My Cat is Obsessed with Shoes
What’s this thing that some cats have about shoes?
My male tabby Clarence loves to bury his face inside my footwear, especially if it has freshly come off my feet. He also does this with my wife’s shoes and those of our visiting friends, which can require some explanation and a slight apology.
Clarence seems especially excited if I’ve just come inside after walking through the herbs and weeds growing on the side of the house. He is particularly fond of my slippers, which are soft enough to allow him to stick his nose all the way down to the toe.
But Why Does He Love Shoes So Much?
I’ve read various explanations for this sort of behavior. Most point towards a cat’s acute sense of smell and the pleasure they get from the aromas contained in shoes.
Pheromones found in human sweat can excite a cat the way catnip does – a tribute to the visceral connection between feline and human. The salty taste within the shoe can also be an enticement, as are the various scents tracked in from outside.
There’s also the possibility that the cat is marking your shoe with his or her scent or engaging in a form of “allogrooming” (one animal grooming another to reinforce kinship). Dangling shoe laces offer another level of enjoyment.
All of this sounds plausible, but still doesn’t fully explain the nuances of Clarence’s sometimes obsessive behavior.
He seems to associate shoe-sniffing with fun, exercise and excitement – he will sometimes move from playing with a ball or a piece of ribbon to deep shoe-sniffing as part of an evening’s entertainment, the way a sports enthusiast might top off a game with a beer.
When I am down in the basement doing the laundry, he will park himself by my shoes at the back door as an act of friendship (or perhaps protection). This seems to be more than simple intoxication. Clarence bonds with me through my shoes.
Barry Alfonso has written songs recorded by Johnny Cash, Pam Tillis and Olivia Newton-John, contributed articles to Rolling Stone and the Los Angeles Times and earned a Grammy Award for music journalism. He is currently active as a personal historian, freelance author and faithful servant to his cat Clarence.