Cats love to play with string because it is an opportunity to stalk and capture. It is a fun game for a cat, and it is a better option than them scratching leather furniture or your new carpet. Aside from eating and sleeping, there are few things more pleasurable for kittens and adult cats than pawing string. In many ways, it is the original cat toy.
Dangling a piece of material off the edge of a table will likely bait your cat. Cats are obsessed with things that move and anything they can manipulate. This is why cats often create their own “strings” out of basic fabric and materials. If you have any items in your home that can be slapped and pulled, it is just “string” in the eyes of your cat.
We will discuss why cats love to play with string so much and whether this is a safe activity for your cat. You should also take the time to find out what to do if your cat swallows a piece of string.
Cats and String Explained
Why can’t cats resist string? Quite simply, it plays to your cat’s basic instincts. This is why it is so appealing. The ability to play with something and “pin it down” to some degree brings out the hunter/stalker in your feline.
While playing with a thread is not a familiar behavior to a cat, a string can simulate a form of prey. Without posing a physical threat in the same way as a real predator, your cat can win the struggle time and again.
Even if you have a senior cat, there is a good chance that he or she will take 10 seconds out of its long sleep schedule to chase a piece of string. Once it is dangled or dragged across a surface, your cat’s natural curiosity will take over.
Why Do Cats Love to Play with String?
Although the reasons why cats love string are probably obvious, there is often more to this than meets the eye.
1) Stalking and Hunting Instincts
Because cats are hunters and gatherers by nature, a string can send your cat on high alert as it mimics the movement of certain types of prey. Lizards and snakes are the two obvious examples.
For this reason, your cat’s instinct is to stalk the fabric, take a few good slaps, and pounce accordingly. Although your cat will quickly become aware that the string is not real prey, a potential problem may develop depending on your cat’s daily environment.
If your cat stays outdoors and your property is known to attract snakes, play sessions with a string could cause your cat to become more inclined to act. While there is no guarantee that your cat will take on a snake, there is a possibility that your cat (kitten) could grow to become unafraid of a legitimate danger because it mimics the movement of its favorite toy.
- Do you use a belt as a form of “string” play? If you slide a belt across the floor, your cat may become familiar with its look and movements. Due to the size and color of some snakes, your cat could be more likely to approach it.
2) Enjoyment of Catching Prey
The satisfaction lies in the ability to capture. This is what sets strings (and string toys) apart from other objects. The use of a key light or laser pointer provides an entertaining game, but there is no reward. Cats can become frustrated and aggressive if there is no positive payoff to their work. That is not the case when your cat plays with a piece of string.
In addition to physical exercise, playing with a string can also improve your cat’s mental function. Concentrating on a moving object is good for your cat’s motor skills. This is especially important as your cat closes in on senior status.
The use of a string also encourages a lazy cat to move. Dangle a string in front of your pet to provide some much-needed physical stimulation. The desire to catch prey can get even the most comfortable cat from his slumber.
3) Texture of String
Strings offer your cat a pleasant texture. Because they can dig into it with their claws and teeth, the final reward is appealing. This is not always the case with some toys, even the more expensive options.
- In the world of cat toys, dollar signs do not always determine your cat’s enjoyment. Some of the best toys are not toys at all but rather safe items that were meant for other purposes. This is why domestic household pets love playing with old socks and climbing into empty boxes.
Because strings and various other fabrics are pleasant, this can provide your pet with extra incentive to stalk and hunt. There is a big difference between stalking to “check it out” and stalking with the desire to keep.
The reward is in the texture just as much as it is the opportunity to capture a tangible object.
- Have you noticed that your cat enjoys a specific type of string or fabric material over others? Has your cat had a positive experience playing with a particular item? Stick with what works for keeping your cat interested and happy.
4) Entertainment Value
Cats love to have fun, be entertained, and to entertain others (perhaps to gain more attention from owners.) Have you ever seen a cat chase a leaf that has been sitting still in your yard for hours? Well, once you began to pay attention to the leaf, it suddenly takes on more interest. Cats love to have fun and to have an audience. Strings and balls of yarn can provide the best of both worlds.
Similar to a young child playing to a crowd, cats love to put on a show. While many toys require the assistance of an owner, yarn and random strings can be enjoyed without your assistance.
Are Strings (and String Toys) Safe for Cats?
Strings and string toys do pose various health risks. Although cheap, easy to find, and capable of providing years of entertainment, strings can harm your cat if they are overly aggressive.
- Any type of ribbon, threads, strings, yarn, fabric, etc., can pose a problem if they are long. While rolling on the floor and playing, a cat can become twisted and tied up. This can pin down limbs and even cause a breathing hazard. Suffocation can occur if the yarn is wrapped around a cat’s neck while its limbs are tied up.
- Another concern involves ingestion. Some strings are easily breakable through rough play and biting. It may attempt to eat parts of the string. This can lead to choking or cause an intestinal blockage after consumption. Can cats die from eating string? It is possible if immediate action is not taken and professional medical treatment is not received. Issues involving an intestinal blockage can require surgery. Dr. Marty Becker of VetStreet notes that it is not uncommon for a cat to attempt to eat a string once playtime has ended. Becker also notes that any string that contains food flavoring should be discarded immediately as these are more enticing.
- The final aspect to consider is the mental wellness of your cat. If your pet is exhibiting behavioral problems and aggression, introducing a string can trigger negative behavior. Overexcitement leads to your cat transitioning from a playful state to one of annoyance or anger.
Most string play is safe and satisfying if you are supervising the activity. Even if you are not directly engaged in the fun, keeping a safe eye on your cat from the sofa is recommended. If you notice an issue, you will be in a position act swiftly. Wikihow has provided a detailed series of critical steps you should take if your cat has consumed string. In many cases, string only causes a significant problem when no one is around to help the cat get untied or prevent the consumption of the fabric or material.
Here are some other ways to entertain your cat when not home.