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One Man’s Trash is Another Cat’s Treasure (with Video)

Written by: Dr. Karyn Kanowski BVSc MRCVS (Veterinarian)

Last Updated on May 24, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

Sometimes paper hunting is a waiting game.

One Man’s Trash is Another Cat’s Treasure (with Video)


Dr. Karyn Kanowski Photo


Dr. Karyn Kanowski

Veterinarian, BVSc MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Hi, I’m Dr. Karyn! Read my introduction to learn more about me and meet my five hilarious cats: Clutch, Cyril, Alex, Zelda, and Zazzles.

There are certain sounds that cats cannot resist – peeling back the lid of a can, the shake of the kibble box, or the opening of a refrigerator door – for Alex, it’s the rustle of paper being screwed up into a ball. I can be anywhere in the house, at any time of the day, and as soon as my hand starts to close around that piece of paper…Boom! The ginger ninja is there, long whiskers twitching, eyes wide, waiting to pounce.

You might recall that I recently talked about indoor cats and whether they should be allowed to hunt. When I watch the waves of anticipation ripple over Alex’s back as he readies himself to pounce on the unsuspecting ball of paper that has been so carelessly (strategically) tossed aside, I can see that he is able to flex his predatory instincts in a way that is safe for him, and seems to provide him with plenty of satisfaction.

Alex keeps his eyes on the prize.
Alex keeps his eyes on the prize.

Fresh is Best

Alex is quite particular about the quality of his crinkly quarry – evidently this type of game only stays fresh for a short time, and he’s soon back on the prowl. You might think that events like Christmas would be Alex’s idea of heaven, but not so. Apparently, the attraction of the paper prey is significantly reduced when available in large numbers – sort of like ‘shooting fish in a barrel’. It’s only fun if he needs to hone his instincts and strike with the precision of his wild ancestors, and evidently, being surrounded by a flurry of discarded wrapping paper and ribbon doesn’t have the same appeal!

Do the other cats get in on the action? Strangely, no; this is just Alex’s arena. Cyril occasionally looks on curiously, his fuzzy little brow furrowed in concentration, trying to work out the game, losing interest when he realizes there is no food reward.

Hunting, indoor cat style.
Hunting, indoor cat style.

When the hilarious duo, Ned & Fred, joined our household, there was suddenly competition. The tiny Chihuahuas are equally enamored of rustling wrappers, though they are usually motivated by the hope that there is something delicious contained within. Alex was initially put off by the Chihuahua’s energetic interference, but he now seems to enjoy the added difficulty level.

Zelda’s Stretch Appeal

Zelda is another of our hunters, but rather than engage in something as crass as chasing paper balls, her target requires something of a more stealthy approach. Hair ties and rubber bands are her quarry of choice, and she has a remarkable ability to sniff them out. Being that we would very much like to avoid these items lodging themselves in her intestines, this is something we try to prevent, but the fact that we actively deter and intercept her hunt seems to make it all the more satisfying for her.

Spoils of the Hunt
Spoils of the Hunt

On more than one occasion I have walked into the ensuite in the middle of the night to find Zelda precariously balanced on the shower door, trying to reach the hair tie I carelessly left hanging from the shower caddy. Just last night, she darted through the cat door that leads  to the catio outside, with a large rubber band clamped firmly between her tiny white teeth. Realizing she had been spotted, she moved like black lightning across the room, equal parts determined and gleeful, knowing I was close behind, wondering how on earth a large rubber band found its way into the catio in the first place. These springy objects are the only toys she has ever shown any interest in – unless you count the kitchen sponges she liked to shred into confetti as a kitten – and when I hear her jumping and galloping around upstairs, I know exactly what I will find.

Fortunately, Zelda has not suffered any gastrointestinal consequences from her choice of prey, and seems to lose interest as soon as she has succeeded in breaking through the band – evidently an elastic string lacks the appeal of the stretchy ring. But I am not willing to take my chances, and so we will continue our little ritual: Zelda, lurking in wait for the opportunity to sniff out an errant elastic band, me, ever alert to her strange little game.

My cats, just like yours, help us find joy in the simplest of things. Their affinity for discarded objects and trash often leaves me wondering how the cat toy industry stays afloat when most moggies are determined to make their own fun.

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