Allegra has a very special toy. It’s not fancy; in fact, it’s an ancient toy that actually belonged to Feebee, who has been gone for twelve years now. She dug it out of the toy basket one day, and apparently decided that it was going to be her “baby.” It’s a soft, plush little stuffed mitten with a tail that has a pompon at the end. She never actually plays with it, but yet, it’s clearly very special to her.
She picks it up and carries it around the house, chirping and singing and sometimes yowling. It sounds a bit plaintive, a sad little cry, as if she had lost something. The first time I heard it, I thought she’d hurt herself! As soon as I look for her when she does this, she drops the toy and stops, which is why I haven’t been able to get a video of her with the toy.
Amber had her own version of this special toy: a green and tan fuzzy mouse that I got for her when she first came to live with me. For the entire ten years that she was with me, that mouse was her special “baby.” Like Allegra, she’d pick it up, carry it around the house, crying and yowling. Amber would often sleep with her “baby,” something I’ve not seen Allegra do. However, Allegra brings her “baby” into the bedroom after I go to bed at night, and it spends the night on the bedroom floor – always in the exact same spot.
What’s really interesting to me is that Ruby won’t ever touch it. Ruby considers every other toy in our house hers – but yet, she hasn’t once played with Allegra’s blue mitten. This was also the case with Amber’s green and tan mouse. Even though Buckley was already a senior when she came to live with us, she still liked to play, but she never once touched Amber’s special toy. When Allegra joined Amber and me as a 7-month-old kitten who would go after anything that moved, but she never once played with Amber’s special mouse.
So what is going on here?
There are a couple of theories as to why some cats do this. One is that it has to do with a cat’s maternal instinct, and that it mimics what they would sound like when they carry their kittens. Some say that this happens especially in cats that never had a litter. While that might be true for Allegra, Amber blows that theory out of the water, because she had a litter of kittens when she was rescued. I’ve also heard of male cats doing the same thing.
The other theory is that this has to with the cat’s hunting instinct and that it is a way of announcing that they caught their prey, along the lines of “see what a great hunter I am!” That theory doesn’t really make sense to me, either, because I think that if that were the case, they wouldn’t be so secretive about it and just drop the toy when they see me looking at them. It seems like they would continue to bring the toy to me, waiting for some sort of praise.
Maybe it’s just one of these mysteries about cats that we’ll never know the answer to.
Does your cat do this? Do you have any other theories about this behavior?