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Why Are Cats Drawn to Clutter?

Are they trying to tell me to clean up? They might be even more compulsive than I am.

Catherine Holm  |  Nov 12th 2014


It never fails. I get into a project and the rest of life piles up. And I mean piles up. There’s a stack on my desk that needs attending to, and I can’t seem to get to it.

But the cats are another story. They do get to it. If the pile is neatly stacked, they knock it over. And if the pile is spread about on the floor, they are drawn to it like a magnet. What is it about cats and clutter? I have my theories. None of these are proven, but all are possible. Maybe they are all true! What do you think?

1. They are telling me to clean it up

Somehow, I’m not sure this is the case. Why would the cats care if I cleaned up the clutter or not? I’m not normally a cluttered person, except in my office. Usually, the clutter indicates something that I don’t want to deal with. Normally, I am very neat. If there’s something I’m putting off, there it sits, to remind me. It’s a way that I torment myself.

Maybe the cats are helping me attend to my sanity. “Mom, if you would only get rid of this pile and deal with it, you would be happier, because you wouldn’t have to stare at its disorder.”

2. They want me to stop working and pay attention to them

If the cat sits on the stuff on the floor, he could be telling me to pay attention to it. But he could also be telling me to forget about it. In this case, the bigger the cat, the better. Zorro is pretty sturdy and big (not fat). He could possibly manage to cover a small pile of clutter. “Mom, if I sit all over these papers, maybe you’ll forget about them and pay attention to me.”

Somehow, this motivation seems more likely, especially since Zorro (and a few of my others) are also very skilled at computer hogging skills. They’ve obviously learned that I have to pay them attention if their heads are halfway across the keyboard and I can’t type. This is a good thing! I get up, play with them, and go back to the work later. My back and my wrists thank me.

3. The clutter is a substitute for a bed

This seems unlikely, but who knows the mind of a cat? Surely, a fleecy cat bed, a lap, or some cool hiding place would be more fun than sprawling on a bunch of papers. But honestly, after they’ve assessed that they’ve gotten my attention by sprawling all over the (wrecked and shuffled) pile, they often curl up on the mess and go to sleep, as if they were in their favorite cat beds.

4. The clutter is fun because it slides, and cats love the sound and the feel of sliding papers

This is my favorite theory. Sometimes I think paper clutter is just as attractive as a fast-moving, light fabric over a floor. (Think sheets — cats can’t resist them.) It seems that paper has the same effect. I’ve seen cats deliberately go after sheets of paper just to knock them on the floor and push them around. My clutter pile on the desk or the floor makes the cat’s job even easier. He doesn’t have to find the paper or push it on to a level surface — it’s already there. And if there’s a lot of it, and of all different shapes and sizes — well, there’s even more fun to be had.

5. Cats thrive on chaos

Could this be? What’s more chaotic than a bunch of mixed up, shuffled stuff on the floor? You know that every piece of paper on the floor is important, and you know that it has now been shuffled, like a deck of cards, courtesy of your cat. These cats should be working in Vegas, making sure the house always wins. In my office, the cat always wins. The clutter gets gleefully shuffled into some new and amazing (and non-locatable) pattern, and the cat reigns supreme, sitting on the pile, until I am forced to ignore it and search for order elsewhere. Gotta love cats!

Do your cats love clutter? How do they show you? Why do you think that clutter is a cat magnet? Let me know in the comments!

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About Catherine Holm: Told that she is funny but doesn’t know it, accused of being an unintentional con artist by her husband, quiet, with frequent unannounced bursts into dancing liveliness, Cat Holm loves writing about, working for, and living with cats. She is the author of The Great Purr (cat fantasy novel out June 1), the cat-themed memoir Driving with Cats: Ours for a Short Time, the creator of Ann Catanzaro cat fantasy story gift books, and the author of two short story collections. She loves to dance, be outside whenever possible, read, play with cats, make music, do and teach yoga, and write. Cat lives in the woods, which she loves as much as really dark chocolate, and gets regular inspiration shots along with her double espresso shots from the city.