If you’ve ever seen your cat rub up against a shoe you just took off, you probably thought it was pretty darn strange. What’s so feline-friendly about a pair of boots? And why do cats insist upon getting up close and personal with your finest footwear even when they have plenty of actual toys to play with? Like many weird cat behaviors, it turns out there’s actually an explanation! Read on for experts’ answers to the question of why do cats like shoes so much, plus some adorable pictures of cats enjoying shoes.
Why do cats like shoes? 3 major reasons
1. They like the scent
Cats are curious and territorial by nature, so a lot of their behaviors are driven by their need to explore and claim things as their own — and shoes are no exception. “Cats like shoes primarily because of the smell,” explains Dr. Ray Spragley, a veterinarian at Zen Dog Vet in Tuckahoe, New York. Let’s face it: No matter how clean you keep your shoes, they’re probably going to get a little smelly after a while, especially if you’re walking around a lot or it’s hot outside.
When cats pick up the smell of shoes, their possessive instincts are activated: “They tend to rub their head on the shoes to mark their territory using pheromones that are located in glands in their cheeks,” Dr. Spragley explains.
Noticed that your cat is always getting up close and personal with your dress shoes? They’re not doing this for fashion reasons! “Cats tend to be attracted to leather shoes since they tend to hold on scents better than other material,” says Dr. Dwight Alleyne, a Marietta, Georgia-based veterinarian and expert for JustAnswer.
2. Shoes remind them of toys
Shoes may not seem like toys to us, but to a cat, they present a world of playful possibilities. “Cats are more likely to play with shoes that have shoelaces,” says Dr. Spragley. “Cats love the way shoelaces move and can become obsessed with playing with them and biting them.”
When you think about it, this lust for laces actually makes a lot of sense! Picture those perennially beloved string toys for cats — untied shoelaces are basically a miniature version of that. Cats can lose themselves in batting their little paws at a string, and the combination of a string and the smell that sneakers provide can prove irresistible.
Sometimes you might even catch your cat using your shoes as an armrest! “Shoes can prove to be very comfortable for cat paws,” says Dr. Alleyne. Cats love small spaces, from cardboard boxes to cabinets, and the inside of a shoe is a perfectly confined place for them to explore.
3. They’re showing affection
It might not seem this way, but cats may actually play with your shoes to show they love you. “Cats get comfort from their owners’ smell,” Dr. Spragley says. That means a cat that’s nuzzling up to your favorite pair of sneakers might just be trying to get closer to you. As Dr. Alleyne explains, “Cats love shoes because they may feel they are bonding with their owner when they are laying on or smelling their shoes.” In fact, “It can be almost equivalent to them cuddling with their owner,” he says. How sweet is that?
So if your little guy is spending a ridiculously long time with your shoes, your precious pet probably thinks very highly of you. What can we say? A weird compliment is still a compliment — especially when it comes from a cat!
How to keep your cat away from your shoes
Cats playing with shoes can go from cute to destructive in the blink of an eye. One minute they’re nuzzling their head against your shoe, the next they’re kicking and biting them. This behavior can cause your shoes to get scuffed, and no one wants their shoes looking shabby.
The solution is simple: Instead of leaving your shoes by the door when you come in, you might want to store them in a closet. “I have a cat, and she love my shoes,” says Dr. Alleyne. “What I usually do to discourage her is distract her with other toys, or avoid having my shoes in reach of my cat.”
It may also be helpful to deodorize your shoes so they’re less appealing to your cat. Our guide for how to get the smell out of shoes will help you out!
Click through to learn about more quirky cat behaviors: