Why Do Cats Like Trash Can?

Have you ever walked into your kitchen only to find your furry friend elbow-deep in the trash can? Maybe they’re munching on leftover scraps or licking an empty can clean. As a cat owner, you may be wondering- Why do cats like trash cans?

It may seem peculiar to us humans, but to our feline companions, the trash can is a treasure trove of intriguing smells and textures that stimulate their senses. From a cat’s perspective, the odor of garbage isn’t repulsive; it’s fascinating. With their highly developed sense of smell, cats can detect even the faintest of scents. And when it comes to food, no scent is more enticing.

But it’s not just about the food – the textures and shapes of garbage items are also appealing to our curious kitties. The crinkling sound of a plastic bag or the softness of a discarded towel are sources of entertainment and comfort for them.

So next time you catch your cat digging through the trash, don’t be too quick to scold them. They’re not being mischievous or naughty; they’re simply following their instincts and exploring their environment in their unique way.

Cats Have a Highly Developed Sense of Smell

Cats are known for their curious nature, which is largely driven by their exceptional sense of smell. With nearly 200 million scent receptors in their noses, cats can detect even the faintest of odors. This sense of smell plays a crucial role in their daily lives, particularly when it comes to exploring their surroundings.

Trash cans provide an intriguing world of scents and textures for cats to investigate. From discarded food scraps to used tissues or diapers, there are all sorts of smells that can pique a cat’s interest. The movement and sound of rustling plastic can also be stimulating for these natural predators.

It’s important to note that not all cats are drawn to trash cans in the same way. Some cats may have no interest in them at all, while others may be obsessed with them. This can be influenced by a variety of factors, including the cat’s individual personality and past experiences with trash cans.

If you’re a cat owner struggling with your feline friend’s attraction to the trash can, there are some things you can do. Rather than scolding your furry companion, provide alternative sources of stimulation and entertainment, such as toys or scratching posts. Keeping the trash can out of reach or using a covered bin can also help prevent unwanted messes.

In addition to its role in exploring the environment, a cat’s highly developed sense of smell also plays an important role in finding food. Even domesticated cats who don’t have to hunt for their meals rely on their instincts to locate scraps of food or treats.

Trash Cans are Full of Interesting Smells

For starters, cats are natural scavengers. Even though domesticated cats receive regular meals, their instincts to search for food remain intact. The smells emanating from the trash can trigger their hunting and scavenging instincts, causing them to investigate and possibly even try to eat the contents of the trash can.

In addition to their scavenging nature, cats are also curious creatures. They love to explore and investigate their surroundings, and a trash can provides an interesting and novel object for them to examine. The variety of smells coming from the trash can may pique their curiosity, leading them to paw at or climb into the trash can in order to get a better look or smell.

However, it’s crucial for cat owners to keep their pets away from trash cans. Eating spoiled or rotting food can lead to digestive issues and illness in cats. Additionally, certain items found in the trash can such as plastic wrappers or other non-food items can pose a choking hazard or cause intestinal blockages if ingested.

To prevent your furry friend from accessing potential health hazards, provide them with enough mental and physical stimulation to reduce their need to explore. Interactive toys and scratching posts can provide alternative sources of stimulation.

Furthermore, make sure that all waste is disposed of properly in a secure container that is inaccessible to your cat. This will prevent your cat from getting into trouble and potentially harming themselves.

Cats Instinctively Hunt for Food

The answer lies in their DNA: cats are natural hunters, and their instinct to hunt for food is deeply ingrained. Even though domesticated cats no longer have to hunt for their food, this instinct still exists within them.

When cats hunt for prey, they rely on their keen senses of sight, smell, and hearing. They will stalk their prey and pounce when the time is right. This same behavior can be observed when cats are rummaging through trash cans.

Trash cans can contain many different scents that are alluring to cats. Food scraps, particularly meat or fish, can smell irresistible to a cat’s sensitive nose. Additionally, the rustling sound of plastic bags or the clanging of metal lids can mimic the sound of prey moving around, making it even more enticing for a cat.

Moreover, cats are curious by nature and are attracted to new smells and objects. A trash can may be seen as a new object to explore and investigate. This behavior is also linked to a cat’s instinct to explore its environment and search for potential sources of prey.

However, it’s crucial for cat owners to keep their feline friends away from the trash can. Consuming spoiled food or non-food items can cause serious health issues for your cat. Instead, provide your furry friend with appropriate outlets for their hunting instincts such as interactive toys or puzzle feeders.

The Texture and Movement of Trash Can Be Stimulating to Cats

Cats are known for their insatiable curiosity, and one of the things that piques their interest is trash cans. But what exactly makes these furry creatures so drawn to them? As an expert, I can tell you that it’s all about the texture and movement of the items inside.

The sound of crinkling paper, plastic, and other materials can be simply mesmerizing to cats. They love the sensation of digging through different textures as it mimics their natural hunting instincts. The movement of items inside the trash can also provides a sense of satisfaction for cats, as it gives them a feeling of accomplishment when they successfully “hunt” for their prey.

However, it’s not just the texture and movement that catches a cat’s attention. Their keen sense of smell plays a role too. The scent of discarded food is especially tempting to our feline friends, as it triggers their primal desire to hunt for their food.

As a responsible pet owner, it’s important to remember that allowing cats to rummage through trash cans can pose serious health risks. Eating spoiled or rotten food from the garbage can lead to digestive issues or even illness. Sharp objects or chemicals can also be dangerous to curious cats.

To keep your cat safe, you should keep trash cans out of reach or invest in a secure lid. Providing alternative forms of stimulation such as toys or interactive playtime can also help redirect a cat’s attention away from exploring the trash can.

Scolding is Not the Answer

Instead, it’s essential to understand why your feline friend is attracted to the trash and redirect their behavior effectively.

One of the reasons cats may be drawn to the trash can is because of its strong odors. These curious creatures have a keen sense of smell, and the aroma emanating from the trash may pique their interest. Additionally, cats may enjoy the feel of items in the trash, such as crumpled paper or plastic bags.

Scolding your cat for going through the trash won’t help them break this habit. Instead, provide them with alternative sources of entertainment, such as toys or puzzle feeders that will keep them mentally stimulated and engaged. You could also consider investing in a secure lid for your trash can to make it less accessible.

If these solutions don’t work, it’s time to consult with a veterinarian or animal behaviorist. They can help identify any underlying issues that may be contributing to your cat’s behavior and provide solutions for addressing it.

Ultimately, scolding your cat will only damage your relationship and won’t address the root cause of their behavior. By understanding why they are attracted to the trash can and providing alternative forms of stimulation, you can train your cat positively and redirect their behavior in a healthy way.

To sum up, here are some helpful tips to keep in mind:

Provide Alternative Sources of Stimulation and Entertainment

The mischievous antics of cats can provide endless entertainment, but when they start raiding the trash can, it’s time to provide alternative sources of stimulation and entertainment. Not only does this keep your furry friend happy and healthy, but it also prevents them from getting into hazardous scraps.

Interactive toys are an excellent way to keep your cat engaged both mentally and physically. From puzzle feeders that encourage problem-solving skills while hunting for food to laser pointers and feather wands that provide endless fun, there are many options to choose from.

An indoor cat tree or scratching post is another great way to keep your cat entertained. Cats love to climb, scratch, and lounge, and a well-designed tree provides all these activities in one neat package. Add dangling toys or a small bed on top of the tree for extra comfort.

If you want your cat to enjoy the outside world safely, create a window perch. This comfortable spot by the window allows your cat to watch birds and squirrels without any risks. Make sure it’s sturdy and secure so that your cat can relax without any worries.

Keeping the Trash Can Out of Reach or Using a Covered Bin

Unfortunately, this can sometimes lead to them getting into the trash can and making a mess. But there are ways to prevent this from happening.

One of the most effective solutions is to keep the trash can out of reach. This can be achieved by placing it in a closed closet or cabinet, or in a room that your cat cannot access. Alternatively, you can use a covered bin with a secure lid to prevent your cat from rummaging through the contents.

Not only will keeping the trash can out of reach or using a covered bin keep your home cleaner and more organized, but it will also minimize your cat’s exposure to potentially harmful items and reduce their desire to investigate.

In addition, using a covered bin is an excellent way to contain odors. No one wants their home smelling like garbage, especially if you have a particularly smelly trash can or live in an apartment building where garbage pickup is infrequent.

When choosing a covered bin, it’s important to ensure that it is made from durable materials that can withstand wear and tear over time. Look for bins with a locking mechanism on the lid to prevent your cat from opening it. Pedal-operated lids are also a great option as they allow you to open the bin without having to touch it with your hands.


In summary, cats are inquisitive creatures with an exceptional sense of smell that motivates them to explore their surroundings. Trash cans offer a treasure trove of captivating smells and textures that pique their senses and natural instincts. The aroma of discarded food, the rustling of plastic bags, and the crunching of paper all provide fascinating stimuli for curious cats.

Nevertheless, it’s crucial to keep your feline friend away from trash cans as consuming spoiled or rotten food can cause digestive problems and sickness in cats. Sharp objects or toxic substances can also pose hazards to our curious companions.

As responsible pet owners, we must provide alternative sources of stimulation and entertainment such as interactive toys, scratching posts, and window perches. Placing the trash can out of reach or using a covered bin is an excellent way to prevent unwanted messes while minimizing your cat’s exposure to potentially harmful items.

Reprimanding your cat for rummaging through the trash won’t help them break this habit. Instead, redirect their behavior positively by understanding their attraction to the trash can and offering alternative forms of stimulation.