Why Do Cats Play With Threads and Strings?

Cats are often thrilled by the idea of attacking, chasing, hunting, and playing with strings and yarn. They are often considered the ultimate cat toy. Throw a ball of wool or yarn to your cat, and it will likely play with it for hours.

Cats see sudden movement particularly well. So, a dangling piece of string or yarn will immediately catch a cat’s attention. Toys attached to strings also satisfy cats’ hunting instincts by providing a moving, prey-like target for them to stalk and pounce on.

Although cats enjoy playing with strings and threads, they should not be left unsupervised. While strings provide entertainment for cats, they can also be dangerous.

Always supervise a cat playing with strings, threads, or balls of wool, and make sure you use these toys properly.

Why Are Cats Crazy About Strings and Threads?

Cats love to chase, bite, and attack strings and threads. This isn’t just limited to balls of yarn.

Everyday items like shoelaces, yarn, and ribbons often attract a cat’s attention.

Of course, that’s not because cats recognize the purpose of laces. In fact, in one experiment, researchers demonstrated that cats do not understand the essential motor properties of laces.

Many pet owners wonder why cats attack or chase strings. As is so often the case when it comes to assessing cat behavior, the answer lies in the realm of their instinct.

In most cases, playing with strings satisfies the cat’s hunting instinct.

Hunting Games

Cats are born hunters. It is not possible to suppress this instinct. But hunting birds and other wildlife can negatively impact nature.

Therefore, cat owners should rather play with their cats to satisfy their hunting instinct. Regular play reduces the likelihood of problematic behavior in cats.

When we think about cat toys, cords inevitably come into play. The most popular games that owners play with their cats involve stalking and chasing.

This may involve a wind-up toy, a laser pointer, or some prey simulation that is on the end of a stick.

Cats love to pounce on toys, just as they do on live prey. When the owner has a toy in hand, scratching and biting attacks inevitably occur.

For this reason, many of these cat toys are attached to a long string. Since cats’ vision revolves around movement, a dangling string immediately grabs their attention.

When a toy dangles from a string, it meets several criteria for human and cat play. You are safe from scratches, and your cat has a target to chase.

A toy on a string also has the advantage that you can snatch the toy from your cat’s claws at the last moment.

This is not being mean towards the cat; it is actually beneficial to the game. Cats like to look for a challenge.

If they capture their prey at the drop of a hat, the game quickly becomes boring for them. If a cat has to work to win and earn a reward, it will prolong the game.

Catching Prey

Catching prey is probably the most essential part of cat play. As mentioned earlier, cats like competition when hunting.

A prey that does not try to escape is not fun for it. But a cat that never wins a game will also be frustrated.

This can happen, especially with older cats. Some cat breeds are born mousers and will always chase rodents out of their homes.

But as a cat gets older and slower, it can become more difficult to hunt.

If a cat regularly fails to hunt a mouse, it will eventually stop trying. The same is true for hunting games.

Laser pointers are a popular toy because they constantly give the cat something to chase. However, ask yourself, what is the target for the cat in the process?

If hunting toys are to satisfy the cat’s hunting instinct, there must be a target.

That is, the cat must receive a tangible reward. In this way, the cat will feel that it has successfully completed the hunt.

String toys provide this opportunity. And, as mentioned earlier, it protects you from the teeth and claws that can come off while playing.

If your cat is successful on every third or fourth throw of a string toy, this is an ideal balance of effort and success.

Discovery Urge

Cats are curious and enjoy discovering new things. This can also apply to strings and threads.

By unraveling a ball of wool more and more, the cat learns how much material it contains. This behavior is similar to cats chasing and shredding toilet paper.

Such a game also has to do with the hunting instinct. When the cat disassembles the toilet paper roll, it eventually reaches a cardboard tube.

This is the cat’s reward for its perseverance in the hunt. Your cat will expect a similar result with a ball of wool or string.

Satisfying this curiosity is harmless as long as the cat is safe.

However, always watch a cat playing with a string or ball of wool carefully. She could get herself into trouble in the process.

Similarity With Prey

In some cases, strings excite cats because they mistake them for prey.

For example, a dangling piece of string can easily be mistaken for a rodent’s tail. This causes a cat to attack the string.

Some people even believe cats stalk strings because they look like snakes.

Some cats do indeed hunt and eat snakes. But this is rare in domestic cats.

However, feral cats in areas where snakes are present may actually attack snakes when competing for food.

Importance to Humans

Never underestimate the value cats place on objects that people use.

Any time you spend on hobbies or other things is not spent with your cat. If your cat wants your attention, it can eliminate any competition.

Wool and yarn are perhaps the best examples of this. A cat will watch someone knitting with great fascination.

The concentration and calm that this activity seems to require do not go unnoticed by the cat. In fact, they make the wool irresistible to the cat.

The same is true for more mundane laces like shoelaces. If your cat is susceptible to separation anxiety, it will do anything to keep you from leaving the house.

If the cat sees you tying your shoes, he may attack the laces on your shoes.

Is It Safe for Cats to Play With Laces and Strings?

We have found that cats like to play with laces and strings. However, this does not mean cats should play with them in all cases.

Although cats are also driven by survival instinct, they indulge in many questionable and dangerous habits.

Cords pose many risks to cats. The foremost, as unlikely as it might sound, is strangulation.

A cat can get tangled in the cord, cutting off its air supply. The most popular example, chasing a ball of yarn, is also the most likely example of this hazard.

Another problem with cats playing with strings is the temptation to eat them.

We will go into more detail about why cats eat strings in a moment. But the fact is that cats should not swallow strings or threads.

Also, consider the possible consequential harm when cats play with strings. Your cat could trip over cords, ribbons, or shoelaces, leading to strains or even broken bones.

These reasons mean cats should never use strings or cords, as popular as they may be, as unsupervised toys.

What Type of String is Safe for Cats?

In short, no string is genuinely safe for cats. Strings can be a part of your cat’s life and play, but they should never be the center of attention.

Toys with strings are acceptable and even recommended, but only if you play with them under supervision.

Never throw a piece of string, ball of wool, or ribbon to a cat to play with.

Such an action may give you a little peace and quiet in the short term. However, the potential for dire consequences is great.

Alternatives to String As a Toy for Cats

As mentioned, it’s best not to offer cats string as a toy without supervision. You should make sure your cat knows not to use strings unsupervised.

However, there are ways to keep your cat happy without string.

One solution is to offer your cat something else to chase. Look for toys that move on their own, such as wind-up mice.

Remember that cats need something tangible to chase. Your cat may pounce on your feet if you don’t offer her that.

If you don’t mind cleaning up after your cat, toss her a toilet paper roll. This provides the same entertainment as a ball of wool.

Your cat can take the roll apart; if she decides to eat the paper, she won’t be harmed.

If your cat likes to chew on a string, you should give her something else to chew on. A hardy, non-toxic artificial houseplant might be the way to go.

Even better, find out why your cat feels so compelled to chew. There may be a problem you need to address.

Why Do Cats Like to Eat Strings and Strings?

Playing with strings is one thing. If it’s done under supervision and the string is part of the toy, it’s fine. Eating strings is another thing entirely.

Cats should never eat string or string. The string can wrap around the intestines and cause intestinal blockage.

According to scientific research, this can be fatal in up to 50% of cats who swallow string.

If eating string is so dangerous, why do cats do it? Often, it probably just happens accidentally.

Most cats like to chew on strings, and swallowing them can be an unintended side effect. Still, it’s essential to understand why a cat would want to chew and eat string.


We mentioned earlier that many cats like to play with string toys. This stimulates the hunting instinct and gives the cat the feeling of having successfully killed a prey.

If a cat completes the hunt by eating the prey, this can be dangerous.

Not all cats eat their prey. In fact, this behavior could be considered comparatively rare.

For many cats, hunting is a sport, not a food activity. However, some cats have a more enormous appetite than others. In addition, a cat may be curious about the taste of its prey.

In these cases, the cat may eat the string. This may be wool that has been rolled up on the floor of a room. But it can also be the thread attached to a toy.

The cat has located the weakest point of its prey, just as it would snap a mouse’s or bird’s neck.

Stress Management

Chewing behavior is ingrained in cats. Many cats chew to pass the time.

However, this behavior is also often associated with stress. Cats chew to calm themselves when they are anxious or distressed.

In many cases, cats also enjoy nibbling on string. Wool or yarn, in particular, has a texture that appeals to cats. The texture of the material reminds the cat of the clothes you are wearing.

Chewing can also distract cats from physical pain, except for toothache. If oral discomfort occurs, a cat will not allow anything in its mouth.

Watch for other signs of pain, such as limping or reluctance to be picked up. Uncharacteristic chewing of cords could be a subtle sign that something is wrong with your cat.


If string chewing becomes compulsive eating of the material, your pet may suffer from pica.

Pica is a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder in which cats are compelled to eat inedible items.

Strings, especially shoelaces, and threads, are the most common items eaten by a cat with pica.

If your cat suffers from this condition, seek professional help to determine the cause.

Pica is not a disease in and of itself. Instead, it is a symptom that is related to an underlying cause.

Some of these causes may include:

  • Problems with diet, often a deficiency of specific vitamins or nutrients
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Lack of stimulation in the home environment
  • Hyperthyroidism

Don’t just let pica go, hoping your cat will grow out of this phase.

She may swallow something dangerous before this happens. Take the necessary steps to treat your cat’s pica.

How to Keep Cats from Eating Strings and Strings

The only way to keep a cat from eating strings and threads is to avoid them. Keep anything out of reach that a cat could potentially swallow.

If you play with string toys, keep them in a safe place when you are not using them.

It would help if you also discourage your cat from chewing on anything resembling cords.

Think of electrical cords, for example. Obviously, you don’t want your cat chewing on them. However, they can be attractive for the same reasons as cords.

Also, keep your cat away from anything resembling a cord because of smells and sounds. Cats hate the smell of citrus, so spray all cords with it.

A loud noise like clapping hands also creates negative associations with cords when your cat approaches the cord.

While you should use the latter method sparingly, it works surprisingly well.

Don’t subject your cat to a constant cacophony of sounds. This will cause anxiety.

However, you should create an unwanted association between string and noise. This will be helpful in the long run.

Conclusion: Why Do Cats Play With Threads and Strings?

Strings are an inexhaustible source of fascination for cats. But this does not mean it is a safe household item that can be used as a toy.

String toys can delight your cat and strengthen your bond through play. However, ensure that the strings do not get into your cat’s paws when unattended.