10 Household Items Cats Like to Play With, But Should They?

Does your cat prefer the box over the toy that came in it? Here’s why cats love playing with things that aren’t toys.

Published August 23, 2023

No matter how many cat toys you buy for your feline friend, they always prefer the box it came in, the packing paper, or the old receipt that just fell out of your purse. Sound familiar? Cats love playing with random household items, and while some of them are fine for your cat to bat around, others aren't quite so safe. Which of these 10 things does your cat like to play with?

10. Q-Tips


No one's really sure why cats like Q-Tips so much. Maybe it's the fact that they're light or that the paper portion is the perfect size for them to carry around in their mouth. Either way, you're not alone if your cat digs Q-Tips out of the trash to play with. But you should know they can be dangerous if your cat decides to eat or swallow one.

Quick Tip

Get a covered bathroom trash can to keep your cat from getting to the Q-Tips and remove any you see lying around.

9. Curtains


Cats view curtains as a super fun household item. For one thing, some cats really enjoy hiding behind the fabric and pouncing on their housemates or toys from behind the curtain. Others might choose to climb the curtains as a way to get as high as possible. Spare your curtains and make sure your kitty has a cat tree they can climb instead.

8. String


It's no secret cats love yarn and will jump (literally) at the chance to chase a piece of string. But string isn't a good toy for cats. If they ingest it, these long pieces can get stuck in their intestines, and the gut essentially becomes bunched up as the string continues to move through. It sounds terrible, and it is just as awful IRL. As cute as it is to see your cat playing with string, keep all yarn, shoelaces, thread, etc., away from your cat.

7. Water


Some cats hate water, but others absolutely adore it. If you share your house with one of the latter, you might find them with their head under a dripping faucet or even playing in their water dish. A cat water fountain can be a better way to let your cat enjoy water without running up your water bill.

6. Feathers


Wild cats hunt birds, so it's no wonder your little house cat loves batting around any feathers that make their way out of your down pillow. The truth is that modern felines really aren't that domesticated, so they've retained a lot of their wild instincts, like going after feathered creatures (or just the feathers).

Fast Fact

Feathers can be a choking hazard if your cat decides to munch on them, so always supervise your kitty when they're playing with one.

5. Pom-Poms


Before pet toy companies started manufacturing pom-pom balls as cat toys, they were just used as decorative supplies. Cats love pulling them off of pillows, sweaters, art projects, or wherever they can find them, then carrying them around in their mouths. While the big pom-poms are fine for your cat to play with, avoid any that are small enough to swallow.

4. Paper


You know that crinkly paper sound that causes your cat to come running? It reminds them of the noise mice and other rodent prey make in the wild. That's one of the reasons cats love paper so much. They like to play with packing paper, paper bags, receipts, or whatever other paper they can get their paws on. 

3. Cardboard Boxes


Cats and cardboard boxes go together like peanut butter and jelly. Boxes are enclosed spaces where a cat can feel secure and safe while still having a pretty good vantage point. They also tend to hold heat, and what cat doesn't love to be warm?

Quick Tip

Want to turn a box into an extra-special kitty hideaway? Just place the box upside down, then cut a few archways in the edges of the box that make contact with the ground.

2. Bugs


Cats are natural predators, which explains why they love hunting bugs. Whether it's a stink bug or a daddy long-legs, your kitty can't turn down a game of cat and bug. There's really no harm in this behavior unless your pet tries to go for one of the toxic bugs.

1. Hair Accessories


And the most popular things that cats love to play with are hair accessories. Hair ties, scrunchies, clips, and bobby pins are simply irresistible to cats, but that doesn't mean it's a good idea to let yours have them. If your sweet kitty swallows a hair accessory, there's a good chance it could get stuck in their intestines. Instead of tossing a hair elastic to engage your cat, stick to cat toys or safer household objects.

Keep an Eye on Things Your Cat Plays With


Even if you thoroughly cat-proof your house, there's always a chance your cat will get into something or other and turn it into a toy. While most of these household items are fine for your cat to play with (as long as you're ok with it!), some are dangerous. Avoid letting your cat play with hair ties, toxic bugs, small pom-poms, string, and Q-Tips, and swap them out with a safe toy instead.

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10 Household Items Cats Like to Play With, But Should They?