5 Reasons Why Cats Like Shoes So Much

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An amusing and whimsical image featuring a cat inside a pair of shoes.

Cats can exhibit all sorts of seemingly strange behaviors and the internet is full of funny cat videos to prove it. One behavior that is common amongst many cats is a love of shoes.

Key Takeaways

It's common for cats to be attracted to their humans' shoes.

Cats enjoy the smells on shoes, and some like playing with them or scent marking them.

If your cat is damaging your shoes, put them in a closed cupboard to keep them safe.

Whether it’s lying on them, playing with them, or even moving them around the house, many cats seem to have a liking for shoes. Although it might seem like a strange obsession to us, there are actually several reasons why cats like shoes.

1. Territory Marking

Cats mark their territory both indoors and outdoors, to signal to other cats that this is their domain. The most common way to do this is by rubbing their faces and the lengths of their bodies against objects. Scent glands (sebaceous glands) are located all over a cat’s body including:

  • On the cheeks
  • Under the chin
  • Along the flanks
  • Around the tail base
  • Along the tail

When cats rub their head or body against objects (also called bunting), they release pheromones (chemical messages) that can signal various pieces of information, one of which is letting other cats know that this is another cat’s territory.

These pheromones can also signal that cats are relaxed and safe in their own environment—these are the kind they release when they rub their head against you or gives you a gentle head butt.

Pheromones are totally odorless to humans but cats can easily detect them thanks to their incredible sense of smell and a specialized organ on the roof of their mouth called the vomeronasal organ (sometimes called the Jacobson’s organ). If you ever see your cat sniffing and holding their mouth slightly open, they’re probably using her vomeronasal organ to investigate an interesting scent.

Shoes are often left in various locations around the household and when your cat rubs against them, they are probably marking their territory. This is a way of signaling to other cats that another cat has been there and is claiming ownership.

You might find that your cat marks their territory more frequently if you have multiple cats in your household. This is because they will each try to out-mark each other and claim their stake in the territory.

2. Comfort

Your shoes will probably smell strongly of you and this can be a comfort to your cat. If your cat rests their head on your shoes or lays on top of them, they probably just found a comforting place to rest or nap. You might find that your cat uses your shoes as a source of comfort when you’re out of the house, or if there is a stressful situation happening such as loud fireworks.

Some cats even carry shoes to another place in the house where they feel safer. If your shoes are left lying around the house, they can be a convenient item of comfort for your cat because of their familiar smells. Cats that use shoes for comfort or to self-soothe, will often also be found curled up on a pile of laundry, or your favorite jumper.

Young kittens might also choose to sleep inside your shoes if they are small enough as it’s a cozy place to take a nap and makes them feel safe.

Cats that are separated from their mom soon after birth and are bottle reared, often develop a habit of sucking on things that smell like their owner. Sometimes they might also nibble on them, and this might include your shoes. It might seem strange to us, but it’s a self-soothing behavior for your cat.

3. Smell

An image capturing a cat in the act of smelling a pair of shoes.

The smells on your shoes can tell your cat a lot about where you were when you left the house.

A cat’s sense of smell is the most important of all of the five senses. Sniffing is what a cat does to enable her to gain important information about her environment. Your shoes are likely to smell very interesting because of all the places they’ve been to.

One quick sniff of your shoes will tell your cat where you’ve been, what you’ve been doing, and whether there was another animal there. Every time you go somewhere different, there will be new smells for your cat to sniff.

Not only are the bottom of your shoes picking up different scents from where you’ve been, but the inside of your shoes are likely to be smelly too.

Your cat might find this appealing simply because they smell strongly of you, or it might be that your cat has picked up on the scent of something you had on the bottom of your bare feet, that you then transferred to the inside of your shoes.

4. Attention

If you always lean down to give your cat a stroke when she rubs against your shoes, they’ll soon learn that this is a surefire way of getting your attention.

Cats are smart animals and it doesn’t take them long to realize that rubbing themselves against your shoes is likely to result in you giving them affection.

Even negative attention can be seen as a positive to your cat, for instance when you reprimand your cat for playing with your shoes and leaving scratch marks. Once your cat learns that this gets your attention, they might choose to do it again and again.

5. Boredom

Shoes can be a lot of fun, especially ones with dangly laces that can be batted and pounced on! If your cat is bored and not receiving adequate mental stimulation, they might decide to play with your shoes or shoelaces, especially if they just happen upon them lying around the house.

Your cat doesn’t realize that they’re shoes but instead sees them as a fun toy that can provide plenty of amusement. Some shoes also have a good texture for scratching and clawing. This may not amuse you, but it sure is fun for your cat.

Also Read: Why Do Cats Like Boxes? 8 Reasons Why!

How Can I Reclaim My Shoes?

Some people might think it’s funny or cute to watch their cat carrying shoes around the house, or batting around a shoelace, but others might not find it so amusing, especially if there is damage to your favorite pair of shoes, or you can’t find one of your shoes just as your about to head out of the door! Thankfully, there are a few things you can do to try and deter your cat from playing with your shoes.

1. Put Your Shoes in a Closed Cupboard

An image depicting a cat on a shoe rack, surrounded by various pairs of shoes.

A cat might easily swipe shoes from an open shelf or cupboard without a door.

This is to prevent your cat from accessing your shoes. This might seem obvious but simply putting your shoes on a high shelf might not be enough of a deterrent. Bear in mind that lots of cats enjoy climbing and jumping onto high surfaces, so this might just make your shoes even more exciting.

2. Prevent Boredom

Ensure your cat has plenty of her own toys to play with. This will hopefully distract her away from other less exciting items such as your shoes. Spending time playing with your cat will help to ensure that she doesn’t get lonely or bored.

3. Provide Alternative Sleeping Spots

If your cat is choosing to sleep in your shoes, it might be that she prefers sleeping somewhere semi-enclosed. You can buy enclosed beds, donut beds, or even a blanket in a cardboard box might suffice!

4. Sacrifice a Shoe

If your cat really loves shoes, it might be easier to just sacrifice a pair of old shoes to keep them happy! If they have their own shoe to play with, they might be more inclined to leave your other shoes alone.

Final Thoughts

An adorable image capturing a kitten nestled comfortably among a collection of shoes.

Playing with or sleeping on shoes only becomes problematic if your cat damages them or hides them away.

As we’ve learned, it’s not unusual for a cat to like shoes, and your cat is not alone in this seemingly strange behavior. The attraction could be down to anything from territory marking, to comfort-seeking, to just good old fun.

Never punish your cat for playing with or sleeping on your shoes, as they won’t understand what they’ve done wrong.

Instead, try some of the suggestions above to ensure your cat doesn’t ruin your favorite pair of shoes. If your cat is intent on playing with shoes, or you find it entertaining, then consider giving them a shoe of their very own. You can guarantee a lot of cute photos and videos in your camera roll.

Also Read: How Cats Choose Their Favorite Person?

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do cats like the smell of shoes?

Your shoes have probably been all sorts of exciting places to your cat. From the great outdoors to another house with pets, your shoes will have all sorts of interesting smells associated with them. Remember, your cat’s sense of smell is far greater than yours, and your shoes will provide your cat with information about where you’ve been and what you’ve been doing.

Why do cats rub against shoes?

Cats have scent glands all over their body and when they rub against items, they are marking them with their scent. This signals to other cats that this is their territory. They might also be scenting over where another animal has scented, to stake their claim on your shoes!

Why does my cat steal my shoes?

This is probably a fun game for your cat, particularly if it has gained your attention previously. It might be that your cat is seeking comfort from the familiar smell of your shoes and carries them to another area in the house where they feel safer resting or sleeping. Or it could just be your cat’s way of getting your attention.

Why is my cat smelling my feet?

Your cat’s sense of smell is amazing and they can pick up all sorts of scents on your feet. It could be that you have trodden on an interesting smell, particularly if you have walked around another person’s house in your socks or bare feet. Your cat smells your feet to gather information about where you’ve previously been.

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About Dr. Gemma Cliffin BSC BVSC MRCVS

Gemma has worked in a wide variety of roles including first opinion practice, as a night vet, and as a locum vet. She currently works in a small animal hospital in North Yorkshire. She has particular interests in feline medicine, diagnostic imaging, and pain management, as well as a strong understanding of cat behavior and nutrition.

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