Originally published Aug 10, 2016
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 in the world is going on?
If you have experienced this scenario and wondered why does my cat roll in bleach? Are they having some kind of strange reaction? You are not alone. This is a surprisingly common occurrence among cats. While even the experts can’t totally explain this, here is a little bit of information to help you understand this odd phenomenon.
Why do cats love bleach?
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 it is because 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 – very similar to the effect that catnip has on kitties. So while cat experts haven’t really 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 does on a kitty.
Cats and Bleach Poisoning
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 some serious cat health issues that would require immediate veterinary attention.
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, and the prognoses is generally good if you act quickly and effectively.
So if your cat goes into a state of 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 common cat quirk, but it does mean that you have to be extra careful to keep any chemicals containing bleach safely away from your kitty.
What other explanations have you heard about why do cats love bleach? What other chemicals or scents does your kitty seem to love?