Like people, cats have different interests, personalities and bad habits. In the case of stealing, some cats will nip anything they can get their paws on – with some even hoarding their treasures in a special place. There are a number of reasons why cats might steal, and not all of them are negative.
The primary reason for cats stealing is that at one point or another, the behaviour got them attention. This is not to say they’re necessarily crying out for attention, but they know that it’s a sure-fire way to either get a laugh or a frustrated sigh. Either way, the fuss created by the stealing may encourage your
cat to continue doing this. In this case, it’s best to ignore the behaviour and simply retrieve the object and put it back in its place. In the case of food, making it less accessible or covering it without admonishing your cat is a smart, non-attentive way of showing your cat that you know about their behaviour but will not acknowledge or praise it.
Just a bit of fun
For other cats, particularly kittens, stealing is seen as a form of play. The process of stealing (especially food) is used to simulate their natural instinct to stalk, pounce and eat their prey. It’s important to provide other avenues and objects to get this response. Make sure your cat has access to toys and balls of different sizes, colours and textures. These will take their attention away from stealing everyday objects around the house. Use these toys to play with your cat, so that they get the necessary stimulation and attention from you.
The third possibility is that your cat’s stealing behaviour is a stress management tactic. Stealing things can be an attempt to get your attention, and get you to inject more play time in your day – cats are sensitive to your work life balance. Particularly if your cat is stealing useless objects and hoarding them, this might be happening in an attempt to create a sense of comfort or familiarity in an uncomfortable or unfamiliar situation. In this case, particularly if the behaviour is being compulsive, urgently reach out to your cat’s vet or look into seeing a cat behaviorist.