Thursday, April 1, 2010

Why Do Pets Steal Our Stuff?

By Linda Cole

Are your pets pack rats? Do you find things that belong to you in odd, out of the way places? Does your cat store things under the bed, or does your dog steal socks and you find the tattered remains scattered around the scene of the crime? Do they like the smell of our dirty laundry? Why do pets steal our stuff?

I have a dog who loves to spend the frosty days of winter under a cozy blanket in bed. Her chosen snuggle item is a slipper. Sometimes, she opts for both which makes it easier to find when I want them. Sure, I could put the slippers where she couldn't get them, but having them around her makes her feel secure, and she has no desire to chew them. Of course she takes the slipper because it has a comforting and familiar smell on it. Sometimes pets steal our stuff because it makes them feel good to have a piece of clothing with our smell on it next to them when we aren't there. If the pet stealing your clothing is a dog, it could indicate the dog has a mild case of separation anxiety. Stealing something with a familiar smell on it helps keep them calm by reducing their level of anxiety. Our dirty laundry or a slipper works best because that's where our smell is the strongest, and a sock or slipper is easier to move than the couch.

Unfortunately, there is a problem with a dog who steals clothes if they also enjoy shredding the clothing and chewing up the slipper. That can get expensive! If your dog likes to eat clothes and your dirty laundry is piled on the floor till laundry day, a simple change in habit and using that empty hamper can help save your clothes from destruction. You may need to hide the hamper from the dog, though. A dog who is chewing on clothes is also likely to ingest a certain amount of fabric and that's not good for them. A better choice to help your pooch deal with a low level of separation anxiety is to give them a chew toy they can't destroy while you are gone. A treat toy can provide them with hours of entertainment as they work to get the treat out of the toy. Soft chew toys are also good, but make sure your dog isn't one who likes to eat them as well.

Cats are like pack rats who love anything shining, small and fun that they can chase around the floor. I'm always retrieving items my cats have stolen from somewhere in the house. Pens, spoons, paper clips, wadded up balls of discarded paper, the ring or cap from a milk jug, an entire roll of toilet paper killed in a mighty battle on my bed. Cats steal our stuff just because they ARE cats. They don't need a reason. They are constantly looking for something to bat around the floor and as long as it can be moved, it's fair game as far as the cat is concerned.

Cats are like dogs as far as smells go. They like feeling safe and secure, and our smells are everywhere in the home. Cats will steal pieces of clothing just like dogs, although they don't usually chew them up and spit the pieces out for us to find later. I have found dirty towels and T-shirts hauled up onto my bed or the couch. Of course, the cat is usually still sleeping in the middle of the pile. I had a cat that once emptied my entire laundry basket and arranged all of the clothes on the bed so he could burrow under them and sleep in peace with the smells he loved around him. I'm sure he was tired after rearranging an entire wardrobe.

In the long run, does it really matter why pets steal our stuff? Most pet owners do feel special if they have a pet who steals stuff. In a way, it's a tribute to how much they want to be with us. If we aren't there, then anything with our smell on it will do. If my dog feels comfortable sleeping with one of my slippers, or my cat wants to drag a dirty T-shirt on the bed to sleep on, that's fine with me. It's just another way they let us know we belong to them.

Read more articles by Linda Cole


  1. Great and interesting post! One of our cats has particular toys that she squirrels away in the back of her sleeping area. :)

  2. Wonderful post!!!! Every time I come home from work my Doberman will be sleeping on my robe or my pajamas. It always brings a big smile to my face knowing he loves me and my small!

  3. Thank you for the article. I just adopted a dog from the local shelter, he had been returned twice by two other families. Your article made it very clear that he has some anxiety and just wants to be around me. Very cute in a sad kind of way. But thanks and nowme and my dog can come to an understanding about my slippers and socks.

  4. I lived upstairs from a guy in his 90's who had a cat. When he accused me of stealing his gold watch and then later money off his table I thought dimentia was just setting in. He always threw out the whole tray of kitty liter every week instead of sifting it. I always doubted his story of the thefts because if someone had broken into his aartment they would have stolen his 18th. century paintings. The old man struck back by vandalizing my car to the tune of over $2,000. Clothes worth over $2,500 were stolen or slashed. Tools worth over $3,000 were stolen. I finally moved. I should have moved out as soon as he claimed I stole his watch. Allstate wouldn't pay a dime on my claim. Maybe I could sue the cat in court. I'll bet he hid the watch and the envelope of money in the liter box.


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