Q: Our adopted indoor cat, Suzy, is about 4 years old. Recently, she has started dragging clothing articles out of our son’s room, down the stairs, while baying at the same time. When she reaches the bottom of the stairs, she’ll continue to bay and then knead the clothing article until we finally tell her stop. By the end of the day, there is a pile of his clothes downstairs. Could this be her version of hunting?
A: My first emotional response is that she misses your son, but maybe he isn’t away. Also, I wonder why specifically your son’s clothes? Is your son Suzy’s favorite family member?
As you may have guessed, this is not typical cat behavior, but it’s not unheard of. I have a client whose cat would collect her workout clothes (only used clothing) to sleep on.
I would suggest speaking with a veterinarian to make sure her behavior isn’t a sign of possible changes in her thyroid; increased vocalization can sometimes be a sign of illness.
Otherwise, if you want her to stop, study her behavior pattern. Is there a particular time of day? Does she do this before or after eating? Then, interrupt her pattern with redirection to an activity that is interactive with you or a member of the family, something like grooming or playtime.
Playing would be a perfect activity; many pet cats do not get enough mind-body stimulation and tend to get a little bored and, as a result, a little overweight. Giving her an opportunity to play with you, using a cat wand type toy, will get her body moving and her mind pumping. After 10 minutes, or longer, give her a small treat to signal that it’s time to calm down.
Activities of this sort will help your cat feel more connected to you and her family.