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Why Does My Cat Steal Things From Me? 10 Main Reasons

Written by: Ed Malaker

Last Updated on June 4, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

maine coon cat with toy in his mouth

Why Does My Cat Steal Things From Me? 10 Main Reasons

As cat owners, we know our felines are capable of many strange behaviors, but one of the weirdest has to be when they steal things from us and hide them away. Many cat parents have stories about their pets stealing lighters, pens, and many other items. If this is happening to you and you want to know why, keep reading for possible reasons and tips on what you can do to prevent it.

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The 10 Reasons Your Cat Is Stealing Things From You

1. It’s Their Predatory Instinct

Cats naturally hunt and stalk prey, and when they move or hide objects, they might be trying to sharpen their skills for the real thing. Your cat may bat an object around or carry it in their mouth as if it were a small animal that they caught.

cat biting his toy
Image Credit: SikorskiFotografie, Shutterstock

2. They Are Playing

Cats, especially younger ones, are extremely playful. They often see small objects as toys. Stealing and playing with these items provides mental stimulation and physical exercise, which are vital for a cat’s well-being and overall happiness.


3. They Are Looking for Attention

Some cats learn that taking something is a great way to get your attention, even if you’re chasing or running after them to get it back. A desire for attention is especially likely if you spend most of your time working or engaged in other tasks.

cat owner talking to his pet
Image Credit: Aziz Acharki, Unsplash

4. They Are Bored

A lack of stimulation can lead cats to engage in various behaviors, including stealing things. It can be a way of creating entertainment for themselves, especially if their environment lacks sufficient toys or play opportunities with their humans.


5. They Are Being Territorial

Cats are territorial animals and may move objects to leave their scent or mark their territory. By interacting with these items, they are spreading their scent and making the environment more familiar and comfortable. It can also help get the message across to other animals in the home that these areas belong to them.

British shorthair cat playing golf ball
Image Credit: Chill, Chillz, Shutterstock

6. They Are Hoarding

Some cats have a natural tendency to collect and hoard objects like certain wild animals do, which might be linked to their instinct to gather and store food, even if the items they steal are not edible and there is plenty of food available.


7. They Are Curious

Cats are naturally curious creatures that often explore their environment in many different ways. When they paw at or steal an object, it can mean that they are curious about it, and their actions are their way of getting more familiar with it.

Two cats are lying on the floor. Gray cats are playing with a laser pointer.
Image Credit: Wanda_Lizm, Shutterstock

8. They Are Stressed

Changes in environment and routing can lead to stress in a cat, even if the changes are relatively small, and stealing or hoarding objects might be their way of gaining a sense of control and comfort in their environment.


9. They Remember the Good Times

Cats may associate certain objects with positive experiences. For instance, if a cat enjoys playing with a particular type of object or receives a reward after interacting with certain items, they might seek out similar objects to recreate that positive experience.

himalayan cat eating treat
Image Credit: Piqsels

10. They Are Nesting

Pregnant or female cats in heat might collect items as part of a nesting instinct. This instinct may also linger after spaying.

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What You Can Do About Your Cat Stealing Things

  • Spending more quality time with your pet can be a great way to improve their behavior and reduce their desire to play with objects that they shouldn’t.
  • Rotate your pet’s toys frequently to keep them interesting. Some cats will get bored playing with the same toys every day and may resort to stealing your things.
  • Ensure that your cat has plenty of toys to play with. Interactive toys, puzzle feeders, and toys that mimic the movement of prey can help your cat have fun and enjoy themselves, which will reduce the likelihood of them stealing something that they are not supposed to play with.
  • Set aside regularly scheduled time each day to play with your cat. A routine will give them something to look forward to, and toys like feather wands and laser pointers can help them be more active, which will prevent boredom and burn off excess energy, leading to improved behavior.
  • Use positive reinforcement to train your cat by rewarding them for playing with acceptable toys and gently discouraging them from taking things that they shouldn’t. Avoid punishment, as it can lead to stress and more problematic behaviors, especially if anxiety is behind the stealing.
  • Create safe areas in your home for your cat with cat trees, window perches, and beds. This way, they will have places of their own that they can retreat to when they are feeling stressed.
  • Keep any small items that your cat likes to steal, including hair ties, lighters, pens, pencils, and straws, out of your pet’s reach, especially if it’s something that they might swallow.
  • If you think that your pet’s behavior is stress related, try to identify the problem, and fix it. Pheromone diffusers can help some cats feel more relaxed in a stressful environment.
  • Ensure that your cat is in good health, as health issues can sometimes lead to behavioral changes.
woman playing with her cat
Image Credit: Kmpzzz, Shutterstock

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Frequently Asked Questions

Why Does My Cat Only Steal Certain Items?

Your cat might steal specific items because of their size, texture, or scent or because of the reaction that stealing gets from you. Many toys that a cat likes to steal are similar to the ones that they play with, and they might like the action that they get from a pencil or lighter better than their current toys.

Is It Normal for Cats to Hide Things?

Yes, it’s quite normal for cats to hide things, and many will do it with at least a few items. This action may be tied to their instincts to hide the food that they catch from other predators.

How Can I Tell If My Cat Is Bored?

Signs that your cat is bored can include excessive sleeping, exhibiting destructive behavior, picking fights with other pets, eating too much, excessive grooming, and even stealing items that they don’t actually play with. If you notice more than one of these signs in your pet, there is a good chance that they will benefit from more attention and new toys.

How Can I Get the Items Back From My Cat?

If your cat is keeping an item from you, try to exchange it with one of their toys if possible. Chasing after your pet might give the impression that you are playing a game, and trading the item for a treat might encourage them to do it again.

Why Does My Cat Bring Me the Items That They Steal?

If your cat is stealing items from someone else in the house or another room and bringing them to you, it could be that they are trying to share their prey with you. They might also be attempting to display their hunting prowess.

cat sleeping with its belly up on a cat bed
Image Credit: Jim Black, Pixabay

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Conclusion

There are many reasons that a cat might steal your items. It most likely has to do with them being curious about the things that you use and a desire to get your attention. They may see the item as a toy, especially if they are getting bored with the toys that they usually play with.

If you have been spending a great deal of time at work or on tasks around the house, stealing objects could be a sign that they need more interaction. Some cats also seem to have a natural desire to hoard things, usually specific items that they can play with later. If the behavior is sudden or strange, schedule a visit with the vet to rule out underlying health problems.


Featured Image Credit: Alena A, Shutterstock

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