Cats will play with just about anything small enough to roll between their paws, and you might have noticed that your cat has picked up a strange fascination with Q-tips.
For some international readers who might not know, Q-tips are a popular brand name for cotton buds, those little plastic or card sticks with small wads of cotton positioned on either side. You know, the ones people use for ear cleaning, even though you shouldn’t!
Without further ado, here are the reasons why cats like q-tips.
1. They’re Fun to Play With
Aside from the fact, Q-Tips are fun to roll around, cats have the instinct to play with things that move unpredictably. After all, they’re hunters and still quite adept at catching mice and birds when they get the chance.
This is because cats are only semi-domesticated, meaning they are happy to go about their days independently, unlike dogs, which rely on humans. The big change from their ancestors (and contemporary cousins) is that cats are now more comfortably cohabiting with other animals, including us!
Q-tips obviously can’t move on their own, but they have a habit of pinging around in unpredictable ways, which is why they’re so fond of them.
2. They’re Fun to Chew
Many pet toys tend to be multi-faceted, allowing different points of stimulus for your cat to enjoy. Q-tips are much the same, there are the flexible and eminently chewable, plastic or rolled paper middle and the two soft cotton buds on either side.
Cats love to play with cotton as it adheres to their claws and is light enough to be plucked from the floor easily.
They’re often drawn to things with a fluffy texture, like feathers and cotton balls – perhaps because it resembles their preferred prey.
3. They’re Easily Available
Probably the reason so many of us know about this specific obsession is because of how ubiquitous Q-tips or cotton swabs are. Their many uses mean they can be found in homes worldwide – you might have a container in your kitchen or bathroom.
As small and irresistibly flick-able as they are, it’s not surprising that they can easily get lost under the sofa or various nooks and crannies around the house, the sort of places your cat loves to inspect.
Some cats even have a habit of fishing them out of the trash – which seems a little gross to us, especially because we’ve likely used them beforehand. But, of course, your cat makes very little distinction between what goes in the trash and what sits on the kitchen counter.
4. They Don’t Pose a Threat
We’ll get onto some of the safety concerns of Q-tips shortly, but cats are happy to play with cotton swabs because they don’t fight back.
While cats have a habit of teasing other animals and can get into unfortunate scrapes with other cats, the simple sedentary Q-tip does little but roll around and occasionally ping outward. They’ll happily play with them for a while and then leave them alone once they get bored.
Are Q-Tips Unsafe for Cats?
Your cat is one inquisitive fellow, and that curiosity sometimes gets cats into spots of medical bother. The problem with Q-tips is that their small size, malleability, and the cat’s propensity to stick them in their mouths means that parts can end up being swallowed.
It’s important to try and stop your pets from swallowing foreign objects; they can harm the cat’s digestive system if they do not pass properly. This may result in an expensive trip to the vet and, of course, a very unhappy few days for the cat.
If you notice blood in a cat’s stool after nibbling on a cotton swab, it could indicate that damage has occurred. You should get in touch with a veterinary professional immediately.
If not swallowed, however, they’re unlikely to cause harm. Here are a few things that you can do to keep your cats safe when playing with Q-tips.
How to Keep Your Cat Safe When Playing With Q-Tips
1. Watch Them While They Play
Cats can be very independent animals, but we’re still encouraged to play with them a few times of day to develop a bond. If your cat is fascinated with Q-tips, keep an eye on them during play to ensure they’re not swallowed.
2. Keep the Trash Somewhere Secure
This might not be the most convenient option, but sequestering your trash can in a closet or cabinet the cat cannot get into will stop them from trying to fish out your used Q-tips.
3. Make Sure Used Q-Tips are Thrown Away
We’re sure you do this anyway, but you should also know that cats have a proclivity for the animal proteins found in earwax. Though it doesn’t pose a particular problem to them – a little earwax might be licked off another cat’s ear during grooming – it might encourage them to chew on used Q-tips and swallow them.
4. Keep Your Q-Tips In a Sealed Container.
This is probably the most straightforward advice for keeping your cat safe, seal your Q-tips in a glass or plastic container that the cat cannot force open.
Hopefully, that answered your question about why our feline friends are obsessed with Q-tips and gave you some advice on keeping your cats safe from these (mostly harmless) cleaning tools.
Don’t worry, you’re not alone: a quick google search will reveal that thousands of cat owners are perplexed by this phenomenon, and many have shared hilarious images of their fuzzy companion’s absolute obsession with these little cotton swabs.
Just remember – don’t use them to unclog your ears!