Why do cats love to play with hair ties?

If your cats are anything like mine, you’ve probably noticed that they often play with the most unusual things. Anything from hair ties and milk rings to paper bags and empty boxes means hours of entertainment for most cats. In fact, I’ve often heard owners complain that their cats prefer this so-called “trash” to their many expensive toys.

a gray cat lying on its side with front paw extended touching a spinner toy

Most of the time, this behavior is nothing to worry about. Cats are such curious creatures, and they love to explore and hunt. When they jump inside a box or bat a hair tie around your house, they’re just following instinct.

a grey cat inside a box looking straight out at camera

There’s plenty of evidence to suggest why cats love bags and boxes. As hunters, cats know it’s a great place to pounce on prey from or hide from predators. And the rustling sound paper makes is similar to small prey hiding in the underbrush.

tabby kitten and orange kitten peering out of a box filled with brown paper

But no one really knows why cats are addicted to small, round objects. We suspect it has something to do with the erratic behavior of the object—it mimics the movement of a mouse or other small prey—but not all cats go berserk for rings. Some cats are simply more obsessed than others. And that’s okay.

ponytail holders in various colors on green background

The problem is, that unlike bags and boxes—which are made of paper—hair ties, milk rings, and rubber bands are made from potentially dangerous materials like metal, plastic, or rubber, which can’t be digested. If kitty swallows a bit of cardboard once in a while, it’s no big deal. Their bodies will dissolve it as part of the digestion process (as long as they’re not ingesting large quantities at once), but many of the rings cats play with can cause serious damage if swallowed. 

cat on surgery table being operated on

We never want playtime to turn into a trip to the vet. So what’s a ring-obsessed cat’s owner to do?

First, make sure your cat is always supervised while playing with anything you don’t want them to ingest. (Keep in mind, some cats will eat non-food substances any time they’re within reach—a behavior known as pica—so it’s best to keep those tempting “treats” away from them.)

If your cat has a taste for hair ties you need to be extra diligent with making sure they are always safely put away. Hair ties are as easy as a string to get trapped on the tongue and subsequently swallowed. Ingestion of string or hair ties can be deadly.

woman's braided ponytail

Another important thing is to make sure your Ring Master has safe ring toys to play with instead. Our Oh-Ring, Flutter-Ring, and A-Lure-Ring are handmade out of chew-approved paper. This means they’re designed to be played with but safe for kitties to bite. Plus they’re easy for declawed kitties (and kitties with claws) to catch, they make a challenging and fun addition to play time, and they fit easily on our Wiggly Wand for hours of playtime fun.

black and white cat chewing on a paper ring toy by Dezi & Roo

Finally, don’t forget to discard old and worn-out toys before they can become a danger to your kitty. Even harmless toys can become unsafe if they have sharp edges or are broken into small choking hazards.

But don’t be scared to give your kitty ring-shaped toys. Just make sure they aren't dangerous. And, as long as you keep an eye on your baby, and give her safe options, you’ll be having fun for years to come!


  • S.

    This fear of hair ties is really overblown. My cat has played with them for years, and never had an issue. Multiple vets have given me the green light as well…they all say that the only time they ever saw a problem was when the cat ingested large quantities of hair ties…and even then, it wasn’t immediately fatal.

  • DIdidido cA

    This is amazing

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