A cat owner asks, “Why would my cat steal my shoes and hide them under my bed?” The question could equally apply to other items but shoes are highly suitable because they smell strongly of the owner.
I tried to verify my answer in the reference books that I have without success as there was no information on this form of behavior. I am reliant, therefore, on my own thoughts on this subject and would welcome the thoughts of others.
When you see a domestic cat carrying, for example, a slipper in her mouth and taking it to a safe place, what do you see in terms of domestic cat behaviour?
It looks very similar to a female cat carrying her kitten to a safe den. Cats often move their kittens to new dens to improve their safety.
Another form of domestic cat behaviour that this looks like is a cat bringing prey into the house after a hunting expedition. When cats do this they sometimes find a quiet, safe place to devour the mouse.
Confused feline behavior
My conclusion, therefore, in answering the question is that domestic cats are expressing their innate behavioural instincts in a slightly confused way. They are living in an unnatural environment and sometimes do not have the opportunity to properly express their desires. Hunting is an ever present desire and for a female cat mothering is also something which comes naturally to them.
I would suggest, therefore, that when a cat steals her owner’s shoes and hides them under a bed they are either mothering their kitten or bringing in prey. It could be either because the cat is not thinking that it is one or the other. This is instinctive behaviour and in the cat’s mind she is doing either of these things without rational thought.
It is important to recognise that rational thought is absent in this behaviour. If it was present a domestic cat would not do it because it does not serve its purpose. The only purposes this behaviour serves is to relieve the need to express innate desires in an adult domestic cat.
Kleptomania, stealing or attention seeking?
Some commentators and experts have described this feline behaviour as kleptomania. I do not believe that that is correct. It fits in nicely with human behaviour but I think it is mixing up the behaviour of two species of animal.
Neither is it “stealing”. Stealing is a human concept. To call this stealing is to anthropomorphise the domestic cat.
Finally, one expert believes that this is a form of attention seeking. That thought does not appeal to me either. I disagree with them.