Cat owners may have noticed that their cats have an obvious obsession with shoes, whether that be sniffing them, batting at them, and even sleeping on, in, or near them. Why do cats love sleeping on shoes so much? Why do some cats even move shoes from their homes by the front door and hide them away elsewhere?
There are legitimate reasons behind why cats find shoes so fascinating, and understanding these reasons can help curb any shoe-related issues in the future. Here are a few reasons why cats would want to stay near shoes:
Shoes Hold Familiar Smells
For a cat, their sense of smell is probably the most important of their five senses. It is fourteen times as strong as a person's and they have twice as many olfactory receptors in their nasal tissue as people do. They also have a specialized organ located in the roof of the mouth called a Jacobson's organ (sometimes referred to as a vemeronasal organ) that people completely lack. This organ allows cats to, essentially, taste the scents and pheromones in the air, giving them a multitude of information about the animals and people in the area. Cats are naturally inquisitive and will investigate new smells, but will also seek out the smells of things that are familiar to them and that make them feel safe and at ease.
Cats themselves create and secrete their own uniquely scented pheromones in glands throughout their body, including their cheeks. When your cat rubs their face up against you or an object (otherwise known as bunting), they are leaving their mark as a way to say, 'I've been here before. This belongs in my space and makes me feel safe.' Cats will gravitate to things that smell like them and like the ones that they love. Sleeping on your shoes is simply your cat's way of saying they are comfortable in your company, are put at ease by your presence, and love you!
Your Shoes Represent the Comfort Zone
Your cat may not be just sleeping or spending time on your shoes to tell you that they love you, though. Objects that smell like you—articles of clothing, shoes, blankets— can bring your cat comfort in stressful situations. Sleeping on your shoes could very well be a method of self-soothing for your cat while you are away during the day. It may even be why your cat doesn't just stop at resting on your shoes where you leave them but may move your shoes to another location. Your cat may take your shoe, acting as a security blanket, to a favored resting area as a way of keeping a part of you close by. If your cat was bottle-raised, they may even suckle on your shoes or socks. This is because cats that are weaned too soon from their mother often develop an oral fixation and nibble or suckle on things that smell like their owner. This behavior is another method of self-soothing and shoes that are left on the floor for easy access are a convenient outlet for it.
Reclaiming Your Shoes
Of course, just because you can now understand the why of your cat's shoe obsession and can even see how it is a way of showing their appreciation for you, that doesn't make it any less frustrating when you are running late and your cat has run off with one of your shoes. Having to constantly seek out your shoes because your cat keeps moving them can get pretty old pretty quickly. Trying to convince your cat to leave your shoes alone, though, can be an uphill battle. Preventing your cat from having access to your shoes can be a lot easier than trying to stop the behavior altogether. Keeping your shoes stored away in a closet or in a sealed plastic bin can be a quick solution. Remember that cats are very good at climbing, so simply storing them up on a high shelf might not be enough to make your shoes inaccessible.
If blocking your cat's access to your shoes isn't feasible, you may be able to redirect your cat to another item that still smells like you but might not be missed as much by you. Something like an old T-shirt or sock would be a good substitution. If you catch your cat in the act of trying to steal your shoe, try to avoid startling them with shouting or acting in a way that can seem aggressive. These actions will only act to startle your cat and they may not associate your shouts of frustration with their shoe thievery. Even if your cat drops the shoe in alarm, they may not fully understand why you were so upset.
While shoes don't seem like they would be a comfortable hangout spot to us, cats think they are great because they remind them of their favorite people. The next time you catch your cat snoozing on your sneakers, snap a picture for posterity's sake, offer them a blanket instead, and revel in the fact that your cat just told you they love you.