Here’s Why Cats Like Strings, Yarns and Cables [3 Simple Facts]

cat tangled in string while playing with yarn

As a cat owner, you are probably quite familiar with the idea of your cat finding an irresistibly fascinating object (like a piece of string or a plastic bag) and then chasing it around the house for hours. Some cats are drawn to balls of yarn for reasons known only to them.

Litter box issues? Perhaps. A bit of depression? Yep. They just don’t know what they’re doing. But whether you have one cat or a truckload, you’ve likely noticed them sneaking over to the stash and playing with the ball of string you bought to wrap the holiday gifts last year. It’s a baffling behavior, and it will continue until you get to the root of the problem.

Cats are attracted to yarn because they have a highly developed sense of touch. If they feel something move, they’ll likely try to catch it, it could be a mouse, a bird, or a piece of string since it mimics the movements of their prey and is very similar to hunting where anything that flickers or twitches is subject to be pounced upon for a “pawly” investigation.

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Here are 3 Simple Facts Why Cats Like Strings and Cables

string and cable wrapped around cat's neck from playing with it


Cats as you know, are very curious creatures who love to play and are even more naturally drawn to strings and cables (especially the ones that charge your smartphone) because it resembles one of the below. (The truth is, it’s a little of each of these things).

  • A snake or lizard’s movements as it crawls and slithers on the ground
  • A mouse’s tail because it looks like a string-like object
  • A bird’s legs and its feathers

It is instinctual for cats to like yarns and string simply because this is a behavioral pattern that’s driven by their hunting instincts and evolutionary traits, however, the mere fact that a cat can attack moving objects with no signs of it retaliating must be quite appealing to them.

Hunting Instincts of a Cat

Before we talk about your cat’s hunting instincts, it is equally important that you briefly understand what instincts for them really mean.

An instinct is a behavior that is so hardwired into a species that it happens automatically.

For years, cat owners have known that cats are hunters and it’s true that they have predatory instincts, but it’s an instinct that’s been bred out of them over the course of thousands of years. Many cats today don’t hunt at all. That’s because we’ve conditioned them to behave differently.

The easiest way to tell if your cat is a hunter is to observe their body language and behavior. Hunting cats will have distinct alertness in which they will sit up with their ears perked, tail straightened, and ready to pounce.

A cat who has recently caught food will have similar alertness, but with slightly relaxed body language along with a soft, purring demeanor.

Although some cats aren’t natural-born hunters, they do exhibit several hunting behaviors, even though you might not realize it. Cats that have been allowed to roam outdoors can exhibit these behaviors more easily whereas that might not be the case for indoor cats.

Since indoor cats spend most of their time in their owner’s home, their hunting instincts will not be as sharp as they should be when compared to stray cats due to the opportunity or impulse to hunt that has been diminished for a lack of potential threat.

Indoor cat exhibits hunting behaviors that are similar to the way dogs go after squirrels, they stalk them slowly, make a quick leap, and then, with a quick scoop, here comes the catch.

This can be a sign of good health and emotional well-being in your cat. (Additionally, hunting behavioral patterns means your cat is getting a lot of much-needed activity and is burning off energy).

Is it safe for Cats to Play with Yarn?cat looking afraid to play with ball of yarns

It is not safe for your cat to play with yarn or string without your careful attention because the dangers of accidental ingestion should not be overlooked. While many cats are not put off by the taste or texture of string, other cats see string as a tasty treat.

In general, string toys are fine to use under your supervision.

Cats are notorious for being playful and curious, and the yarn is something that seems like it would be safe for your kitten to play with since it’s so soft and fluffy. In reality, playing with yarn could actually be very dangerous for your cat.

It may be tempting to let your kitty play with string whenever they want to. However, there are some concerns that cat owners should be aware of.

How to Keep Your Cat from Playing With String, Yarn, Rubber Bands, or Cables?

One of the most common problems that cat owners face is their kitten’s desire to attack and eat string, yarn, and other similar materials.

Even though they are just playing, it can be frightening to those around and can lead to serious problems for your cat, such as strangled intestines, intestinal blockage, and even death.

Fortunately, there are several things you can do to keep your cat away from string or yarn.

1. Checking in on your yarn-playing cat every once in a while,

2. Hiding it in places your cat can’t reach and that may be storing the balls of yarn in a cupboard or inside of an enclosed closet to ensure that your cat doesn’t come into contact with it.

Since most felines hunt by sight just as much as they do by smell, if your cat can’t see the ball of yarn, there is absolutely no way that you can spot them rolling around with it.

3. If it is a case whereby your cat is always biting and getting tangled with wires or cables, it would work great to your benefit to place some hot sauce on a napkin and wipe it up and down the wire to prevent your cat from continuing this habit since they would associate a bad experience with it.

4. When your cat is chewing on yarn or playing with string objects like rubber bands and threads, I recommend that you use a laser pointer to draw your cat’s attention while you quickly move all the stringed items that may be a potential health risk.

These are all great ways to ensure that your cat is safe and free from any potential danger.

As cute as those pictures of curious kitties playing with string-like things are, it should be clear that they’re particularly not an appropriate toy for little kittens.

While it may seem fun and harmless, it can be a potential risk to cats if it’s not used responsibly or without keeping an eye on them.

What to do if Your Feline Friend ate a Piece of Yarn

piece of string in cat's mouth

Accidents happen and if your cat ate a piece of thread, it can cause intestinal obstruction which leads to blood flow blockages and other digestive problems that could result in surgery.

It is important to have your cat see a professional veterinarian as soon as possible. If you try to remove the string out of your cat’s mouth, it’s possible that you might damage your cat’s throat in the process which can lead to choking and vomiting.

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