into it! Some cats take great joy in playing with paper and the simple reason why? It’s fun.
3. It’s warm
Paper is a great insulator. While a piece of it on, say, a floor won’t do much to provide actual warmth, it’s still a barrier between kitty and the cold. Numerous studies have shown that the thermoneutral, or “staying warm while doing nothing”, zone for cats lies somewhere in the range of 86 to 97 degrees fahrenheit. Because most of us humans don’t tend to keep our living spaces heated to that temperature, kitty is usually looking to warm up; which also explains why you may be sweating out a hot day with a fan trained on you while your fur-coated friend is ecstatically splayed in a sunbeam.
4. Cats love small spaces
While a piece of paper on a desk or magazine on a tabletop might not seem like an actual “space” to us, cats may literally see it differently. While explaining cat behavior tends toward theory, one thing science has actually proven is that cats prefer small, well-defined areas for comfort, stress-reduction, and safe snoozing. Because, the visual definition of a piece of paper, newspaper, magazine, or book, may provide that sense of area, it might seem like a safe space.
5. Staking a claim
Cats are as territorial as they are curious so claiming paper may be a sort of claiming of space. Many times, especially if you have multiple kitties, the first one there will knead or rub her face on the paper (or cardboard, or magazine, or newspaper). Just like with other items in your house, including you, this scent-marking behavior basically tells the other kitties “I was here!”
All this said, perhaps the most likely reason your cat likes to “help” you read the paper, thumb through that magazine, study that book, or edit that paper is that he wants to be with you. Kitties crave affection even if some don’t show it in expected ways. Plopping down on the paper next to your computer or batting at the pages of a book is simply a way of being near you.
While cute, these behaviors can get a little annoying. If it’s driving you crazy, here are some ideas on ways you can give your cat space near you without being right on top of you and all the work you have to do.
Yeah, work spaces are meant for working but as all cat people know, you working is not conducive to cat attention-ing. If you have room on your desk consider devoting a far corner to your kitty–clear it off and make it a safe space from which your kitty can gaze upon you, feel part of the action, but be out of the way.
Cat assistants in the workplace
If you have a dedicated office or work area within your home, make it as cat-focused as you can. Clear off the top of bookshelves to a good kitty perch and place cozy beds (or paper, if your cat so prefers) under or near your desk. Again, this way kitty can be part of the action without actually being involved in it.
Make some paper toys
If it’s really just paper that your cat is into, get creative with it! Turn an old box into a treasure chest of fun by crumpling up pieces of paper you would otherwise recycle and throw them in there. Use a big box or little box, lots of paper, and different textures of paper. It’s like the kitty version of an Ikea ball pit.
Protect your (paper) property
If you have a kitty that is being a little more of a stinker and shredding paper that is definitely off-limits, such as book jackets, get creative. Either move items to a space where kitty can’t access them or consider crafting some scratch-deterrents; plastic wrap and scraps of aluminum foil can be effective at hindering kitty’s curious urges.