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Why does my cat follow me into the bathroom?

bathroom interiorWhy does my cat follow me into the bathroom?

If you have a cat, you will never enjoy privacy in the bathroom ever again. You may think that you are entitled to some alone time in this most private of places in your home, but your cat firmly disagrees.

 

Maybe you’re taking shower. You don’t think you need company, but your cat most definitely thinks you do. Maybe your plan is to use the toilet. You can’t imagine why anyone would choose to come along for that activity, but your cat wouldn’t miss it for the world.

 

What does it mean when your cat follows you to the bathroom?

 

Funny, your cat thinks he needs privacy when he uses his litter box

 

From your cat’s point of view, everyone in the household needs privacy when urinating or defecating – except you. You need company.

 

Why does a cat need privacy when he’s using the litter box?

cat using litter boxIt’s not what you think. Humans crave privacy when using the toilet because we’ve been raised with the idea that elimination is taboo. We use euphemisms like “number one” and “number two” to avoid talking about it directly. Most of us aren’t fully comfortable using public toilets, with their sounds and smells and the presence of other people.

 

But unlike humans, cats are not squeamish about the act of elimination. There’s no shame in it for them. Privacy for cats is all about safety. We may think of our cats as predators, but given their small size they are also prey and they know it. They are very anxious about being caught unawares. When a cat is urinating or defecating he feels vulnerable. Cats seek out private places to do their business so that they don’t have to worry about someone sneaking up on them.

 

The best place for cat’s litter box is the place the cat wants it to be. Ideally, it has to be easy for the cat to access, but also easy for her to dash out if she needs to make a quick escape. And it has to be private enough that she can relax for a moment while doing her business.

 

Your cat doesn’t think you need privacy in the bathroom, however

 

The bathroom in your house is a cat amusement park. If you’re going to the bathroom, she wants to join you for all the fun. What is so fun about the bathroom for a cat?

 

The bathroom has the best cat toys: toilet paper, tissues, towels, and bathmats

 
kitten and toilet paperWhy did you put all the best cat toys in the bathroom if you didn’t want the cat to spend time with you there? First, there are toilet paper rolls for unraveling. Many cats will happily unwind a whole roll, scattering it around the floor or snaking it around furniture. Others will turn the whole thing into confetti, grabbing the roll with their front paws and shredding it to bits with their back paws.
 
And then there is the tissue box! He can pull one tissue out and watch the next one magically appear! What jolly fun!
 
Some cats love to roll around on the bathmat, hunting imaginary bugs in the funny "grass," or even sleeping on this special cat bed you apparently put in the bathroom just for her. Wet towels hanging on a hook are perfect for climbing or clinging. 
 

The bathroom has water, which is fascinating to cats 

cat and faucetYou may have heard that cats hate water, but that’s only partly true. Most hate getting bathed but are fascinated by water. Many will play in a running faucet or splash their paws in a tub full of water. (Read How do you bathe a cat for more information about cat breeds that have a special affinity for water.) Chances are if you’re in the bathroom you’re going to turn on the faucet, start the shower, or draw a bath and your cat wants in on that action.
 

The bathroom has sinks and tubs, which are some of the best cat beds in the house

 
cat in a sinkEven if your bathroom sink wasn’t designed by cats, it could have been. First, you take a perfectly curled-up-cat-shaped vessel and perch it high enough off the floor so that kitty can watch the world go by. You make the interior smooth and cool on the fur. Cat beds don’t get any better than the one you put in the bathroom vanity.
 
cat in a tubThe tub’s not bad either. It’s deep and safe: the perfect hiding place if you’re trying to get away from it all (you use the tub the same way, don’t you?). It’s also a great place for an ambush hunter to conceal herself while she’s waiting for a dust mote or spider to ensnare.
 

The bathroom has you in it

Cats seem to know that when you’re in the bathroom they have a captive audience. They know the routine: when you’re sitting on the potty you’re not going anywhere for a while.
 
faucetMany cats love to curl up on their person’s lap on the toilet. They have your undivided attention for a certain amount of time: you’re not working, or cooking, or knitting, or reading a book, or watching TV. But you are petting them.
 

The bathroom is a place of routines

woman flossing her teethRoutine keeps stress levels low, for us and for our pets. Cats enjoy when their day follows a certain rhythm. Even if a cat’s routine-driven life seems boring to us, the predictability helps cats feel safe.
 
We humans often use the bathroom at the same time and in the same way every day. We might get out of bed and then use the toilet and then brush our teeth and then turn on the shower at the same hour and in the same order day after day. It may be reassuring to your cat to have the day unfold in a particular expected way and they want to be a part of it.
 

The bathroom is a place of terrific smells

You might not think of the bathroom as sanctuary of delightful odors, but you are not your cat.
 
bathroom sinkTo your cat, the bathroom smells like you. The wet towels smell like you, the robe smells like you, and yes, the toilet has your scent as well. Scent means different things to animals than it does to humans. When people think about a scent, they evaluate whether the smell is nice or noxious and that's the end of it. For animals, however, scent is loaded with information. To your cat, all the wonderful, comforting, pleasant things he associates with you is embodied in your scent in your bathroom.

 

Your cat can not be on the other side of a closed door

 

bathroom doorThere’s one more reason your cat follows you into the bathroom: he knows you’re going to close the door in front of her if he doesn’t scoot in fast enough.

 

Many a cat owner knows that you lock the cat out of the bathroom at your peril. You may think that by shutting yourself inside the bathroom alone, you’re assuring yourself a moment’s peace on the toilet. Instead, you find yourself enduring endless wailing or scratching on the other side of the door until you open it. How many times have you shut the bathroom door to find little cat paws sliding underneath at the threshold?

 

Why does the cat want in?

bathtubUntil she starts speaking in full sentences, you’ll never really know. Perhaps the cat views the whole household as her territory and is outraged that you’ve closed off access to an important part of her dominion.

 

Maybe your cat is just curious. What mysteries are going on behind that closed door? Inquiring cats need to know.

 

Or perhaps it’s a kind of “scarcity of resources” issue. (Read “Do cats get jealous?”) You have something (access to the bathroom) that she does not have. And because you have it and she does not, she wants it.

 

begging catAnd finally, it could just be cat perversity. Have you ever let a begging cat into the screened-in porch with you, only to have her demand almost instantaneously to be let out again? Has she ever whined and meowed incessantly for a treat only to refuse it as soon as you offer one?

 

You know that saying about how the minute you discover you can’t have something you want it even more? A cat probably wrote that about being on the other side of the bathroom door.

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2 comments

  • Glad it was helpful!

    Dawn LaFontaine
  • Great piece with lots of information.

    Cecelia

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