Richard Parker, writing for seniorcatwellness.com, says cats’ hunting instincts are the principal reason they play with string as well as yarn, ribbon, tinsel, shoelaces, rubber bands and the like. “When cats glimpse a moving target in their peripheral vision, their prey drive is activated,” Parker writes. “This will immediately inspire the cat to hunt the string down.”
Since Pip is an indoor cat, floss or any type of string-hunting could be beneficial in keeping his instincts crisp.
Parker says cats can mistake a string for prey. For example, a dangling piece of dental floss could resemble a mouse’s tail to Pip. The tuxedo cat follows me around but will also get ahead of me and hide under a table or chair and then pounce when I drag the floss in front of him.
When he’s able to capture the floss he does one of two things. Pip either lies on it like he’s smothering the life out of it or he picks it up with his teeth, head held high, and carries it off. In either scenario, the feline beams like a conquering king.
Since I discovered Pip’s affection for dental floss, I’ve tried curly ribbon and kite string. The feline hunted all three, but the floss seemed to hold his attention longer.
There is one large caveat attached to Pip’s new fascination. We only play with the dental floss a few minutes every night before I switch to one of his conventual wands.
As we play, I watch him carefully and check the floss often. Cats that swallow pieces of string or similar items can have intestinal problems so severe they require surgery. I never leave the dental floss or any type of string lying around. If I did and Pip saw it, he would quickly gobble it up
At my last appointment, our family dentist, Dr. Heidi Sprowl, asked how Pip was doing.
I laughed. “He’s being a pain in the butt.”
Dr. Sprowl quickly retorted, “No, he was being a P.I.P. – a Pain In the Patootie. Get it?”
I told her about Pip, Ed and the dental floss. She laughed and said she could get the stuff by the gross. If Pip continues to be interested in dental floss, for Ed’s sake, I just may take her up on it.
Here are safer alternatives to dental floss as cat toys:
1. Paracord or parachute chord.
2. Strips of fabric.
3. Measuring tape.
To learn how to use these materials: