This post about Allegra’s special toy was first published six years ago, but I just had to revisit it after I found her like this in the middle of the living room floor the other night:


This toy has been her special toy for the past six years. At least once a day, sometimes several times a day, she carries it around the house, chirping and singing and sometimes yowling. It sounds a bit plaintive, a sad little cry, as if she had lost something. The first time I heard her do this, I thought she’d hurt herself!

As soon as I look for her when she does this, she drops the toy and stops. As much as I try, I haven’t been able to get a video of her with the toy.

Almost every morning, I find her special toy in the bedroom, even though it doesn’t “live” there during the day. Some mornings, I find it under the covers. I have never heard her bring it during the night. I’m a relatively light sleeper, but apparently not so light that her chirping, singing and yowling wakes me up – or perhaps, she is considerate enough to bring the toy quietly at night?

Her special toy is not fancy. It’s an ancient olive green and tan suede mouse that was given to her by a friend when I first adopted her in 2010. The mouse lost its tail somewhere along the way.

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We never play with this toy. It’s clearly very special to her, and she doesn’t play with it, ever, so it’s never felt right to me to use it as a toy.

The toy looks pretty gross at this point from being carried around all those years, but I don’t dare wash it!


Interestingly, she’s only considered that suede mouse “special” for the last six years. Before then, she had a different “baby” – an ancient toy that actually belonged to Feebee, who passed away in 2000. She dug that out of the toy basket one day, and apparently decided that it was going to be her “baby” then. It’s a soft, plush little stuffed mitten with a tail that has a pompon at the end.  Then one day, she lost interest in that toy and the green suede mouse became her baby.

Allegra’s previous special toy

Amber had her own version of a special toy: a green and tan fuzzy mouse that I got for her when she first came to live with me. For the entire ten years that she was with me, that mouse was her special “baby.” Like Allegra, she’d pick it up, carry it around the house, crying and yowling. Amber would often sleep with her “baby.”

Amber with her special toy

What’s really interesting to me was that Ruby never touched Allegra’s “baby.” Ruby considered every other toy in our house hers – but yet, she never once played with Allegra’s suede mouse.

Buckley never played with Amber’s green and tan mouse, either. Allegra also respected Amber’s special toy when she joined us as a 7-month-old kitten. She went after anything that moved, but she never once played with Amber’s special mouse.

I asked Allegra to tell you about her special toy, but she declined. She said some things aren’t meant to be explained to humans.

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Some theories on this behavior

I know Allegra is not the only cat who does this. I’ve heard from readers over the years that their cats also exhibit this behavior.

There are a couple of theories about why cats do this. One is that it has to do with a cat’s maternal instinct, and that it mimics what they would sound like when they carry their kittens. Some say that this happens especially in cats that never had a litter. While that might be true for Allegra, Amber blows that theory out of the water, because she had a litter of kittens when she was rescued. I’ve also heard of male cats doing the same thing.

The other theory is that this has to with the cat’s hunting instinct and that it is a way of announcing that they caught their prey, along the lines of “see what a great hunter I am!” That theory doesn’t really make sense to me, either, because I think that if that were the case, they wouldn’t be so secretive about it and just drop the toy when they see me looking at them. It seems like they would continue to bring the toy to me, waiting for some sort of praise.

I think this is just one of the many mysteries about our feline family members that we’ll never quite understand.

Do your cats have a special toy that they carry around?

41 Comments on Allegra and Her Special Toy

  1. I loved reading about Allegra and her special baby, and the yowling and chirping! I had to laugh because my male cat McLuvin, who is a big brown tabby, carries a crocheted ball around and boy is he loud! And, not only loud but continuous! If I try to take it, he yells louder! This goes on everyday and quite a few times each day! I have pictures, but can’t post here, or I just don’t know how.

  2. Ingrid, we have seen and heard this behavior in many of our cats over the years and we call it “got prey”. They will yowl in most cases until we come to see what is going on at which point they will look at us and give us a quick “mew” as if to say; “Hey, I’m doing my job…” We have occasionally had a mouse unwittingly venture into our house and we can only imagine their last thought as they realize where they have wandered into…

  3. The first cat I had, Puff, used to catch mice in the house and drop them in the middle of the kitchen. My mom was not very happy about finding them on the floor but at least they weren’t running around the house anymore. After about a year of this we never had mice problems again.

    My Calico, Fresca, will carry a stuffed rat toy around the house crying like that. I find it in random places, and like Allegra she stops as soon as she sees me or if I call her.

    One of my previous cats, a tortoiseshell named Eclipse, would bring me these rubber pigs from an old board game called “Pigs are Poppin”. At first I tried hiding that game because I was worried about her chewing on them, but she never actually played with them and would just carry them to where I was at while crying then drop them near me.

    My other tortie, Callie, doesn’t do that sort of thing but she was already 8 when I adopted her, and she’s 18 now so she doesn’t really play much anymore. Fresca keeps trying to play with her but Callie will just hiss at her until she goes away.

  4. Mt downstairs neighbor rescued a very young kitten from the street in an industrial area. To help him feel more comfortable I gave him a teddy bear big enough for him to curl up against and a furry Beanie Baby gorilla. (I was thinking of the gorilla who was given a kitten.) He’s nine now and still has that little gorilla. For years he carried it around and slept with it, taking it to bed when he joined his human in the bed.

  5. What a beautiful post and comments ! My cats enjoy toys but aren’t especially attached t o any of them. Years ago Muggins found a round bobber from some fishing gear and carried it around (it was too big to choke him).

  6. What an endearing story! I sadly remember Frodo’s favorite toy. It was a little red crab made of fabric. He loved to play with that toy so much he ended up shredding it into pieces. But I always mended back to life for him to enjoy more playtime with it. At that time I had my beloved Tina still alive. A Toy Fox Terrier. Frodo was very fond of her even though he never plaied with her nor shared his crab toy which we called Pepe. Tina and Frodo lived together for 3 years. Tina was old and very sick in the end and Frodo stood next to her for days while she was struggling with her illness. One morning I found Pepe in Tina’s bed. Everytime I gave Pepe back to Frodo he was bringing him back to Tina. One day we had to take Tina to the Vet one more time but we never came back home with her. Frodo stood in front of her empty bed for a week bringing Pepe to her bed and dropping it on her pillow. The scene was so heartbreaking that I had to remove the bed (even though I wanted to keep it a little longer). Since that day Frodo never plaied with Pepe ever again. I still have Pepe. In a little box next to Tina’s ashes. So sad 🙁

    • I’m crying as I’m typing this, Francesca – what a heartbreaking, and yet beautiful story. The bond between Frodo and Tina must have been incredible.

  7. My beautiful cat Mandy, who was also a tortie, had a crinkle ball she carried around with her. She would yowl and meow during the night when she played with it. Sometimes I would find it various places such as in the bathtub (she liked rolling it up the sides so it would roll back to her), or even in the litter box. None of the other cats would touch it. She passed away in September at age 18. The crinkle ball sits next to her ashes now. It reminds me of the “Little Boy Blue” poem. The crinkle ball waits for the cat that will never gain return to play with it.

  8. I currently have one who will find a toy whether it be a jingle ball or a mouse and carry it about meowing, but even better is her Kitty Cube… I’d like to upload a picture but don’t see an option here… This one is in tatters, but if i make a move to pick it up, considering tossing it, she immediately gets in it! Not MY Kitty Cube mom!!! There are two others in the room, as well as a three way tunnel, but she loves that one!!

  9. This post really touched my heart. My late Kitten, whom I rescued when he was 6 months old, had a basket full of toys to choose from, and other kitties to play with. But after I brought home 2 new items when he was 1 or 2, they became his “binkies.” They were 9-inch strips of sherpa fleece, stitched down the middle with little leather tags along their lengths. Since this was almost 20 years ago, I can’t remember if he really “played” with them independently in the beginning, but I would hear him walking through the house making that unusual cry while carrying one in his mouth. They became incredibly worn over the years, but he never stopped carrying one to wherever I was and leaving it with me while he laid down & snuggled. None of the others ever did this. He only stopped doing this a few months before he died, when I suspect he felt too poorly to do more than rest near me. I still have those scruffy strips, safely retired — no one else ever played with or carried them around. Reading your post made me miss him all over again — what a character he was, and the youngest rescue I ever adopted.

  10. During a period when mice were in our house, my kitty used to bring me live mice, IN BED! She’s a catch and release hunter.

      • Thankfully the one who usually catches mice doesn’t have access to the bedroom (personality conflicts), but she likes to catch them, bring them upstairs to the kitchen and let it go so they can ‘play’ with it! When we first moved here, I’d find heads near the door to the hallway… More than likely they would end up in my bed if they could go there! Shades of godfather… She’s also learned that if i get the mouse it will be relocated (just putting them out doesn’t work, they’ll just come back in!), So now if i approach before she drops it, she growls at me and runs away with it, sometimes through the kitty door back to the basement. Once loose several of them spend long time chasing it around until it gets under the dishwasher. Then we lie in wait for when it comes out and round two!

  11. I LOVED reading this! My husband and I have spent hours over the years trying to understand why Katie does exactly the same thing and what it means. You literally could have been describing Katie and her “baby” with how you explained Allegra and her special toy. Katie has used the same frog toy in this way for over ten years. About three years ago she adopted a new “baby”…it’s a red stuffed monster toy. (a cute monster!) Both toys are much larger than most cat toys. They really aren’t cat toys at all, just small stuffed animals.

    We also have tried for YEARS to get video of her or even still photos. But the moment we talk to her or she sees us, she drops the toy.

    Until yesterday.

    After Katie’s recent dental surgery, she’s not been able to pick up anything much larger than a tiny soft ball. We saw Dr. Fern yesterday so she could check up on Katie’s progress one more time. I told her I was sad that she wasn’t able to pick up her baby anymore. She told me not to worry, it would come. Within minutes of arriving home, Katie was carrying her baby all through the house. Chirping, meowing and yowling. AND I finally got a photo of her!

  12. My Maggie does the same thing! She has a turquoise-colored heart-shaped mouse that she carries around and “talks” at the same time, mostly at night when I’m in bed. Oftentimes in the morning when I get up, I’ll find it on the bed. Kitties are funny, aren’t they!!!!

    • My dogs have/had special toys they loved. However some did not even last the day with one gal. All 3 would hide them from the other, but all played with the same toys. My house looked like a you store. I am surprised the toy has lasted this long.

  13. I have a cat that would do that exact same thing. Being from a dairy farm, and later my own hobby farm, I have seen and heard that plaintiff meow ‘in real life’, so to speak. When kittens are just starting to eat real meat, and the mother is starting to teach them “the kill”, she will bring live prey back to the nest. Then she calls them, with the prey, in the haunting yowl, so they can come out of hiding. Since she hides them well, and our precious babies are acting on an ancient instinct, and there are no babies to come, it is very sad. It is the ‘mothering’ cats that usually do this; they groom everyone including you, that sort of thing. Hope that helps with your wonderful babies!

  14. I enjoyed hearing about your kids’ toys. I don’t think my cats have favorite toys. They seem to play with different ones all the time. Maybe it’s my fault as they are probably overwhelmed with all of the toys I buy for them all the time.

  15. Yes, I have had that experience with my Nadia ,she started it when she was about two ,as you said ,when I first heard her cries I thought she was hurt , but , when I found her she had a small stuffed mouse I had bought her..She has always done things that I try to understand as our life together has been very interesting. Like ,when I see her playing with her toys or just a wadded up piece of paper she loves to chase , I will find them in her water dish when she gets tired of playing with them. or refusing to sleep in any of the many very soft and cozy beds she can choose from that she loved as a kitten with her special blanket.Now , she sits up on any table or shelf all night. I have even tried going in her room and just cuddle with her to comfort her and she loves that and will sleep like a baby ,but as soon as I leave she is back on the table..Cats I feel will always be like the 7 wonders of the world , Just amazing sites to watch and appreciate , as they teach us , life is simple , sometimes complex, but, just enjoy it while we can.They surely teach us about deep love, isn’t that amazing?

  16. Ingrid,
    My cat Kinx does the same thing with his cat bed. He moves it around and makes the sounds Allegra does. I’ve actually been able to capture it on video, but I deleted it. He is so cute when he does that.

  17. Boodie has toys that she treats the same way Allegra does! My human has sort of figured out which kind of toys Boodie will favor like that, and she will pick them up for her. She can’t get Boodie on video either – although she wishes she could!

    Binga doesn’t play much with toys, other than catnip. Her play is causing trouble. Yes, even at 17-1/2!

  18. Koko has 2 toys… Mr Ted..a medium sized teddy bear she was given at the Cat Haven ( she was 4 weeks old when she walked into the office by herself) and she cuddled up to it 24 hours a day..she was so scared… when we adopted her we had to promise to take Mr Ted too… she still likes him ‘ to be near’ she explores the house/outside and is a very active cat..but when it’s nap time or bedtime she curls up on her end of the couch with her back against Mr Ted or sometimes just her paw touching him… and if I move him and forget to put him back ( like vacuum the couch time) then she looks for him and crys…
    The second toy is a small felt covered purple and lime green jingle ball… it was her toy present from the staff to us on her Adoption Day… this ball has been played with to the point it is slightly bald on one side and is now slightly flat on one side too as Daddy stepped on it… she will dig it out and bring it to us to throw… she loves to batter it around so it bounces off things and she bats it everywhere chasing it madly… sometimes she will pick it up in her mouth and run back with it to play fetch

  19. I had an Himalayan named Krista who had a litter and after they were gone used to behave this way with white socks. She would find one, carry it around and make a similar noise. I figured it was a surrogate for one of her kittens. A friend has a cat who every night finds pipe cleaners, “kills” them, cries in triumph (I guess), and then brings them to bed. I would sure like to know exactly why cats do this. Krista embarrassed me one evening when she pulled this stunt with a pair of panties from somewhere in the apartment. The lady I was with had a great retort: “Are you trying to tell me something?”

  20. What a great post, Ingrid. So fun and interesting to hear about Allegra’s favorite toy. Her “plaintive, sad cry” sounds exactly like what I hear from Anya when she brings her favorite toys as gifts in the night. And like you, I’ve gotten to a point where I don’t hear her doing that after I’ve fallen asleep. I think we just get used to it happening, so it doesn’t wake us up! Again, thanks for sharing Allegra’s special toy story . . . even though she didn’t want to tell the story herself.

  21. What a beautiful, slightly sadness twinged, story. Moses used to have a “baby” when he came to live with me after I had to move back in with family. He would carry around a tiny toy teddy bear wherever he went. It would end up in his bed or on the recliner next to him when he slept. It was a gift from my ex who had actually been the one to adopt him. When the relationship suddenly ended six months later and she was no longer in our lives his bear seemed to be less important. It’s been sitting on the shelf for two years untouched. Not even by Cora Kitty or Donald the Cat, both of whom believe that everything belongs to them. They both have thier own special items too. Donald’s ball originally belonged to Tom Cat who passed away from lukeimia at 10 months old in 1992. He was my first soul cat and I’d nearly forgotten about the ball until a four month old Donald began chasing it around one day. I don’t know where it had been for the last 22 years. The older I get and the more of my year’s spent with cats by my side the less I seem to understand them. I’m still awed, comforted, perplexed, and infuriated by them, but I really don’t understand why certain objects mean so much to them.

    • How precious that Donald “found” Tom Cat’s ball. I think there will always be some mystery about cats even for those of us who think we know them so well.

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