Why Do Cats Like Hair Ties?

A large number of hair ties in bright colors

If you’ve got a fur baby, you’ll know how much they love to play with the things they’re not supposed to. You buy them a swanky sofa, and they insist on sleeping in the box it came in. Or you spend hundreds of dollars on cat gizmos and gadgets, but they’re still most fascinated by your hair ties.

Cats like hair ties because they are string-like objects. This sends a signal to your feline’s brain, which makes them want to play with it. In addition, hair ties are light and bouncy, which allows them to move unpredictably and grab your cat’s interest. But hair ties aren’t suited as a cat play toy and can present a health hazard to your feline friend.

Continue reading to explore why your cat loves hair ties so much, why they present such a serious hazard, and how you can take the necessary steps to keep your pet safe.

Why Does My Cat Like Hair Ties?

Cats possess the instinct to hunt, and hunger isn’t the only trigger for this stalking behavior. Our domesticated pets are not too far removed from their ancestors, so their brains are still hardwired for survival.

With no guaranteed food supply for cats in the wild, they evolved to be opportunistic hunters. This means that cats enjoy hunting and capturing prey even when they’re not hungry.

But what does this have to do with hair ties? Think about it, when you drop a hair tie on the ground, its composition allows it to bounce around unpredictably, making it look a little bit like a small animal.

This grabs your cat’s attention and motivates them to explore this fascinating object. In addition, cats are neophilic, meaning they enjoy variety in their diets. For this reason, they’ll still go on the hunt even after you’ve provided them with a hearty bowl of dinner.

Why Won’t My Cat Leave My Hair Ties Alone?

It’s not just the movement of a hair tie that can trigger a hunting instinct in your cat; there are several other reasons why they might be intrigued by this small object.

Some cats enjoy hoarding or saving things. If they find a hair tie, they might see it as an opportunistic hunt and store it away for later.

And cats have an incredible sense of smell. While humans possess around five million olfactory receptors, cats have as many as 80 million. They also have a unique body part called the vomeronasal organ inside their nasal cavity, which serves as a second olfactory system.

This organ allows a cat to pick up the scent of chemical substances with “undetectable odors” that the human nose cannot smell. For this reason, a cat may be fascinated by the smell of the chemicals in your hair tie – it could also go a long way to explaining why cats have such a fascination with synthetic materials.

It’s also possible that your cat is playing with your hair tie as a way to self-soothe. Check for any additional signs of stress, and talk to your vet about ways to reduce your cat’s anxiety.

Why Do Cats Put Hair Ties In Food Bowl?

There are a couple of reasons why your cat might place a hair tie in their food bowl.

Firstly, your cat probably sees the hair tie as its prey, which it has “killed.” In this case, your feline brings the “dead prey” to its food bowl as a habitual behavior or as a way to store their snack for later.

The other reason a cat is likely to place a hair in a food bowl is that they work up a good appetite while hunting. When they’re ready to eat, they’ll drop the hair tie in whatever location is handy for them, and if they’re heading over to get food, then the food bowl is as convenient a spot as any other.

Should I Let My Cat Play With Hair Ties?

The problem with hair ties is that they contain several materials – such as rubber and plastic – that your cat cannot digest.

One of the reasons your cat may chew on a hair tie is that they’re feeling bored. Try providing some alternative toys that are safe for them to play with.

It may seem like harmless fun, as your cat pounces on a hair tie and chomps away, but the reality is that it can cause serious health problems for your cat if ingested.

Do Cats Eat Hair Ties?

In general, cats want to play with your hair tie, not eat it. But the problem is that they could inadvertently swallow parts of it as they chew and bite it.

However, there are some circumstances where your cat may choose to eat a hair tie.

Suppose you think your cat intentionally chooses to eat hair ties, rubber bands, or other inedible substances. In that case, they could be experiencing a form of pica. This compulsive behavior leads your cat to suck and consume inedible items.

It’s normal to observe your feline display predatory behavior and pull apart a hair tie, but if you witness them purposely swallowing lumps of it, they may be experiencing pica.

If your cat suffers from pica, address any stress in their environment and monitor their behavior to ensure they’re not swallowing any potentially harmful objects.

Another stress-related condition that could see your cat engage in repetitive or exaggerated behaviors is OCD or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Other common signs include excessive grooming, wool sucking, or repetitive pacing.

What Should I Do If My Cat Eats A Hair Tie?

If your cat manages to eat a hair tie, there are two primary causes for concern: choking or gastrointestinal complications. Your response to each situation is different, as detailed below.

What Should I Do If My Cat Is Choking On A Hair Tie?

If your cat is choking, you’ll need to respond quickly. Check around your feline’s mouth for any sign of the rubber or elastic. If you can access the end of it, gently dislodge it from your cat’s mouth; this should stop the choking.

However, if the object has become lodged in your cat’s throat and you can’t see any of it, you’ll need to get your cat to the vet or animal emergency facility as quickly as possible.

Time is crucial in this scenario; call ahead to prepare the team for your feline when you arrive.

What Should I Do If My Cat Has Swallowed A Hair Tie?

If your cat has eaten a single hair tie, it’s likely to pass through them in a week or so with no adverse effects.

However, if you suspect that your cat has swallowed a hair tie, you’ll want to watch them and check for any concerns. Observe how your cat eats, drinks, and behaves. As long as there are no noticeable changes, your feline should be fine.

Check their feces until you see the hair tie pass through their system; if they show no behavioral changes, it’s safe to assume that they’re fine.

However, if you don’t see any signs of the hair tie within 6-7 days, you’ll need to take swift action. At this point, the hair tie may be lodged in your feline’s gastrointestinal system, and it could do severe damage if it is left for too long.

Never induce vomiting unless instructed by your vet. Besides the fact that this is only effective for up to two hours after they swallow the hair tie, it is also dangerous for your pet if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Instead, try adding purees such as pumpkin to your cat’s food to create a laxative effect that helps to push the hair tie through your cat’s gastrointestinal system.

If in doubt, always consult your vet for the best advice on keeping your pet safe.

How Can I Stop My Cat From Chewing Hair Ties?

The first step in preventing your cat from playing with a hair tie is to remove any of these objects from their reach. In addition, you’ll want to add some stimulating toys to their environment to reduce their desire to chew on your hair ties.

Cat Safe Hair Ties

Try one of these cat-safe alternatives if you’re looking for an alternative way to put your hair up without using a hair tie.

  • Ribbon
  • Hair clips
  • Hairband
  • Bandana

Best Hair Tie Alternative For Cats

One of the reasons why your cat will play with hair ties is out of boredom. If you want to reduce their inclination to reach for your hair ties, try providing them with some alternative stimulation.

Some great options are small stuffed toys, plastic balls, rubber mice, fabric mitts, or fluffy round toys.

Bear in mind that your cat may also enjoy the scent you leave on a hair tie. Try carrying any new toys around with you for a little while before presenting them to your cat. This way, you can add your scent to attract them to the toy.

Final Thoughts

It may look adorable when your cat grabs a hair tie between its teeth and gives it a bunny kick, but this behavior can be dangerous. The two most significant hazards that your cat faces when they eat a hair tie are choking or obstruction of the gastrointestinal system.

To avoid this, remove any hazardous objects from your environment. And keep your cat entertained by stimulating their environment with cat-safe products and appropriate pet toys that they can safely enjoy.

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