You’re sure you put that hair tie down somewhere, but now you can’t seem to find it. You turn your back on your dinner plate for a minute and there’s suddenly less food on it. You always seem to have one sock missing from a pair, where do they all go? If this sounds familiar, you may have a cunning cat burglar in the house.
Why do cats steal things?
- Predatory nature. If your cat is stealing the steak from your dinner plate or a chicken wing from the kitchen counter, it’s not necessarily he’s hungry. A cat is a natural predator, and having his food served up in a bowl for him a few times a day doesn’t satisfy his natural hunting instinct. If your cat doesn’t eat the food straight away, and instead carries it around in his mouth while growling, it’s a good sign that he’s a predatory thief.
- Hunger. Your cat may be stealing food simply because he’s hungry, and that’s not necessarily a reflection of whether or not you are feeding him enough. Maybe he’s on a special veterinary prescribed diet, and he just wants more.
- Attention seeking behaviour. Has your cat learnt that when he steals something you give him attention? Even if you’re telling him off, that is still a form of attention, so you are incentivising him to repeat the behaviour and steal again.
- Boredom. Perhaps it’s a game and your cat is just bored with the same routine day in and day out. If your cat doesn’t have enough stimulation during the day he could easily have found his own way to entertain himself.
How can I stop my cat stealing?
Don’t panic if you have your very own cat burglar, there are ways that you can curb this behaviour, you just need to find out why he’s doing it.
If your cat is a frequent food thief, you should make sure that he doesn’t get the chance to take any human foods, and you certainly shouldn’t encourage him by feeding scraps from your plate. Apart from the fact that you should be stopping him from stealing food, don’t forget that there are a number of human foods that are bad for cats. (Refer to our article: ‘Human foods your cat shouldn’t eat’ for more information). Predatory food stealing can be stopped by making feeding times more interesting, for example by using a puzzle feeder that means he has to use his wits to get to the food inside. Feeding little and often, the way a cat would eat in the wild, will help if you think he’s stealing food through hunger.
If your cat is an attention seeking thief, then whatever you do, don’t encourage him by talking to him and fussing over him when you take back the stolen item. Giving your cat lots of toys, attention and stimulus throughout the day should keep his mind off those tempting items, and this will also help if he’s stealing through boredom.
Of course, if you consider that the house belongs to the cats and we just pay the bills, then it’s not really stealing, it’s just borrowing for a period of time.
Do your have a cat burglar at your house? What are your cats’ favourite things to steal?