As a cat owner, you already know just how weird and eccentric your cat can be. Their oddball behavior can put a smile on your face even on the worst of days, and some of their quirks are outright outrageous.
For example, what’s with the obsessions with socks? They don’t exactly smell nice, especially after a long day at work, so why does the curious feline insist on rubbing the sock all over themselves?
Why Do Cats Like Socks?
There are numerous reasons cats like socks, chief among them the fact that they smell very strongly of their favorite person: you. They also want to make sure you carry some of their scent around with you, as a signal to other animals you are taken.
Here’s why cats like socks so much:
They Like The Scent
A cat’s sense of smell is 14 times better than ours. They can detect scents we will never experience, and are motivated and driven by the olfactory triggers around them.
Your feet tend to get sweaty as the day goes on, which means your socks will smell more and more strongly of you. While you may find the smell slightly (or extremely) off-putting, your cat loves it. It’s the essence of you. It is one of the smells they like the most. Who knows exactly what they can tell from your smell. The changes in scent may help them discover when you are sick, for example.
They may also be playing detective and examining where you have been and what you have been doing, although shoes usually turn out to be better clues. And as we all know, details matter in an investigation. The tiniest whiff can’t go amiss.
They Want to Reclaim Them
Cats have scent glands around their chin and cheeks, as well as on the top of their head. When they rub against your socks, they are depositing some of their scent back on them. This is their way of reclaiming territory.
As you’ve worn them, the socks have started to smell less like cat and more like you. To a cat, this is unacceptable, and must be rectified as soon as possible. Hence the rubbing against socks, smelly or not. They can’t be smelling of laundry detergent any more than they can acceptably smell just of you.
While they are down there, they may also bite your feet a bit. This is just their way of playing.
They Are Mixing Smells
As it turns out, cats are quite the accomplished mixologists. They want to make sure that their smell is mixed with yours in just the right proportion, creating a communal smell. This is the smell of your group, used by cats to identify members of their tribe.
This also explains why cats are more attracted to worn than clean socks: they smell like family.
They Want to Reestablish Ownership
You already know that your cat is the one who runs the show. You may be members of the same family, but the cat is in charge, not you. You are there to serve them, not the other way around.
This is why cats will ensure there is plenty of communal smell all over you: they want to tell the world and any other cats you may come across that you are spoken for. You are not available for cleaning anyone else’s bowl, and they are the only ones who get to wake you up by staring at you inches from your face.
It Makes Them Feel Good
Being the territorial creatures they are, cats feel more confident when they have successfully marked everything in reach. This of course includes you, and your socks.
Cats will feel safer and more relaxed in a home filled with their scent. When they arrive in a new home, they won’t feel as welcome, as everything will smell foreign, so they will need some time to mix scents and settle in.
If you have more than one cat, you may notice they tend to have rubbing wars, especially if they are not quite on the best of terms. Each of them will try to assert their dominance by marking as much of the shared space as possible.
Why Do Cats Rub Against Smelly Socks?
Cats rub against smelly socks both to enjoy their smell and to deposit some of their own scent on them. This creates a communal smell, a mixture of yours and theirs, that marks you as a part of their group and is a sign of affection.
Cats will rub against anything that smells particularly strong. They will probably investigate via sniffing first, and once they are satisfied, will shamelessly cover it up with their own scent. This is their way of establishing their territory and dominance, and showing everyone (you included) who the boss is.
Why Do Cats Wrap Socks Around Their Face?
Socks smell more like you than any other item of clothing. Since your cat loves you, they will wrap your smelly sock around their face to inhale your scent better. It’s a sign of love and affection, and clearly singles you out as belonging to them.
You can think of it as your cat getting high on your smell. It may seem slightly disgusting to you (after all, those socks probably stink!), but trust me, the cat loves it.
This also explains why cats can get confused or even offended when you remove your smelly socks. The smell they like so much will disappear, to be replaced by a disgusting, artificial scent that smells nothing like you. They may promptly feel the need to remedy this issue, by rubbing themselves all over your clean socks.
If you tend to leave your worn socks somewhere to dry before you throw them in the laundry basket, you may find your cat wrapping themselves in them. Or you may spot them with a sock in their mouth, looking perfectly pleased with themselves.
Why Do Cats Carry Socks Around The House?
Socks happen to be a great cat toy. Think of them as a prey substitute, one that can be chased, hunted down, thrown around and gleefully carried all around the home. When a cat carries a sock around, they are playing hunting.
Cats are excellent hunters and need to be stimulated to stay mentally healthy. You should play hunting with them as often as possible, as they prefer moving prey.
When there is no moving prey available, they will play with a still item. Your socks are a great choice: they smell good, they are small and light, and they can very easily be carried around. Think of the socks as a stand-in for a dead animal.
Sasha, being the accomplished huntress she is, can often be seen (but never photographed) with a sock in her mouth. She looks exactly like this:
Why Do Cats Carry Socks And Meow?
When a cat meows while carrying a sock around, they are showing off. They want you to know they have just caught something, and they need the world to know how good they are at it.
They may also be inviting you to play with them by meowing. If you try to take the sock and they let you, you can throw it to them and see if they are in a playful mood. If they don’t want to give up the sock, they just don’t want to share their prey, and are afraid you will take the toy away. Cats are really good at knowing when they have done something they shouldn’t have, so you can expect a guilty expression on their face too.
Why Do Cats Sniff Socks?
Cats sniff socks because they like the smell. They smell of you, their favorite person, so they will naturally want to enjoy it. They also use the smell of your socks to determine where you’ve been, what you’ve been up to and who you’ve met.
Cats learn a lot about the world through their sense of smell, so will sniff your socks to see whether they are clean, where you’ve taken them, and to determine whether they need to be coated in their own smell again.
Why Do Cats Play With Socks?
Cats play with socks because it’s fun. Socks are light and small and serve as an ideal prey substitute. They are easy to carry and throw around, and they also come with a great smell. Rolled up socks are also a great ball substitute.
You may of course not like your cat playing with the socks, especially if they tend to create holes in them. The simplest way to prevent this is to keep socks out of their reach.
Why Do Cats Bring You Socks?
Cats bring you socks as a sign of affection. They are showing you they like and care about you. If your cat regularly uses socks to play with, they may also just want you to play with them.
Cats will bring you socks for the same reason they would bring you a dead animal (sounds gross, but never forget cats are supreme hunters). They are offering a token of love and appreciation.
Why Do Cats Steal Socks?
Cats may be stealing socks for several reasons. They may look at the sock as prey, or they may want to be close to an item that smells like you because they are feeling threatened or uncomfortable. If you have previously rewarded them for bringing you things, they may also just be trying to get some praise.
Since socks are a good imitation of prey, cats love to play with them and carry them around. This instinct could be behind their socknappings.
Socks also smell very strongly of you, so if your cat needs a bit of comfort, especially when you are not around, they may steal the sock and lie on it or suck on it.
They may also just be bored and want your attention. If you react to their sock stealing, even if it’s to tell them not to do it, they will have learned that taking the sock elicits a response.
If you show your cat affection when they bring you a toy, they will grab the sock to get more of the same.
Now that you understand the basics of your cat’s fascination with socks, observe how they behave around them. You’ll easily be able to determine whether they are play-hunting, looking for comfort, or depositing their scent on an offending sock.