Why Do Cats Love String?

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Fascinating image depicting a cat's fascination with a string.

It is universally acknowledged that cats go crazy for a ball of string, and they love to chase and catch anything they can. It’s not just restricted to string, cats also love ribbon, shoelaces, sewing thread, and tinsel. So why is it that our cats can spend hours of their time playing with a simple piece of string? Keep reading to find out why!

Why Do Cats Like Playing With String So Much?

1. Hunting Instincts

Most of the games we play with our feline friends involve some kind of chasing and catching and some pouncing. This is because it mimics the way that they hunt their prey.

A piece of moving string will immediately catch their attention, as their vision is so focused on movement (in the wild this is how they spot their prey), and they really love a challenge – they will be bored if they catch the string straight away, so they prefer to chase it as it moves for a while first, similar to stalking their prey.

The act of actually catching the string is probably the most important part of the game for your cat, as this mimics a successful hunt and capture of prey. The catch is satisfying for your cat and to them, they have ‘won’ the game.

Toys that mimic hunting are designed to satiate your cat’s natural desire to hunt, so these games can be especially beneficial for house cats or older cats that don’t spend as much time outdoors. But they can also be great for younger active cats to help prepare them for catching their prey outside.

2. Play

It’s the old saying of ‘curiosity killed the cat’ and whilst perhaps that’s a little dramatic, indeed, cats are very driven by their strong sense of curiosity. They love to play and discover new things, and play can be a great way for them to learn, explore, and develop. One survey has even found that cats that regularly play games with their owners are less likely to suffer from behavior problems.

String is a great toy for cats to develop their agility, speed, and accuracy, and especially for kittens, it can help them to discover and use their senses before heading outside. Play is especially important for indoor cats, as it allows them to burn off energy, keep active, and keep their reactions quick! But playing with string can also be an important bonding opportunity for us humans and our feline friends as it’s something that you can enjoy together.

3. Texture

String has a great texture for cats to get their claws into and has a similar appeal to them as things like carpet and curtains. They can latch their claws into the string, rip it, and chew on it. It might be similar to textures that cats might experience when hunting in the wild.

Different textures make play more interesting for cats and help them to become more curious about the world around them.

4. Mental Stimulation

Both physical and mental stimulation are incredibly important for your cat’s health. Physical activity helps them to burn off energy and calories and keep active and fit, but it also stimulates their mind and senses, keeping them super sharp! A lack of stimulation can lead to boredom and behavior problems, whilst a lack of physical activity can contribute to weight gain and obesity.

5. Fun!

All serious stuff aside, when it comes down to it one of the biggest reasons cats love string is because it provides them with endless hours of fun!

Is String Safe for Cats?

why do cats like playing with string

If not supervised,your cat may swallow small, or long, pieces of string whilst playing with it

Whilst string can bring hours of fun to your cat’s day, it can also be a risky game if not supervised. Cats can easily swallow small, or long, pieces of string whilst playing with it, usually because their hunting instincts kick in and they treat the toy like prey eating parts of it.

This is why it’s essential to always make sure you supervise your cat playing with any string-type toys, and if you know they have a habit of munching on it you can always cut the string off their toys to avoid any problems. If your cat does swallow string, you should contact your veterinarian straight away for advice.

What Happens if Cats Eat String?

If cats eat string it could get stuck in their throat and cause choking. If swallowed without problems the string can cause an obstruction in their gut – because it’s long, it can get stuck with one end in one part of the gut with the other end further along in the intestines.

This is what is known as a linear foreign body, making string possibly one of the most dangerous objects your cat can eat.

It requires immediate veterinary treatment and surgery to remove the offending string as if left it can cause sepsis. On rare occasions, the string will pass through your cat’s digestive system without causing any problems at all, but you should never assume this will be the case.

Signs that your cat has eaten/swallowed string include coughing/choking, retching, inappetence, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, lethargy, and a painful abdomen. If you notice any of these symptoms after your cat has been playing with string, you should get in touch with your vet straight away.

Alternatives To String

As an alternative to string, such as when you can’t supervise your cat or for cats who love to eat string, you can use any other type of toy such as balls, toy mice, or scratching posts.

Final Thoughts

String toys

String toys should always be used under strict supervision as if swallowed they can be dangerous causing choking or obstruction in the gut

String toys can provide cats with an enormous amount of fun and are a great way for us humans to bond with our pets. Cats love to chase and catch string because it mimics their natural prey in the wild, they love the texture, and their curious minds can’t resist it.

But string toys should always be used under strict supervision as if swallowed they can be dangerous causing choking or obstruction in the gut. So, if you haven’t already, get your cat some string toys, or even just a ball of yarn or some old shoelaces, and see for yourself how much they love it!

Also Read: The 10 Best Cat Slow Feeders & Puzzle Feeders

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it OK for cats to chew on string?

Cats shouldn’t be allowed to chew on string – the small or longer pieces could be a choking hazard or could cause an obstruction in their gut which can be very dangerous for them.

Why do cats bite strings?

Cats bite string because it mimics their prey – cats usually predate small rodents that have long tails and have a natural instinct to eat what they catch. Playing with string mimics them chasing or hunting prey, so they are likely to want to bite the string or any other toy they are playing with.

Should you let your cat play with string?

It’s fine to let your cat play with string as it has loads of benefits for their mental stimulation, physical health, and mimics their prey. But they should always be supervised to avoid it being eaten or getting caught around their body.

How do I get my cat to stop eating string?

It’s hard to train a cat not to eat certain things. If your cat tends to chew or eat string it’s best to avoid string toys and make sure they don’t have access to any string in their environment to avoid problems.

Why is my cat so obsessed with a string?

Most of the games we play with our feline friends involve some kind of chasing and catching and some pouncing. This is because it mimics the way that they hunt their prey.

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About Dr. Holly Anne Hills BVMEDSCI MRCVS

Holly has worked as a small animal vet in several clinics across the UK and has taken short breaks to volunteer in India and the Caribbean working with street dogs. Her interests are in surgery, caring for geriatric patients, and client education. She writes behavior and nutrition articles for Cats.com.

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