Cat Owners Beware: The Truth About Why Your Feline Friends Love Bleach

Ragdoll cat owners often relate to the familiar scenario of their feline companions exhibiting unusual behavior, such as sniffing, rubbing, and rolling on objects with a bleach scent, after someone in the household has used bleach for cleaning, leaving them wondering why cats are attracted to bleach.

Crazy cat look
Photo credit: Deposit Photos.

What Gives?

A Ragdoll cat licking his lips

A reader recently shared a story that might sound very familiar to other Ragdoll cat owners: someone in your house has been cleaning using bleach, and even though they wash up thoroughly, your Ragdoll kitty immediately and inexplicably begins to go a little crazy, sniffing, rubbing and rolling all over anything that smells like bleach, from hands to mops, to laundry. What gives? Why do cats like bleach?

Why do cats love bleach?

Clorox Bleach - Why do cats like bleach?
Photo credit: Floppycats.

If you have experienced this scenario and wondered why does my cat roll in bleach? Are they having some strange reaction? You are not alone. This is a surprisingly common occurrence among cats. While even the experts can only partially explain this, here is some information to help you understand this odd phenomenon.

The most common explanation is that there might be something in the chemical makeup of bleach that attracts cats, such as chlorine. But that raises the question, why do cats like chlorine?

The generally agreed-upon answer is that cats have a very highly developed sense of smell – much more complex than humans’ – and something like bleach might be connected to their pheromones, triggering a biological, hormonal reaction to the scent.

Common reactions include rubbing, purring, and drooling – similar to catnip’s effect on kitties. So while cat experts haven’t reached a detailed conclusion about why cats are into bleach, a simple way of thinking of it is that it has the same effect as catnip on a kitty.

Cats and Bleach Poisoning

Blue lynx mitted Ragdoll cat Trigg Chiggy lounging
Photo credit: Floppycats.

Many pet owners see this reaction as a reason to worry about the health and safety of their cat, but the faint smell of bleach and a cat’s reaction to it is harmless. However, licking or ingesting a lot of bleach can cause serious cat health issues requiring immediate veterinary attention.

Please Note: Bleach is made of toxic chemicals unsafe for you, your children, and your pets. It’s important to keep toxic chemicals away from your pets and children. Of course, it’s best not to use them at all.

Some symptoms to be on the lookout for if you think your cat has swallowed bleach include vomiting, sore throat, stomach pain, excessive drooling, and a bleached appearance of the hair around the paws or mouth, possibly along with the smell of bleach or chlorine.

If your cat is showing these symptoms, give them milk or water and get them to the vet ASAP – do not try to induce vomiting. The vet will continue to treat the cat by giving them large amounts of milk or water. The prognoses are generally good if you act quickly and efficiently.

So if your cat goes into ecstasy over your bleach-scented hands every time you clean the bathroom, you do not have to worry that they are crazy. Their love of the scent is a typical cat quirk. Still, it does mean that you must be extra careful to keep any bleach chemicals away from your kitty safely.

Types of Bleach and the Effects They Have

Blue Lynx Mitted Ragdoll Cat Trigg on the floor with a toy

As you may know, if you use bleach for your washing, several types of bleach are available on the market. The variable is the chlorine in the composition. There are bleaches with a low concentration of chlorine, others with a high chlorine concentration, and some without chlorine.

While their efficacy for whitening your clothes is debatable, one thing is sure – all of them are very attractive to your cat because all three types of bleach have that irresistible smell that your cat goes crazy for. But, unfortunately, all of them are also dangerous for your cat. However, some of them are more dangerous than others. Here are the main types of bleach and their effects on your cat:

This is a bleach product that has a lower concentration of chlorine. Standard bleach cleaning supplies have a pH between 11 and 13. The high alkalinity of bleach is what makes it corrosive.

Effects of Skin Contact – if your cat gets this kind of bleach on its skin or fur, chances are it will get away with an irritation of the skin. Naturally, this only applies to a small quantity of household bleach. However, a large quantity of bleach on the cat’s skin will undoubtedly cause severe irritation requiring treatment.
Moreover, the damage will be much more significant if the bleach enters the cat’s eyes. This is a medical emergency. If your cat has bleach in its eyes, wash it with cold, clean water and take it to the vet as soon as possible because it will need medical attention.

Effects of Ingestion – If your cat licks some bleach off a surface, it is sure to cause irritation to the areas that have come into contact with the bleach – mouth, tongue, throat, esophagus, and stomach.
If the quantity is meager, the damages are minimal because the bleach will barely reach the stomach. The cat will still need medical attention for the digestive tract irritation, but the prognosis will likely be good.

However, suppose the cat ingests more bleach (anything from a spoonful up). In that case, it will surely reach the stomach, which means the damage will be more serious. Furthermore, the larger quantity will exacerbate the irritation. The mouth will be gravely affected, but the most dangerous lesions are those to the esophagus and stomach.

This is also a medical emergency, and your cat’s life depends on the treatment it gets. Waiting is not an option because the bleach must be neutralized. Otherwise, the irritation will worsen. Aside from this, the irritation exposes the cat to infections, which can be life-threatening.

Highly-Concentrated Bleach

Evolve Bleach Tablets Highly Concentrated Bleach in a bottle.
Photo credit: Floppycats.

This is a product found less in households and more in professional cleaning. However, highly-concentrated bleach products are available on the market.

If you use this type of bleach, you should know its higher efficacy comes from a much higher chlorine concentration. The values are typically around 12-12.5. This makes it particularly dangerous to cats.

Here’s why it is dangerous to cats:

Charlie in a Laundry Basket
Photo credit: Floppycats.

Effects of Skin Contact – If your cat comes into contact with ultra-concentrated bleach, it will damage its skin immediately. If you’ve ever washed clothes by hand using bleach, you might remember that your hands sting afterward.

Now keep in mind that you’ve used water and that you’ve used the low-concentration bleach. If the products with PH-11 chlorine are irritants, then those with 12-12.5-PH bleach are corrosive.

Your cat will get a chemical burn on its skin, which is painful and dangerous. Unfortunately, all you can do is wash the area with cold water to help dilute the bleach and minimize its effects on the skin.

You must also call the vet because a chemical burn is an emergency. If this substance gets into your cat’s eyes, they risk getting permanent damage. Wash its eyes immediately, and take your cat to the vet.

Effects of Ingestion – Even a tiny quantity of ultra-concentrated bleach (under a spoonful) will cause severe lesions on your cat’s lips, tongue, gums, inner cheeks, the roof of the mouth, esophagus, and even the stomach.

Since the digestive tract is far more sensitive than the skin, the lesions will also be more profound. Try to wash your cat’s mouth with cold, clean water and take it to the hospital as soon as possible because this is an apparent emergency.

As you can imagine, ingesting a large quantity of ultra-concentrated bleach (anything over a spoonful) is hazardous. The mouth’s lesions will be intense, so you might see blood and open wounds. The lesions extend to the esophagus, stomach, and even intestines.

The prognosis depends on the bleach quantity, the lesions’ gravity, and how fast the treatment was administered. Please note that it can even take a few months for such wounds to heal and can be life-threatening.

Non-Chlorine Bleach

Molly's Suds Natural Oxygen Whitener that is toxic to cats

Some bleach products have no chlorine at all. Instead, they have hydrogen peroxide in their composition. Unfortunately, this substance is also hazardous for your cat because, aside from the irritation, it also induces vomiting. This is, in fact, a tell-tale sign in identifying what happened to your cat.

Effects of Skin Contact -If your cat gets a small quantity of non-chlorine bleach on its skin, it will likely cause a low-grade irritation because its fur might provide sufficient protection. You may notice, however, that the fur in the area of contact is much lighter in color. Hydrogen peroxide is the same substance used for hair bleach. If you notice any contact, wash the area thoroughly with cold, clean water and examine the cat’s skin for irritation.

This bleach only becomes dangerous if the cat has prolonged contact with a larger quantity. While this is less likely to happen, it is possible. If this is the case, the cat’s skin irritation requires medical attention. Wash the area thoroughly as soon as possible to dilute the substance.

However, if this bleach gets into the cat’s eyes, even a small quantity can cause severe damage. You will notice the cat’s eyes are red and tearing and that the cat is trying to use its paws to respond to the irritation. It won’t be able to keep its eyes open, so you will see the cat blinking. This can be very dangerous, so immediately wash your cat’s eyes with cold water and take it to the vet.

Effects of Ingestion – Even ingesting a small quantity of hydrogen peroxide is enough to cause an immediate effect. The cat will start vomiting because the substance activates the vomiting reflex. If you see your cat vomiting and smell bleach, take it to the vet because there may be lesions on its mouth and throat that require treatment.

Suppose the cat ingests a larger quantity of non-chlorine bleach. In that case, the effects will be more violent – more vomiting, more profound lesions, and a wider area affected. Moreover, when the cat vomits, the bleach will irritate its throat and mouth even more. This is a medical emergency. You can do very little at this point, so take your cat to the hospital immediately.

How Can You Protect Your Cat from Bleach?

Seal mitted with a blaze ragdoll cat sitting outside
Photo credit: Floppycats.

While the smell of bleach will never cease to be irresistible for your cat, you can easily make it impossible for it to reach it. There are some safety precautions that you can take so that your cat never has access to bleach. Here are a few things that you can do:

  • Place all the bleach products in the house (including floor or bathroom cleaners) in a closed cabinet. Ideally, it should lock because cats are very inventive when opening doors.
  • After washing the floor, the tub, or the bathroom with products that have bleach in their composition, you must rinse thoroughly. If you leave any bleach on the floor, your cat will come to inspect, being drawn by the smell, and it will get the bleach on its paws, nose, mouth, and tongue.
  • Letting the washed areas dry out before the cat can access them is also crucial. Dried bleach is less of an irritant than it is as a fluid.
  • Try to remove your cat entirely when washing your house with bleach-based products. Try cleaning one room at a time and keeping the cat in a room that has dry floors.
  • Observe your cat after using bleach-based products. Keep the cat close so you can stop it if it tries to go and lick the places where you’ve used the bleach.

What other explanations have you heard about why cats love bleach? What other chemicals or scents does your kitty seem to love? Comment here on Floppycats or read more about all things Ragdoll Cats.

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Hi, I’m Jenny Dean, creator of Floppycats! Ever since my Aunt got the first Ragdoll cat in our family, I have loved the breed. Inspired by my childhood Ragdoll cat, Rags, I created Floppycats to connect, share and inspire other Ragdoll cat lovers around the world,

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