Cats sure do love crinkly things! I know that I can ball up a piece of paper and my little cat comes running into the room ready to go! Putting away groceries from a paper bag will not only get her attention but she’ll also do her best to spend some time inside the bag. Then there are the special cat toys that are designed to make an extra crinkly noise.
So one thing is very clear: cats like crinkly things.
While we can’t know with 100% certainty what it is about crinkly paper or plastic that gets cats so excited we can come up with some very good explanations.
You Just Don’t Get It!
That’s not an insult! You just can’t hear what your cat hears when a piece of paper or plastic is crinkled!
Your cat has absolutely amazing hearing and can actually hear at the ultrasonic level. While cats don’t use this superhuman level of hearing to communicate with each other, mice certainly do! The noise that crinkling up that piece of paper makes could not only mimic the ultrasonic communication of mice but it could also sound similar to the movement of mice and other small animals in the bushes and leaves.
Not only does this pique the interest of your cat it can also trigger some prey drive as they’re now excited for the hunt! My cat gets doubly excited because she knows that if she hears the crinkly noise of paper being balled up that there’s a good chance I’m going to throw it across the room!
The Sound Of Comfort
Others believe that the sound of a paper bag rustling around may mimic the sound of dry grass and leaves which makes a nice bed. I’d argue that the sound of anything crinkling below your cat is generally a good sign that they’ve found a warm bed with some insulation.
Compare the sound of laying on your hardwood floor to the sound of laying on a single piece of paper. To your cat’s ancient ancestors, finding a nice warm place to sleep would be important for survival, and a nice crinkle while making your bed is a good sign that you’ve found a nicely insulating material to lay on!
It’s Something Different
There’s another, simpler reason why your cat may be interested in things that crinkle. Many cats are constantly intrigued by all the weird objects in our human world. The sound of paper crunching or crinkly plastic bags definitely stands out compared to most of the day to day noises your cat expects to hear.
Crinkle Cat Toys
There’s nothing wrong with relying on simple paper to satisfy your cat’s crinkle craving but there’s also a wide range of crinkly cat toys on the market. Our favorite are these colorful and crinkly butterfly toys from Jackson Galaxy. While plain paper is good, these also have some catnip in them and my cat absolutely loses her little kitty mind when I throw one these down the stairs.
Caution: Not All Crinkles Are Good
While it may seem like you should run around and crinkle everything you can find…some crinkle noises can actually be extremely dangerous for your cat. A 2015 study documented something called “audiogenic reflex seizures in cats.” Simply put, some everyday sounds can actually trigger a seizure in your cat. They found that this occurs most often in older cats and the average age of onset is about 15 years old.
The most common sound that causes these seizures?
The sound of tin foil crinkling.
But there were many other sounds that they tested including a metal spoon dropping into a ceramic feeding bowl, tapping on glass, and even the crinkling of paper or plastic bags!
Should You Be Worried?
This condition, called feline audiogenic reflex seizures or FARS, is quite uncommon and as mentioned typically affects much older kitties starting at the age of 15. The chances of your cat suffering from FARS is quite low, even if they are a bit older but it’s still interesting to consider the condition of crinkles gone wrong.
It’s also interesting to see this side of the effect of your cat’s super hearing as it seems they’re hearing things we just don’t understand.
Cats are certainly curious but when it comes to crinkly things not only do they hear things that we can’t, it might also represent the sound of natural insulation that would have been so important to their wild ancestors. But I’m also pretty confident that cats are just interested in all the weird ways we spend our time and the sound of crinkly things is just another intriguing “human thing.”