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Stupid Pet Experiment: Which Items From the Wastebasket Do My Cats Like Best?

My cats love to steal wastebasket bits; science will show us which items they prefer -- or don't.

Angie Bailey  |  May 28th 2015


My cats like to tip over my office wastebasket and rifle through it, hoping to find discarded treasures that are of interest to them. My wastebasket is probably a lot like yours. The contents include crumpled-up items, spent pens, food wrappers, and miscellaneous throwaways like Q-tips or broken thumb drives. 

I decided, since my three cats are such fans of wastebasket innards, I’d set up a little experiment. I chose four items that are classic cat-grabs and placed them beside the wastebasket. Then I waited to see which item each of my cats chose. Genius, right? Shout-out to Target for providing choice, reusable wastebasket liners!

The four options were an envelope with a crinkly window, a protein bar wrapper (Luna Chocolate Coconut Almond is a total nom), a dead pen, and a crumpled Post-it note with the sticky side out. Oh, this is exactly the kind of science that excites me.


A fine selection of wastebasket treasures!

Phoebe and Cosmo were the first to explore the setup. Cosmo mostly wanted to rub his face all over the nearby table leaf. Phoebe initially wandered aimlessly. Come on, guys!


Cosmo decides rubbing his face on a table leaf is way more entertaining.

Then Phoebe made her move. After bathing her leg, she sniffed a bit and moved on. What? This cat regularly hoards Post-it notes in her kitty cube. It was definitely an impostor. Phoebe loves her some Post-its, and I couldn’t imagine her passing on the opportunity to capture one that was free for the taking. She smelled it, but that’s not any kind of conclusion.

Next was Cosmo, who sniffed everything, but appeared bored by the whole shebang. As he exited the shot, he stretched his back leg and kind of kicked the protein bar wrapper. Maybe that meant it was his favorite, and he was just being nonchalant about it. Maybe. Probably not.

Yeah, she didn’t even acknowledge the items. She simply walked over them as if they were annoyances on the path to her sleeping spot. Saffy, who goes completely out of her head when any food is present, didn’t even smell the protein bar wrapper. She’d never eat a protein bar, but why not take a whiff? So out of character. Perhaps another impostor.

So what did I ascertain from this very important scientific experiment? Well, first of all, I learned my cats are giant liars. I’ve seen them have a rippin’ good time with every single one of the objects they were offered. I’ve observed the tipping of wastebaskets and the digging to find items just like the ones I openly presented them. They love them! I’ve seen it! 

My husband concluded the problem is that they didn’t obtain the items. Half the fun is the “getting.” I can see that, but I have a hard time conceiving that all of them walked away from the wastebasket goodies.

You know what? They’re cats. If we humans want them to do something, they’re probably not going to do it. My guess is if I were to leave the lineup on the floor and leave the room for an hour, I’d come back to complete chaos. Not only would all four objects have been batted around and chewed, but the cats would have probably gone ahead and tipped over the entire wastebasket. 

It’s a failed experiment. Science and cats have betrayed me!  

What are your cats’ favorite wastebasket items? Tell us about it in the comments! 

Read more by Angie Bailey:

About the Author: Angie Bailey is an eternal optimist with an adoration of all things silly. Loves pre-adolescent boy humor, puns, making up parody songs, thinking about cats doing people things and The Smiths. Writes Catladyland, a cat humor blog, Texts from Mittens (originated right here on Catster) and authored whiskerslist: the kitty classifieds, a silly book about cats wheeling and dealing online. Partner in a production company and writes and acts in comedy web series that features sketches and mockumentaries. Mother to two humans and three cats, all of which want her to make them food. 

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