Why do cats follow you into the bathroom?
May I ask you a personal question? Does your cat follow you into the bathroom? Are you leaving your door ajar so your cat can come in after you? And what if you close the door behind you and let your cat outside? Do you see paws under the door? Does your cat scratch or jump at the door? This can be one of the quirkiest, funniest, and confusing things our cats do.
Even my docile Ragdoll would stick her paw under the door and it would rattle if I left it on the loo. Our cat Sophie comes in and goes out again right away. But Maddie will pet me or my husband and sometimes play in the bathtub when either of us is in there.
I spoke to my longtime friend, pet lifestyle expert and cat writer, Sandy Robins, about this mysterious behavior of cats. Sandy’s cat, Fudge, even followed house guests into the bathroom. I was one of those guests who had the privilege of knowing Fudge before she died. Today Sandy has two adorable cats, Ziggy and Tory, who, unsurprisingly, behave the same way.
While I haven’t found any studies or scientific articles explaining why cats follow people to the bathroom, I think this funny quirk reinforces some of the behaviors that we attribute to cats.
Cats can’t stand a closed door
Cats are territorial, so they are passionate about everything that is going on in their territory. Your survival depends on it. You can spend hours watching it and know where the safe places are to eat, drink, sleep, and do business.
As soon as they learn that a door is opening and that there is territory behind it that they want to explore, they want to enter. If there is unexplored space in your home, they will almost be killed if they cannot go inside.
“It’s like they want to know what you’re doing in there and ‘May I help,'” says Sandy. She and her family do not lock the bathroom door, but they do close it completely. But somehow the cats can still push open the door and go straight in, says Sandy. When their son, who has a dog, was staying with them, Ziggy, Tory, and the dog came in. “We wanted to put up a sign that said ‘One at a time, please,'” says Sandy.
My cat Sophie has figured out how to open the closet door in our guest room and goes in there at night when she thinks no one is looking. We heard her open it. We’ll find her there the next morning. If cats had opposing thumbs, we’d be pretty sure they’d open every unlocked closet and door in your home.
Cats love it when you are quiet
Cats like it when you can’t move (or can’t move) and somehow instinctively know that you can’t move around the bathroom.
Have you noticed that your cats love to come and hang out when you are silent? Whether you’re sitting at your computer, relaxing on the couch, or lying in bed, most cats will either sit on your lap or near you, dropping on your keyboard or paperwork, or curling up next to you. Take this as a big compliment that your cat wants to be wherever you are, feels safe with you, and likes to be the center of your attention.
Cats like bathrooms
Bathrooms and closets are usually the smallest rooms in the house. A space in which they can see all the limits gives the feeling of security they long for. “Cats like small spaces and boxes,” says Sandy. “Maybe you see the bathroom as our version of a box.”
The bathroom also contains some other exciting things – like running water, which some cats find irresistible. Many cats like running water and even drink from a running tap or fountain.
Other bathroom fixtures cats like are the sleek, cool surfaces of sinks and bathtubs. Just google “cats in sinks” some time. There is a whole website called catinsinsinks.com. A wash basin fulfills many cat wishes: it is cat-sized, closed and smooth and provides running water.
Cats also like tubs for similar reasons. However, the size of a tub makes it an ideal playground. Many people discover their cats’ toys in the tub. My cat Maddie likes to turn around and chase her tail in the tub. Sandy’s cat Tory is playing in the tub and Ziggy carries his wand toy into the bathroom.
Another cat favorite: the toilet roll. “Ziggy pulls the toilet paper and insists on getting the first three squares,” says Sandy. At the start of COVID when we ran out of toilet paper, Sandy thought she had to ration toilet paper for Ziggy.
Google “cats and toilet paper” and prepare to be entertained.
If you feel safe, it has to be safe
Cats seek out many of their needs from their favorite people – food, water, shelter, a clean litter box, and more. But they also expect security and security from their employees. My cats like it when either my husband or I watch them eat. Why? Because cats feel vulnerable when they eat. Cats also feel vulnerable when using the potty.
Cats get a lot of their information from watching us. In the world of psychology this is called social referencing. Human children and animals expect their parents and guardians to know how to react to something. If something scares us, it will scare them. When we are calm and relaxed, they feel safe too. When you feel safe enough to do your bathroom business, they feel confident that you and they are in a safe place.
Author and editor Susan Logan-McCracken shares her home with her husband Mark and two red, long-haired tabby cats, Maddie and Sophie.