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Is your cat unrolling toilet paper and dragging it all around — or even out of — the bathroom? You're not alone! Walking into a bathroom strewn with toilet paper is a very common occurrence for cat parents.
But why do cats love toilet paper so much? Is it just to drive their pet parents crazy? Your feisty feline is doing more than simply terrorizing your toilet paper; they're engaging in instinctive behavior.
Cats and Toilet Paper: Why Do They Love It So Much?
Most, if not all, cat parents have witnessed the destruction left behind by cats with toilet paper streamers. Typically, you'll see this behavior more often in kittens, but active older cats also indulge in a little toilet paper shredding. Most often, your cute house cat wreaks havoc on toilet paper because their big cat instincts are still very much a part of their life. Boredom and, less commonly, health reasons also contribute to toilet paper wreckage.
As natural-born predators, cats are on high alert much of the time. To such a skilled innate hunter, a fluttering roll of toilet paper is hard to resist. The act of "catching" and pulling the loose end of a toilet paper roll is akin to a cat's hunting process. This "toying" with inanimate prey exemplifies "predatory behavior directed towards inanimate objects," explains International Cat Care.
If your kitty successfully knocks off the entire roll of toilet paper and clutches it in their paws while performing the cat bunny kick, they're engaging in instinctive behavior. It's an aggressive move, however, so it's best to avoid trying to take away the toilet paper until your cat's finished attacking it.
Cats are happiest when their humans are home 24/7, and they'll exhibit certain behaviors while you're out of the house, including tearing up toilet paper. Boredom can cause other destructive behaviors, leading some cat parents to think that their cat is out to get them. This is a "common misconception," points out the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, since many destructive behaviors are "usually part of normal investigation and play." Boredom can occur while you're at home, too, so set aside time each day to engage your cat in interactive play.
Sometimes, cats chew on toilet paper because of pica, which is the urge to eat non-food items such as wool, plastic and paper. A cat unrolling toilet paper as a form of play isn't a cause for concern, but as Cat Health emphasizes, if your cat regularly chews and ingests toilet paper, contact your veterinarian to determine whether an underlying issue, such as stress, anxiety or another medical concern, is causing this urge.
How to Stop Your Cat from Unrolling Toilet Paper
If your kitty is bound and determined to get at toilet paper, they'll usually achieve that goal. However, there are a few ways to keep your cat from mangling the toilet paper roll:
- Keep the bathroom door shut
- Use a toilet paper guard
- Install your toilet paper holder vertically instead of horizontally to make the toilet paper less accessible
- Reshape the toilet roll so that it's less round and more square
Because every cat has their own unique personality, not all tricks work for all cats. For example, some cats don't take kindly to a closed door while others may see a horizontal roll of toilet paper and think, "challenge accepted."
One effective way to break up a relationship between cats and toilet paper is to redirect your cat's attention. Ideally, this redirection happens when they're kittens, but it's never too late to try! Redirecting attention is a positive, effective way of disciplining your cat properly because it distracts them from destructive behavior while positively reinforcing positive behavior, like attacking a catnip mouse or whacking a toy bird on a stick.
Although cats unrolling toilet paper can be cute, it's also wasteful. Toilet paper (clean or used) cannot be recycled, and you definitely shouldn't use the toilet paper remnants: they can be contaminated with cat saliva and fur, bits of cat litter and who knows what other visible and invisible germs. But it doesn't have to be a total waste. You can use the now-empty toilet paper tube to create boredom-busters like a cat food puzzle, DIY cat toy or other craft for fun activities to do with your cat.
Christine Brovelli-O'Brien, Ph.D., is an award-winning writer, researcher, and long-time cat mom. She's a professional member of the Cat Writers' Association (CWA) and has written for industry-leading companies and organizations. Find and follow Christine on Instagram and Twitter @brovelliobrien