Cat finds creative use for dental floss

Pip playing with his blue feather wand toy. KARIN SPICER
Pip playing with his blue feather wand toy. KARIN SPICER

Cats’ hunting instincts are principal reason for such play.

Most couples who have been together for a long time will tell you each partner has habits that drive the other nuts. It’s usually over the simplest things. How a tube of toothpaste is squeezed. How many paper towels it should take to clean up a mess. How much Kleenex to use in blowing one’s nose.

It’s no different with us. Our issue? Dental floss. Ed uses the tiniest amount. I use reams.

Now my husband has another bone of contention concerning dental floss: I use it to play with the cat.

Pip, our 2-year-old, has always tried to help me floss. But a couple of weeks ago, on a whim, I tore off another long piece and started dragging it around the house with said cat in hot pursuit.

It has become a nightly routine. Pip waits, sort of patiently, while I floss. When I finish, he starts batting me with his front paws. At that point, I tear off another long piece of floss and take off throughout the house with Pip right behind me.

Richard Parker, writing for seniorcatwellness.com, says cats’ hunting instincts are the principal reason they play with string as well as yarn, ribbon, tinsel, shoelaces, rubber bands and the like. “When cats glimpse a moving target in their peripheral vision, their prey drive is activated,” Parker writes. “This will immediately inspire the cat to hunt the string down.”

Since Pip is an indoor cat, floss or any type of string-hunting could be beneficial in keeping his instincts crisp.

Parker says cats can mistake a string for prey. For example, a dangling piece of dental floss could resemble a mouse’s tail to Pip. The tuxedo cat follows me around but will also get ahead of me and hide under a table or chair and then pounce when I drag the floss in front of him.

When he’s able to capture the floss he does one of two things. Pip either lies on it like he’s smothering the life out of it or he picks it up with his teeth, head held high, and carries it off. In either scenario, the feline beams like a conquering king.

Since I discovered Pip’s affection for dental floss, I’ve tried curly ribbon and kite string. The feline hunted all three, but the floss seemed to hold his attention longer.

There is one large caveat attached to Pip’s new fascination. We only play with the dental floss a few minutes every night before I switch to one of his conventual wands.

As we play, I watch him carefully and check the floss often. Cats that swallow pieces of string or similar items can have intestinal problems so severe they require surgery. I never leave the dental floss or any type of string lying around. If I did and Pip saw it, he would quickly gobble it up

At my last appointment, our family dentist, Dr. Heidi Sprowl, asked how Pip was doing.

I laughed. “He’s being a pain in the butt.”

Dr. Sprowl quickly retorted, “No, he was being a P.I.P. – a Pain In the Patootie. Get it?”

I told her about Pip, Ed and the dental floss. She laughed and said she could get the stuff by the gross. If Pip continues to be interested in dental floss, for Ed’s sake, I just may take her up on it.

Here are safer alternatives to dental floss as cat toys:

1. Paracord or parachute chord.

2. Strips of fabric.

3. Measuring tape.

To learn how to use these materials:

SOURCE: kittyclysm.com/yarn-alternative-cat-toys

When not resting, Pip the cat has taken a liking to playing with dental floss. Contributed
When not resting, Pip the cat has taken a liking to playing with dental floss. Contributed

In Other News