The Only Correct Holiday Gift Guide for Cats

What your feline overlords *actually* want this season, besides your soul

Rae Paoletta
Dec 5, 2019 · 6 min read
Zelda in her natural habitat: the trash. Photo: Rae Paoletta

For thousands of years, humans have evolved alongside Felis silvestris catus, commonly known as the house cat. Domesticated felines first proved themselves as adept rodent assassins in early agrarian civilizations and eventually, as mousers on naval ships. Somewhere in the evolutionary tangle of time, humans realized cats were also precious angel babies that must be protected at all costs, and cats settled for humans as convenient food dispensers.

This symbiotic and masochistic relationship continues today. Estimates say cat lovers spend between $500 to $1,000 per year to keep their fur goblins satiated — a number that, anecdotally, seems conservative considering vet bills and all the necessary materials one must gather for blood sacrifice.

As we approach another holiday season in which we desperately indulge our fur children, it’s worth reminding ourselves that a cat’s affection simply cannot be bought. For one thing, they reject the notion of economic materialism. They also don’t know how to read (or at the very least, pretend not to know) so you can’t just wait until the last minute and give them an electronic gift card for Kindle, or like, a coffee table book that they tell you they’re “actually going to read because they like the pictures” but just toss in the back of a coat closet.

What cats really want—for reasons beyond all human comprehension—is your garbage.

In addition to my own experience parenting two beautiful sewer children, I asked cat owners for advice on toys your cats will actually use and probably maim:

1. Paper towels

Abraham. Photo: OtherGinger

Nothing pleases a cat more than the suffering of people and animals around it. For this reason, your furry friend will just love sinking its razor fingers into something delicate and difficult to clean up, like paper towels!

“Abraham (pictured above) has a penchant for paper goods, especially paper towel rolls,” Julie, a feline enthusiast in San Francisco says. “My late great kitty Spike never understood that he was neutered and he used to have passionate romantic relationships with paper towel rolls.”

May he rest in peace.

2. Toilet paper

Artemis after her despicable deed. Photo: Rae Paoletta

This one hits home for me. My cats, Artemis and Zelda, have destroyed dozens of toilet paper rolls by batting them off their roll holder and abandoning them on the floor in shredded squares.

People used to come to my house for parties and see a toilet paper roll on the top of my toilet and think “Oh, that’s not where a toilet paper roll lives. I should put it back in its rightful home beside the toilet.”

So then they’d put the toilet paper back on the holder like you’re supposed to, and guess what? That’s right, my furry eldritch horrors mangled that toilet paper before I could even refresh my gin and tonic.

For this reason, my husband had to install this thing, which is essentially a toilet paper prison. It’s inconvenient and hideous, but at least our cats can’t physically destroy it.

3. Hair ties

Joyce, who’s really into hair ties. Photo: SuburbanCatFamily

Several cat owners told me their kitties can’t get enough of elastic pony tail holders. For what it’s worth, I once unearthed a small tumbleweed of hair ties from under my FREAKING REFRIGERATOR when I was moving apartments a few years ago. My cat had been stashing them there for a year, which is something I imagine a serial killer would do.

“My cat Kalli loves twisty ties,” Nikki, a Boston-based feline caretaker, tells me. “I actually just noticed there are five twist ties under my stove.”

Anne, a cat mom in New York City, says her cat OchoCinco is also a fan of hair ties among other bathroom sundries.

“He used to collect tampons (unused, obv) and hide them under my bed,” she tells me. “There is also a picture above my toilet that every night at 3 a.m. he likes to try and pull off the nail so it falls down and wakes me up.”

4. Q-Tips Cotton Swabs

Oyster, who does not have a Q-Tip, but manages to wreak havoc regardless. Photo: Andrea Marks and Matthew Sedacca

Cats like to swat around tiny household objects like little rodents, and Q-Tips are the perfect substitute for prey.

“Our bathroom trash has to have a push pedal lid because if not, my cat will dig in there for Q-Tips and then smack them around the house,” says Arti, a cat owner from Chicago. “We’ve found Q-tips under chairs, under the dishwasher, under the couch, on the cat tower, literally anywhere she can bring it.”

5. Pasta

Matt (orange) and Mango (void kitty). Photo: Gooded_Cheese

This is a new one.

“My older cat, Matt, is obsessed with dry, straight pieces of pasta,” Justin, a Long Islander with two cats, tells me. “Sometimes I’ll leave one in my mouth while I’m preparing it, like a farmer with buckwheat in his mouth, and this little CREEP tries to sneak up to my face and smack it out of my mouth. And then he beelines for it.”

6. Bags, obviously

Neko the purrito. Photo: Crank__Heart

Whenever my cats snuggle into a bag, I say, “And here, we see the wild hermit crab in its natural habitat!” in David Attenborough’s voice. They hate it.

Here is one such wild hermit crab:

Courtesy: Photo: Crank__Heart

And another, who prefers plastic bags from Nordstrom Rack:

Goose. Photo: Kat Harding)

10. Boxes (and the paper INSIDE boxes)

“You can buy cats a lot of cool toys and fancy shit but make sure you keep the packaging too,” Lucas, a cat owner from Washington, tells me. “That shit is great; cats love trash.”

The photographic evidence says it all:

Quark and Spooky Action at a Distance, AKA Spooky. Photo: Manu Saadia

11. Pants

From left to right: Willow, “Queen of Pants Mountain,” and her subject, Hunter. Photo: JasonFJ

I can’t stress this enough: don’t buy pants for your cats to play with. They don’t want their own pants, they want yours.

“My cat Willow loves to go on Pants Mountain, which … I have to explain what that is,” Jason from Texas, who is owned by five cats, says.

“In our closet, top shelf, I have my folded up jeans. One day, Willow snuck into the closet and when I scooped her to take her out, she leapt from my arms to the top shelf and started rolling around and just going crazy on my jeans.”

“Pants mountain is a BIG DEAL,” he continues. “Willow will cry and claw at the door while I’m in the shower or in the closet. She’ll stand up and claw at the doorknob. So we call her the ‘Queen of Pants Mountain.’”

“If I don’t let her on Pants Mountain, she sulks at me when I exit the closet.”

12. Literally just garbage

Honeybee resting after a long day of hunting for garbage. Photo: Poyahoga

Because all the best things in life—love, happiness, discarded receipts lodged in the bottom of a Simplehuman trash can—are free.

“Honey Bee (pictured above) loves garbage,” Poya from Vancouver tells me. “Crinkly plastic and balls of paper wrapped in tape are best (she plays fetch with them). Her best toy, however, is a rainbow tie-dye cat leash that she drags around with her and yowls when she wants someone to drag it for her to chase.”

Meowy Christmas (sorry) and Happy Holidays to all!


A friendly + radical vegan magazine dedicated to living…

Rae Paoletta

Written by

content strategist and writer; friend to bodega cats



A friendly + radical vegan magazine dedicated to living well with kindness towards animals, care for the planet, and justice for all.

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