Hepper is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Why Do Cats Like Q-Tips? 4 Likely Reasons

Chantelle Fowler

By Chantelle Fowler

cotton buds in a pink heart-shaped container
Image Credit: MabelAmber, Pixabay

Any long-time cat owner can tell you that cats can make toys from just about anything. I can’t tell you how often my cats have preferred the packaging their toys came in more than the toy itself. They are pretty non-discriminatory in what they choose to play with, be it your Coke bottle cap, ponytail, grocery bags, or your—gulp—used Q-tip.

If your kitty has taken a liking to the latter, you’re probably wondering what it is about these cotton-swabbed sticks that drive them nuts. Keep reading to find four likely reasons your cat picks a Q-tip over the expensive cat toys you buy.

The 4 Reasons Why Cats Like Q-Tips

1. They’re Fun to Play With

Q-tips are lightweight and thin and can easily be tossed the entire room length with one swift kick. Because they’re so easy to manipulate, your kitty can make a fun game for itself by throwing it across the house and chasing after it. The Q-tip’s path will be unpredictable, satisfying your cat’s natural instinct to hunt.

2. They’re Soft to Chew

If your cat is a chewer, you’ll likely see it chewing on the cotton ends of your Q-tip. They’re soft and flexible, which may provide a pleasing sensation for your oral-fixated cat.

Cats are sometimes drawn to fluffy-textured things, like feathers. It’s not far-fetched to assume that part of the draw of the Q-tip is the soft cotton tips.

owner check cats ears, inspect cat ears
Image Credit: Simxa, Shutterstock

3. They Have Your Scent

A used Q-tip will carry on your scent as gross as it is. This could be part of the reason why your kitty is so drawn to picking them out of the garbage can. Your pet wants to be close to you, and when you’re not home, your used Q-tip can help give them some comfort in a pinch.

4. They’re Always Around

Q-tips are one of those things that aren’t in short supply. So, a curious kitty intent on finding a fun toy to play with can easily track down your supply of Q-tips. You probably keep your stockpile in a box, making it easy for your kitty to pluck one (or more) out when the urge strikes.

close up image of cat's ears and eyes
Image Credit: effective stock photos,Shutterstock

Are Q-Tips Safe for Cats to Play With?

As cute as watching your kitty go nuts for Q-tips is, they’re not a safe toy at all.

Q-tips can be extremely dangerous for cats. The cotton portion can easily be scratched or chewed off, causing a potential choking hazard or putting your kitty at risk for blockages.

It’s not just the cotton end that poses a risk. The stick is flexible, bending easily when your kitty plays with it. This could cause a choking risk if your cat puts it in its mouth and accidentally swallows it.

Should I Take Q-Tips Away From My Cat?

In an ideal world, yes, your cat wouldn’t have Q-tips to play with at all. But we know how much some kitties love their Q-tip play time, so if your kitty would rather play with a used cotton swab than one of the toys you’ve spent big money on, at least take some steps to ensure your pet’s safety.

Supervise your cat during playtime if you must allow Q-tips as a plaything. Do not let them whisk the Q-tip off into the unknown (AKA under your sofa or bed). Once they’re finished playing, remove the makeshift toy and put it in the trash.

Honestly, it’s best to keep your Q-tips locked away and far out of your kitty’s reach. Allowing them to play with them occasionally tells your cat that using Q-tips as toys is okay. It’s in your best interests not to encourage this behavior.

Instead, throw your used Q-tips in a garbage can with a lid that your cat cannot easily access. Keep the unused ones in a closed drawer.

Cotton buds
Image Credit: JumpStory

Final Thoughts

As strange as seeing your kitty so obsessed with Q-tips may be, you should know that you’re not alone. There are thousands of results on Google when you use the search term “Q-tips + cats,” and just as many cotton-swab-obsessed felines out there.

Though Q-tips may be an irresistible “toy” your cat enjoys playing with, it is not something you should encourage. There are plenty of safe toys made specifically for cats out there; you just need to find one that your kitty loves as much as Q-tips.

Featured Image Credit: MabelAmber, Pixabay

Related Articles

Further Reading

Vet Articles

Latest Vet Answers

The latest veterinarians' answers to questions from our database