Cats can be a bit weird…to say the least!
But that’s one of the many reasons we love them! One of the stranger habits that some cats seem to have picked up is casually bringing sock to their owners. The internet is filled with videos of cats carrying socks around the house and even meowing as they do it!
So why do cats bring people socks? While we can’t know with 100% certainty, it probably has something to do with your cat’s natural hunting instinct that drives them to share their “prey” with you in order to teach you how to hunt. Or it could be as simple as just having fun!
Let’s dive a little deeper into why some cats might act out this funny behavior.
Reason 1: Your Cat Is Helping You Learn To Hunt
One of the most popular theories on why cats bring owners presents (like socks) is because they’re trying to help you learn how to hunt. The team and LiveScience.com explain that:
Spayed female cats are the most likely to bring gory gifts to their owners. But they have their reasons.
In the wild, cat mothers teach their young how to eat their food by bringing home dead or injured prey. Domestic cats are no different. But in this modern age of spayed domestic cats, many female felines have no young to whom they need to pass on their hunting wisdom.
If your cat is indoor only and doesn’t have access to wild critter to catch then your smelly sock might be the next best option.
So does that mean your sock smells like a dead animal?
I’ll let you decide.
Reason 2: Your Cat Is A Feline Retriever
On her site, MessyBeast.com, Sarah Hartwell describes the unique but not completely unusual behavior of the feline retriever. These are cats that like to bring items from around the house (including socks) to their owners as part of a game.
In other words, your cat might want to play fetch! According to Hartwell, this was seen the most often with wool socks and some cats would even go so far as to pull them out of the laundry basket!
It was also found that certain cat breeds were more likely to be feline retrievers. An informal survey from 1990 found that Siamese cats were more likely to want to play fetch with 35 of the 50 fetching cats coming from oriental breeds.
So next time your cat brings you a sock try tossing it away. If you’ve got a feline retriever they might just bring it back!
Reason 3: It’s Fun
While everything your cat does is absolutely influenced by thousands and thousands of years of instinct and evolution, your cat might just be bringing you socks because it’s fun! Most play reflects hunting behavior and it would be completely normal for your cat to carry around prey in their mouth.
Oftentimes, cats would bring prey back to a more secure location where they can safely eat it. I covered this in my post explaining why cats put things in their water bowl. It doesn’t mean that your cat wants to eat a sock but it’s not hard to believe that carrying your smelly sock around makes them feel like they’ve just captured their next meal.
And I’m pretty that sounds like a good time to a cat!
It’s Probably Not Maternal Instinct
I’ve seen quite a few theories suggesting that this is part of a cat’s maternal instinct and they think that the sock is their baby. While I have written about how cats will bring you their kittens, this theory still seems like a bit of a stretch when it comes to socks. I haven’t found anything to suggest that this is a female-only behavior.
Despite the small sample size, the survey published in Cat World found “a 50:50 split between male and female i.e. no gender predisposition to retrieving toys.”
Should I Be Worried?
As long as your cat is only carrying around socks and not trying to eat them, there isn’t anything to worry about. Cats that eat non-food items may be suffering from a rare condition called feline pica. In most cases, cats just enjoy retrieving socks and aren’t trying to eat them at all!
Some cats might also decide to nurse on socks (especially wool socks) and even though that takes the whole sock retrieval thing to another weird level unless your cat is actually ingesting non-food material you should be okay.
At the end of the day, we can’t know for sure why cats do some of the things they do but there’s a good chance that most behaviors reflect their history as both hunters and predators. Carrying a sock around may mimic the hunt and capturing prey.
I’m still not sure what that means about the cleanliness of your socks!