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Hoarding Behavior in Cats

Cat_Toy_HoardingIn nature, many animals gather items useful for their survival. Birds accumulate nesting materials. Squirrels and other rodents stow food away and also bring bedding and burrowing materials to their nests. Wolves bury bones and leftover food from meals that they will return for later.

Do Cats Collect Things?

Do cats collect items and stockpile them? It is a question often asked and little understood. In the wild, cats are not known for gathering things. Still, many cat owners notice behavior of this sort and wonder about it. Some cats collect pens and pencils and leave them under the couch. Another common behavior is a cat that routinely piles toys next to or drops toys into, her food or water bowl.

In the wild, mama cats will bring both dead and live prey to the nest as a method to introduce new foods for their kittens to eat and also to learn to kill on their own—in a safe environment.

Perhaps in the gathering of toys and other items, our domestic cat is motivated by her belief that the toy is prey of some sort, since it is often deposited in the area where she eats and feels safe and at ease.

Many believe this theory but others believe the cat is actually gathering what she considers to be her offspring (the toys) and delivering them to the place of food.

A mother cat will collect wandering kittens and return them to their nest, and at times she will gather her kittens and take them to different locations for safety’s sake by carrying them by the back of the neck.

These theories are quite plausible, but what of the male cat who gathers and hoards in this manner? Male cats are certainly not known for their extreme interest in kittens.

What About the Dead Animal Thing?

Probably the best-known prey gathering behavior by a domestic cat is the depositing of a dead animal on the front porch or in another area we are likely to notice it, like right at our feet. In most cases, this dead body is intact and obviously not killed for the benefit of the cat.

Is this a generous gesture? A way for our feline friend to show us without words just how much she or he cares for us? Perhaps we seem like her little kittens that need to be schooled and fed? Maybe she thinks we are incapable hunters? Does she think we are her mom since we pet (groom) and feed her just as her mother did when she was a kitten and so is showing her appreciation?

There are no sure answers, but behaviors such as these are usually an example of what goes on in the wild.

Cats That Exhibit Dragon-Like Hoarding

There is another form of gathering and hoarding that occurs from time to time. Like a crow that is attracted to shiny things and has a penchant for stealing them, there are some cats that collect and hoard jewelry, tin, glass, beads, coins, and other shiny objects. Not only will some cats gather these items, but they will stockpile them. They often don’t play with them or even move them around. It is almost like they are little kleptomaniacs that are compelled to steal whether or not there is a use for the items.

This stealing and hoarding behavior is funny to watch, but if a cat seems compelled to behave so, even at the expense of disrupting other parts of her life, it may be a problem. It can possibly be a form of obsessive compulsive disorder and if you are concerned, your veterinarian should be consulted.

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