Why Do Cats Like Bleach?

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?

Clorox Bleach - Why do cats like bleach?

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.

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 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

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

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

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:

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

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?

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?

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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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  1. Silvia Pryor says:

    Hi Jenny
    Thank you for this important information about bleach. My kitty seems to like alcohol! I use alcohol swabs for medical use and I was surprised by her reaction to it. Do you have any experience with this? I’m curious if anyone else has a kitty that likes it.

    1. No, wow! Mine just got their blood taken on Wednesday, and they hate alcohol – they spray their leg with alcohol before drawing blood.

  2. I’m 65 and have had cats my entire life from 6 years old and on. I was glad to receive this. I have eight five-month old brothers and sisters and three adult females and never knew cats like bleach. Now I know, thank goodness

  3. I was just wondering why this article includes all the information on non-chlorine bleach (which is an oxymoron in itself)? Cats are only attracted to the chlorine in the bleach, so that part of the article is kinda useless and bears no significance whatsoever…

  4. I’m so glad I found your article. Today I was cleaning with a bit of bleach, and had the smell of it on my hands. My calico went insane, started chasing me, lightly biting my hands. I had to clean my hands with some very fragrant soap before she’d leave me alone. She actually scared me a bit. But your article has calmed me down. Thank you!

    1. =) glad you found it too – that’s why it’s on the site, because I was curious why mine responded to it once upon a time!

      1. My 6 month old’s are also aggressive and psychotic for the smell. My question to the Chemists is how many times should we rinse the area treated with bleach as to dilute the residue enough that the ppm (parts per million) are at “acceptable levels”. Which brings me to the all inclusive comment about any bleach being a carcinogen and my thoughts to just NOT USE BLEACH anymore as it’s been on my hands countless times after spot cleaning something and I’m not too fond of cancer myself! https://www.clorox.com/our-purpose/our-causes/the-truth-about-bleach/

        1. I would just stop using it, if you can – I don’t even have it in my house anymore – there are so many natural alternatives these days.

  5. So i have a cat called Tom, and whenever he smells the smallest trace of bleach, usually when me sister bleaches the bathroom, he rolls around on the toilet seat, runs in circles, and god knows what else. Goes flippin mental!

  6. My kitty LOVES bleach smell. I always thought it was the goofiest thing until I found your article! I haven’t known many cats who liked it so much. He’s barely interested in catnip. But when a bleached item of clothing lands in his path, watch out! I have to lock him away anytime I clean with bleach. But I’ve made a compromise with him. When I do a bleach load of laundry, I try to throw an old scrappy shirt or something in there every now and then for him to play with afterwards. It’s always thoroughly rinsed and fully dried, so I always assumed it was safe. Never noticed any ill effects. Perhaps you can tell me if it’s not a good idea though? He goes crazy with it, and I’ve taken videos of him doing this. He will go for a good hour at a time rolling, snuffling, biting, and getting all tangled up in the piece of clothing. He goes at it with such vigor that he eventually totally wears himself out, and then falls asleep wrapped up inside the piece of clothing. Lol

    1. Love it, thanks for sharing. I really have no idea if a well-rinsed bleach item is OK for them or not?

  7. I use a disinfecting spray cleaner that is made of hypochlorous acid. It’s totally human and pet safe. That’s why I like it so much, but it does have a faint bleach like smell until it dissipates. Now I know why my cat jumps up on the counter and goes crazy for it(after I just disinfect it). This article helped to explain that catnip like reaction. Thank You so much.

    1. Interesting – thanks for sharing – how did you start using a cleaner made of hypochlorous acid?

  8. LarryLancaster says:

    The amount of advertising on your website is absolutely ridiculous.

    I’m not going to scroll through ad after ad after ad – just to find the information I seek.
    Your ads are literally plastered everywhere – top/bottom/left/right, as well as sprinkled throughout the article – it’s offensive.

    1. sorry – it’s how I pay for hosting. Another option is to install an ad blocker, so you will not run into that problem on any website.

  9. Our 8 year old Ragdoll falls in love with my husband’s swim bag every time he comes home from the pool. I always assumed it was a connection to scent memories from her kitten days from the cattery. She loves on the strap and at times pulls the bag on top of herself. Now that the pool is closed she just stands by the bag giving my husband evil looks. Maybe he should freshen the bag with an occasional spritz of diluted bleach to help get her through these tough times.

    1. Ha ha ha – love it! No, no diluted bleach (think that was a joke anyway!)

  10. ALWAYS a great post to remind everyone about this phenomenon and danger, Jenny!! THANK YOU!!!! 🙂 <3

    Big hugs & lots of love!!!

    Patti & Miss Pink Sugarbelle 🙂 <3

  11. wow. i had heard that cats like bleach but i didn’t believe it. i do occasionally clean with beach and i do love the smell of it myself but i use it very infrequently because i know it’s not good for you to breathe . i used to use it all the time when i didn’t have cats around. i’m sure i’ve done some damage. i never noticed that my cats were particularly attracted to it though. i’ll have to pay attention next time i use it and they are around.

    1. my cats always want to lick any product i use with bleach in it (but also use it on a rare occasion – like once every 2 months to clean my kitchen sink). the first time they showed interest in licking it was the last time i realized i couldn’t clean the sink and let it sit for a bit before i washed it off…or had to stay on guard duty.

  12. Michael Matalis says:

    I’ve had a number of cats over the years and their reaction to bleach has varied from “Meh” to “Yowser!” My current fur herd is in the “Yowser!” column and have such a strong attraction that I have to take care. Most of the time it’s easy, clothes and litter box cleansing is done in the basement where they’re not allowed, but if I want to sterilize my dishpan (it’s amazing how scuzzy it can get) I have to lock the boys out of the kitchen! And if I get any on me I have to put lotion on my hands to disguise the scent otherwise they attack tooth and claw!

  13. Wayne Robinson says:

    Oh Jenny, I thought it was just me. Or, I should say, Toby, my Himalayan who passed last Christmas. He would go C R A Z Y over the stuff, just as you described. He never reacted to catnip, none of my cats ever have, including Loki (although he might still be a bit young), but as soon as I’d open a bottle of the stuff Toby would appear out of nowhere. Even after thoroughly washing my hands he could still smell it and would lick them, head-butt them, bite them, purring all the time. I’d sometimes thoroughly rinse out a cloth that had some bleach on it and throw it on the floor and he’d roll around on it.

    I thought it was one his “little quirks” but now I know it’s quite common. The explanation you cited makes perfect sense: a pheromone-related thing triggering some hormonal response.

    Just tried it again on Loki, put a little bleach on my hands then thoroughly washed them just leaving that bleachy smell behind. Let him smell my hand… no real reaction! Toby would have tried to lick and bite my hand off!

    Thanks for posting this, I’ve always wondered.

    1. Mine will just be VERY interested in smelling me when I use bleach – and I don’t ever really use pure bleach, but rather products with bleach in them – and never do they have contact with it directly. Loki might change as he ages.

      Loved your description of Toby with bleach.

  14. Teresa Reid says:

    That’s really strange..I’ve never seen any of my kitties liking the bleach smell. However, they do try to smell my hands if I have anything new on them no matter if it is a trace of food, bleach, lotion, etc.♥♥♥

    1. I am surprised you haven’t had a kitty that’s liked bleach!

  15. Wow! Fascinating info, Jenny! Thanks! I have never noticed this with any of the kittehs that have been in my life. Perhaps I wasn’t paying close enough attention since I was always working all the time before we got Miss Pink Sugarbelle. Don’t clean much with bleach anymore as I try to keep our exposure to toxic chemicals limited nowadays. I mostly clean with baking soda, vinegar and citrus peelings. 🙂

    Big hugs!

    Patti & Miss Pink Sugarbelle 😉 <3

    1. I don’t clean with bleach often either except for with Soft Scrub in my Corian sink about every 3 months..and that’s when my two want to smell my fingers.

  16. Gina Lombardi Tidwell says:

    Oh wow. I often wonder if this could have led to the early death of my beloved boy, Gus? I had no idea some cats were attracted to bleach until reading this blog. Last fall, I had cleaned my bathroom and there was a strip of mold that would not go away no matter how much I scrubbed. So I poured some bleach on it, blocked it off and left it for a bit. About 20 minutes later I picked up Gus and noticed his paws smelled of bleach. I smelled his mouth and noticed a faint odor. I panicked because I wasn’t sure what to do but I washed him thoroughly, gave him water and watched him for the rest of the night. He never exhibited any signs or symptoms that he ingested it and I was relatively certain he did not. Now, though, I wonder? The incident was in the fall of 2015 and he died in February 2016. The doctors were not able to determine what the illness was. Either IBD or Lymphoma (both present with similar symptoms). I never associated it with the bleach incident until after he died but now I will always wonder if it’s because I didn’t take him to the vet right away. I miss my guy very much. Thank you Jenny for posting about this. I never, never knew cats were attracted to bleach.

    1. Francine Mae Roccuzzo says:

      Awe i am so sorry about the loss of your fur baby. Rip little Gus. Hugs and Lots of Love. God Bless you both. Xxoo.

  17. No reaction to bleach at all, but the smell of her favourite veggies drive Diva nuts: Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, turnip, Lima beans, …

    She loves her veggies and if she doesn’t get them, she has the runs.

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