Our cats sometimes challenge the most insightful among us to figure out what’s behind a weird and wacky behavior. Felines always have a good reason for doing what they do. But a given behavior doesn’t always mean what you think, including why cats follow us to the bathroom.
Dogs do this, too, but the toilet terrorist behavior seems even more universal among cats. I’ve had many cat lovers relate funny stories about being ambushed on the (ahem) facilities, stalked with paw-pats under the bathroom door, and persistent potty buddies demanding lap-time or napping in unmentionables dropped around our ankles.
We think of cats as heat-seekers who prefer lounging in puddles of sunshine. But my Seren-Kitty as a young cat liked lounging in cool spots, like damp towels in the bathroom. The cool tile or empty tub and sink are appealing to these cats. I even turned the empty tub into a cat playpen by tossing a Ping Pong ball inside.
Cats also are instinctively drawn to high perches such as countertops that they associate with safety. They chain behaviors that link one action to another in a particular routine. And cats LOVE routine, so once a behavior sequence becomes a habit (especially if there’s a benefit for kitty), your pet will repeat the routine over and over again.
The top reason cats like bathrooms is we reward them for the behavior, whether intentionally or not. The first thing people do in the morning is visit the bathroom, right? And for cat parents, the second morning duty is (duh!) feed the cat! Our feline friends recognize the connection, of course, especially if the food bowl happens to be in the bathroom, too. So let’s put all this together, and answer the question, why are cats avid potty buddies?
5 More Reasons Cats Love Bathrooms
- ROUTINE. People visit the bathroom on a schedule, and they perform predictable behaviors while in the room. Cats know what to expect and won’t be surprised.
- CONVENIENT. Bathrooms offer sinks with running water that many cats relish. Moving water simply tastes better, and people persuaded to run the tap for the cat reinforce this interaction with fresh water.
- PERCHING OPS. The sink vanity provides a great perch or lookout for cats. Sitting on the sink or vanity positions a cat for a convenient face-to-face interaction when you are perched on the throne. That’s ideal from the cat’s perspective for controlling the interaction—the human can’t easily escape, so kitty can approach or stay out of reach as she prefers.
- GOOD SMELLS. Cats who insist on lap-sitting time may be frustrated in other parts of the house if you often instead give attention to a magazine, book or laptop computer. The felines that snuggle in your balled up laundry offer another type of compliment—basking in your most personal aroma to be as near their beloved human as possible.
- PREDICTABLE REWARDS. Cats appreciate the rewards they get by spending private one-on-one time with their humans. Even the kitties who only paw-play under the door get attention in terms of you talking to them, or rewarding the behavior by FINALLY coming back out the door. The longer you spend inside the room and then emerge, the more powerful lesson cats learn that paw-pat persistence and kitty complaints eventually will garner success.
This article was reviewed/edited by board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Kenneth Martin and/or veterinary technician specialist in behavior Debbie Martin, LVT