Why Do Cats Like String and Is It Safe for Play?

If you have ever seen a cat with a ball of yarn or string toys, there’s no doubt they love to play with string. But why do cats like string, and is it a safe toy option for them?

Let’s look at why string-like objects are always favorites with our feline friends and if there are any tips to ensure they are safe when playing.

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Why Do Cats Like String?

One of the big draws for cats regarding string is that it helps them practice their hunting instincts. In the wild, the ancestors of our domestic cats would hunt for a wide range of prey, such as birds or insects.

That means they need to have many different skills to stop themselves from going hungry. The way that they get these skills is to practice with anything that stimulates their instincts. 

Black cat with some string on it and a ball of string beside it

So anything that makes them think of a twitching tail of a mouse or a lizard, such as a piece of string, will get those instincts going!

Of course, the cat knows that the ball of string isn’t a mouse, but even indoor cats still have the urge to hunt things, and the mental stimulation from chasing the string does the job.

Even outdoor cats who may hunt in real life will still practice their stills with the end of the string if the opportunity presents itself.

Chasing Tails

Cats will also chase a string for the same reason they chase their tails. There’s something satisfying about it, and even older cats will have a few moments trying to catch their tail.

String draws the same attention from them as a cat’s tail, and chasing it gives similar satisfaction.

Even better, they have a better chance of catching string than catching their tail in many cases.

Motion Captures Attention

Cats don’t see with the same level of color that humans do, and their vision has a lower resolution.

But movement? They can pick up movement very quickly, and this instinct is an important thing when they are hunting prey.

Or when they are hunting string! A simple piece of string can be moved around in a way that quickly captures their attention because their eyesight is attuned to pick up small movements.

Even the air currents from a swinging string can activate their senses and lead to a fun interaction.

Enjoying the Texture

A third reason that chasing string is a fun option is that many cats like the texture of string or even the taste of it.

Cat playing with a multi-colored ball of string

Chewing the string is pleasant enough to work similarly to prey in a cat’s mouth. This is much more satisfying than chasing something insubstantial such as a laser pointer or a flashlight beam.

Plus, many types of string can be torn apart and eaten. This presents issues that we will examine in a moment, though.

Learn Something New

A string is one of those interactive toys that help kittens, in particular, to learn about things.

Older cats may find it a little boring after a while, but with younger cats, there’s the thrill of the chase and something new that string or string-type toys can bring.

As they build a cat’s predatory instincts, the string-like materials will help them learn about prey and what they can do regarding running, jumping, and chasing anything.

The Problems with String as a Cat Toy

On paper, giving your cat string to play with is a great way to stimulate their natural urges and quickly move to the list of their favorite toys.

But there are some issues and even potential dangers to string-based cat toys.

Getting Tied Up

Watching your cat or kitten get tied up with string or balls of yarn is funny at first, but feline behavior means they can quickly get scared or frantic trying to get loose.

They can hurt themselves, and as cat owners know, those claws can do severe damage when they are just playing with new toys.

If they are frightened, the damage can be much worse. So if you give your cat pieces of string or a ball to play with, make sure it is a closely supervised play session.

Digestive Issues

The other significant risk with string relates to the type of string that can be broken up, torn apart, or eaten.

That’s because the domestic cat cannot digest this type of material. The problem is the same with many small animals that run into string in their environment and eat it.

The string will sit in their digestive systems and could cause a blockage that results in a trip to the vet to handle it.

Siamese cat playing with a ball of string

Too Much Fun

If you have a high-energy cat or have those mad five minutes dashing around the house, anything that wears them out can seem like a good thing.

But it is possible for a cat to get exhausted, both physically and mentally. Playing for too long isn’t good for them, so a great toy is one they enjoy for a short period and then abandon to do something else.

However, the constant attraction of string means that this often doesn’t happen, and they can wear themselves out.

Final Thoughts on Why Cats Like String

A string is a cheap and affordable option for a cat toy that can grab a cat’s attention and simulate natural prey.

They enjoy playing with everything from a piece of string to a ball of wool, but you need to be aware of the dangers of string to keep a close eye on things to ensure they don’t get into trouble.

And avoid letting them eat the string as it can cause problems with internal organs and lead to a vet’s trip, which no pet parents want to have.

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