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Cats who are cat burglars: 8 reasons your kitty claims your stuff

Cats who are cat burglars: 8 reasons your kitty claims your stuff

Posted by Armarkat on 18th Jan 2024

Does your cat ‘steal’ items from around your home? Whether your cat is the quintessential ‘cat burglar’ taking items while stealthily out of sight, or committing their kitty crimes in broad daylight, they’re acting on impulse. Reasons for feline ‘thievery’ depend on the cat’s personality and the type of item being taken.

A cat can have multiple instincts or interests that lead them to take your things. The reason could include one or more of the following:

  1. The collector:

The collector kitty enjoys carrying around items for the sake of having something to move from one place to another. They may have a favorite place to stash objects, such as underneath furniture or inside their cat bed. According to Catster, “Collecting items is normal behavior that some cats will engage in, and it’s not a huge concern” unless your cat is displaying signs of anxiety or resource guarding, in which they aggressively stake claims over items they want to protect. The average cat who likes to collect things does not react harshly when you return pilfered items to their rightful place.

Catster notes that many collector kitties have a pattern of gathering plastic items, as they are “relatively light and easy to carry around, and they’re usually found in abundance.” However, if you suspect your thieving feline is chewing on or even eating small objects, take your cat to the vet to make sure they haven’t ingested something harmful.

2.The hunter:

The hunter has a vivid imagination in which items are like tiny targets waiting to be ambushed. A hunter kitty pretends they are stalking stationary objects, as if they were a lion hunting antelope in the savannah. Cat experts at the Healthy Pet Club write that “Your cat is trying to be like their ancestors by simulating hunting. It’s only natural for them and nicking your things could act as a substitute to their prey.” If your kitty is leaping at, batting, and biting objects, then items are getting strewn around due to make-believe hunting rather than a collector’s habit.

But if your cat is play-fighting with items that you’d rather not be damaged or misplaced, consider getting them more toys and, as the Healthy Pet Club recommends, “Play more games with your cat, especially those involving chasing a toy around.”

3.The nature lover:

The nature lover is a cat who enjoys textures and noises that remind them of the wild. If your cat is especially fond of stealing paper or bottle caps, the reason may surprise you. Catster reports that cats who enjoy stealing papers, including but not limited to “crumpled receipts and opened mail”, are attracted to things that remind them of rustling leaves. According to Catster, “The leaves and paper can make noises that mimic insect sounds.” Additionally, sliding bottle caps can ignite the curiosity of the nature-loving cat, as they also recreate certain sounds found in the great outdoors.

4.The shiny appraiser:

The shiny appraiser is a feline who hoards objects that gleam and glitter. They’ll be ‘appraising’ these items by how fun they are to play with. Particularly attentive and environment-aware kitties are more likely to go after shiny items. PetCareRx explains that cats notice lighting most when it lies within their peripheral vision. When that happens, “A cat could catch the littlest movement. If the object of its attention shines, then it is a given that the feline will go to investigate what it is.”

If your kitty is stealing your shiny jewelry, watches, or other valuables, try keeping those objects locked up just as you would with anything else you’d rather not be taken by your cat.

5.The chewer:

The chewer is a feline thief who needs very close supervision because they love to chew on objects that are not safe to consume. When a chewer steals from you, the items are more likely to be eaten than end up in a hidden pile. Catster cautions that tiny, flexible items, such as rubber bands, are prime targets for chewers “because the texture is similar to meat.” Unfortunately, rubber bands and other items made of rubber or plastic material are choking hazards. Ingesting rubber bands can even be fatal for your kitty if they are not removed by a veterinary professional.

The Be Chewy blog cites the case of a cat who ingested 50 elastic hair bands, all of which had to be removed from the cat’s intestines to prevent blockage that could shut down internal organ function. Be Chewy suggests that cat parents of chewers stay on high alert: “Cats are quite methodical about stealing and eating—your cat could very easily pull a headband from your head while you sleep!”

6.The foodie:

Unlike the chewer, the foodie steals items intended for consumption, including both cat treats and human food. Foodie cats are fond of snatching any snacks left unattended, whether pilfering food left on counters and tables or prying open containers and drawers to reach it. Your missing food may end up in a cat’s hidden treasure trove of nom-noms instead of being eaten right away. Be Chewy writes that “According to Dr. Elizabeth McKinstry, VMD, cats in the wild will sometimes bury their food so they can eat it later. When cats steal and hide items, they may be mimicking this food-related behavior.”

If your cat is a foodie thief, you’ll be relieved to hear that there are simple remedies to decrease this food-stealing behavior. The Healthy Pet Club advises that “the most logical solution would be to make sure your cat eats both of their meals slowly, rather than all at once. Puzzle feeders for cats can help slow your cats eating down and it also gives them a challenge, keeps them entertained and most importantly can stop them from nicking your food!”

7.The nurturer:

The nurturer comes from a very specific situation and steals items out of a desire to take care of something as though it were their baby. The nurturer kind of kitty thief is most often a mother acting upon maternal instinct. According to Be Chewy, “If your cat is a mother who has been separated from her kittens, she may just be displaying her maternal behavior. A cat may nab a plush toy and carry it around in her mouth and protect it as she would her own.”

8.The showoff:

The showoff is not a stealthy thief because they take items in order to be noticed. Be Chewy describes a common scenario for a showoff kitty, who is “seeking attention or play when she steals your stuff. You might have the instinct to discipline your cat for hiding all of your socks behind the bookshelf, but…this might be exactly what the cat wants.” Even negative reactions from their humans can be taken as a form of attention because they are desperate for human interaction. However, if a showoff kitty has an item you need to get back, Dr. Aimee Simpson, the Medical Director of VCA Cat Hospital of Philadelphia, recommends that you “wait until they are done with it, unless it’s something that you’re worried about them eating right away, and then put it in a place where they can’t get to it.”

Trying to take an object back from a showoff kitty can initiate a chase, which the cat would consider a game. Avoid taking items directly from a showoff thief because games of chase provide attention and play that will incentivize the cat to steal more things.

Every cat needs mental and physical stimulation. Cats are less likely to touch your possessions when they have healthy outlets for exercising and adventuring. High quality cat furniture helps your cat stay healthy and happy. Armarkat cat trees are designed with feline health in mind and many of our cat trees are approved by cat expert Jackson Galaxy! Visit to browse our large selection.

Quote to remember: "As every cat owner knows, nobody owns a cat." –Ellen Perry Berkeley


Be Chewy, “Kitty Kleptos: Why Cats Steal and When to Worry About It”

Catster, “6 Strange Items Cats Like to Collect & Why”

PetCareRx, “Why Do Cats Steal”

The Healthy Pet Club, “Why does my cat steal things?”