If you drop a piece of paper, a cat is likely to leap upon it. The same applies to a paper bag that lies flat. While paper is not really a toy, it appears to fascinate felines. There are various reasons why this is the case.
As cats rarely interact with paper, it’s a bit of a novelty. The texture is unlike carpet or wood floors, and cats are instinctively drawn to unique surface areas. A cat does not just see paper on the floor, it sees unclaimed territory. As paper insulates heat and makes an interesting noise, it’s unsurprising that cats enjoy the experience.
There is little danger to a cat lying on paper. If the paper in question does not contain toxic ink, it is harmless. Just be mindful that felines do not differentiate between important and unimportant papers. Cats are just as likely to lie and sleep on an important document as a blank sheet.
Table of Contents:
Why Cats Sit on Paper
There are many things that are likely to attract a cat’s attention. Rapid movements will stimulate prey instinct. Food smells will remind a cat that it is hungry. Sudden, loud noises will merit investigation or escaping, depending on your cat’s temperament.
A humble piece of paper on the floor will also gain a reaction from most cats. What is it about such an innocuous item that merits such action? Ordinarily, cats only lie upon things they consider important.
Cats cannot tell us themselves why they lie on paper. We can make sense of the conduct by considering typical feline behavior, though. As with most cat habits, there are various explanations.
Many feline behaviors can be explained away by simple curiosity. This includes lying on a sheet of paper. Cats are fascinated by new experiences. The temptation to learn what something is, and how it feels, sounds, smells, and tastes is irresistible.
Place a sheet of A4 paper on the floor of your living room and stand back. Your cat is likely to immediately wander toward the paper. The cat has spotted an outlier in the usual arrangement. It wants to know what this new item is.
If you have a particularly nervous cat, it may sniff or push the paper then run. What is likely is that your cat will sniff, lick then lie on the paper. This is satisfying all of a feline’s core senses.
Sight has already been taken care of. The cat saw the paper – that’s what drew its attention. Next, the cat wants to know how paper tastes. This will involve licking and possibly chewing. By pushing the paper, the cat learns how it sounds. Sniffing, clearly, reveals a neutral scent.
The final frontier is touch. The skin on a cat’s underbelly is delicate. This is why many cats react poorly to being touched on the belly. By lying on the paper, the cat gets to fully experience a new texture. The cat will then experience other benefits.
In the mind of your cat, everything in your home is a feline’s domain. This makes it frustrating for the cat when owners enforce rules. If your cat is not allowed on furniture, for example, it will look for new territory. Paper can provide this.
To human eyes, scrap paper is junk that has not made its way to the garbage. To a cat, it is a treasure that must be claimed. A sheet of paper will typically smell completely neutral. A cat can change this by applying its own scent. From this moment, the paper becomes territory.
Cats always spot something out of place. In doing so, the rogue object will be seen as a prize to grab. The cat may not be allowed to claim the entire living room floor. Humans use that particular space. Those 11.7 x 8.3 inches of paper belong exclusively to the cat, though.
If your cat is lying on paper, do not remove it and throw the paper away. This will hurt your cat’s feelings at best and inspire aggression at worst. To your cat, you are stealing its personal property. Some cats will treat this is an act of dominance and grow antagonistic.
Leave your cat to enjoy its territory in the moment. It will eventually grow bored and move on. This is the time to toss the paper in the garbage. Your cat is unlikely to remember the paper’s existence by the following day.
Safety and Comfort
It is common knowledge that cats enjoy small spaces. Most cats are at their most content when hiding in a box or drawer. A piece of paper does not have sides. It does provide a cat with a small space in which to base itself, though.
Many cats will draw comfort from this. The paper makes it feel safe and secure, providing an invisible boundary. Marking out a box shape with tape will yield similar results. Cats usually see the world in plain, logical terms. In this instance, they appear capable of abstract thought.
This only goes so far, though. The paper must also be located in a quiet area with limited footfall. Paper is also unlikely to calm a particularly stressed cat. We hope this goes without saying, but paper is also no alternative to a bed or assigned territory.
This behavior is perfectly natural, and nothing to worry about. Only grow concerned is if your cat spends more time lying on paper than not. This suggests that your cat may be living with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.
This condition is possible if your cat grows distressed when separated from the paper. The cat is anxious, and paper soothes its frayed nerves. The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association explains that feline OCD is resolved through training and medication.
If you have ever wondered why cats like crinkly paper, the answer is simple. Cats enjoy the noise that paper makes. Many cats can spend countless happy hours playing with screwed up paper. You could even use screwed-up paper as a ball and play fetch.
The crinkling of paper also triggers a cat’s hunting instincts. The sound of paper crinkling is not dissimilar to leaves being crushed underfoot. This, in turn, reminds cats of prey running through outdoor territory. Crinkly paper will immediately capture a cat’s imagination.
This could lead to a minor safety concern. If a cat considers screwed up paper to be prey, it may try to eat it. This depends on your cat’s hunting behaviors. Not all cats eat their kills. As per Animal Behavior though, all cats play with their prey after subduing it.
If the cat is just batting paper around in its paws, no harm will be done. If the cat starts to swallow paper, be a little more mindful. If you’ve ever had a paper cut, you’ll know this most minor of injuries can hurt. Now, imagine that sensation on your tongue. Such an issue will leave a cat reluctant to eat.
Small nibbles of paper are not a concern. These will turn to mush in your cat’s digestive tract. This will then be passed in feces. The print on certain newspaper can be toxic, though. If playing with paper, try to use plain sheets wherever possible.
Why Do Cats Like Paper Bags?
This noise is another reason why cats like paper bags. A paper bag from the grocery store will be comparatively sturdy. A cat could spend a prolonged period scrunching and playing with this. In many respects, a paper bag is the cheapest cat toy of all.
Paper bags hold other appeals to felines, too. As mentioned, this vessel may have once contained groceries. This, in turn, means that it retains the smell of food. Few things are more exciting to a cat. Do not be surprised if your cat starts licking the bag.
Even if your cat is not interested in eating the food, the scent may appeal. Strawberries are a great example of this. Most cats could not be less interested in the taste of strawberries. The smell drives felines wild though.
You’ll need to be mindful of what the bag once contained. Some human foods are toxic to cats. It’s unlikely that crumbs or remnants will do significant damage. Cats that enjoy playing with bags may dive in before you have unpacked your shopping, though.
This goes double if your cat climbs inside a paper bag. Cats may enjoy the enclosure of a paper bag, and are not at risk of suffocation. Unlike a plastic bag, paper is weak enough for a cat to fight out of. Just make sure no dangerous food is left in the bag. A handful of grapes could be deadly.
Paper is a natural insulator of heat. This means that a cat will gravitate toward it when the floor is cool. By using paper, a cat is not placing its sensitive belly skin on a cold surface. This, in turn, prevents its core body temperature from dropping to an uncomfortable level.
Stone floors, for example, can grow chilly. Lying on paper will counter this. A cat may even choose to nap on paper in this instance. From the moment the cat lies down, the paper grows warm. It then retains this heat, acting as a makeshift blanket.
Oftentimes, heat insulation works in conjunction with other explanations. For example, carpet should be even warmed than paper. Even so, a cat will likely lie on a sheet of paper in the middle of a carpet. This suggests that the sense of security, for example, wins out.
Never underestimate the possibility of a cat lying on paper for attention. Cats like and pick and choose when you acknowledge them. If you miss other cues, your cat may start lying on something valuable to you.
This behavior is likeliest if the cat considers the paper important. The cat will watch you and the items that you interact with. If you are reading a newspaper or magazine instead of petting, that will not do. The cat will leap on the paper the moment you set it down.
The same applies if you are paying bills or studying paperwork. This will likely demand your full concentration. This will not go unnoticed by the cat. It may leap upon a table and sit on your letters. This can be frustrating if the paperwork is scattered or soiled as a result.
How you react to this will influence your cat’s future actions. Scold your cat and it will sit on paper again when it wants something. The cat does not enjoy being told off. It just knows what garners a reaction. If you ignore the cat, it will find other ways to earn attention.
This can be vexing but try to see things from your cat’s perspective. It is likely seeking attention for a reason. Some cats are needier and clingier than others. Ensure that you have not missed a scheduled feeding or playtime, though.
Another great thing about paper is that it is so thin. Unlike cardboard, paper is easy for a cat’s tough claws to shred. If your cat plays with toilet roll, you’ll know how fun this is for felines.
Shredding provides pleasure to cats for a wide range of reasons. Shredding has the following benefits:
- Stimulating hunting instinct, mimicking tearing prey apart
- Fun crinkling noises
- Releasing tension, anxiety or nervous energy
- Particularly impactful claiming of territory
Only be concerned by this behavior if the cat shreds exclusively to eat. As discussed previously, this could pertain to feline hunting instincts. It could also be a sign of pica, though. If your cat will not eat its meals but devours shredded paper, investigate further.
In many respects, cats lie on paper for the same reason they lie on dirty laundry. Paper provides a unique texture, separate from the standard floor, which can be claimed. Let your cat have its fun with paper. In the vast majority of cases, it’s a harmless activity.