Why do cats follow their owners into the bathroom?


Updated: October 2, 2023

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At certain moments of the day, we all cherish our privacy, and none more so than during our visits to the bathroom. The last thing we anticipate is for the door to inch open, akin to a scene from a suspenseful film, only to reveal a pair of luminous eyes attached to an endearingly furry face, complete with inquisitive whiskers, gazing back at us from the threshold.

So, why is it that your feline companion’s concept of personal space seems to exist only when it suits their fancy? They insist on a secluded spot for their own private affairs, yet fail to extend the same courtesy when you find yourself in a similar situation. It does seem a tad paradoxical, doesn’t it? Join us as we once again embark on the enigma of feline behavior, in hopes of shedding light and gaining a deeper understanding of this curious subject.

Ingrained Instinct

As pet owners, it’s easy to overlook the fact that our adorable furry companions are descendants of much larger and more untamed versions of themselves. When we envision big cats, images of lions often come to mind, known for their communal living in prides. This misconception leads many to assume that all cats share this preference. However, in reality, most cat species lean towards a more solitary lifestyle.

Even before cubs or kittens come into the world, fathers have already moved on to attend to their own affairs. Mothers raise their offspring, imparting essential skills like hunting, until they’re equipped to survive and thrive on their own. One of these acquired abilities is the art of stealthy evasion, allowing them to disappear from sight with remarkable finesse, as if they were never there to begin with.

This natural behavior is observed in the wild as well. Leopards and other feline predators, to safeguard their meals and themselves, hoist their catches into the safety of tree branches, ensuring a distraction-free solo feast. While these instincts are inherent in our domestic cats, they’re considerably smaller than their wild relatives, making them more vulnerable.

Hence, they find the greatest comfort in solitary dining, even in a multi-cat household. You may occasionally witness signs of this desire for privacy, such as a kitty hissing or growling when another cat approaches their food bowl. Another indication might be a cat positioning themselves halfway inside the bowl, making it challenging for others to join in. Or, you might observe your cat taking a few morsels from the bowl only to drop them a short distance away. This behavior guarantees a more personal dining experience while maintaining a vigilant eye on any potential threats.

For households with multiple cats, granting each feline some alone time can be akin to managing the needs of teenagers. This yearning for privacy can be addressed by providing multiple feeding stations, even placing them in separate rooms, to ensure each cat can dine in comfort.

This need for privacy extends to their bathroom habits as well. They seek a secluded space where they can feel secure in their most vulnerable moments. You can’t simply place a litter box anywhere and expect them to use it. Cats desire a spot where they’re mostly concealed yet still able to keep an eye out for approaching threats. They also want a swift escape route if necessary.

By using the litter to bury their waste, cats effectively camouflage their presence and scent, safeguarding themselves from potential predators nearby. So, if they comprehend the importance of privacy during this time, why don’t they reciprocate that consideration to you as well?

Also read: Introducing another Adult Cat or Kitten to your Cat

Bathroom Privacy Please!

While there isn’t a definitive answer to why your feline companion insists on joining you in the bathroom, several plausible theories have been put forth by experts. Let’s explore some of these prevailing ideas.

Familiar Smells

Another reason why your cat might take issue with a closed bathroom door is to ensure its access to its own private domain isn’t impeded. If you’re among the many owners who opt for discreetly placing a litter box in a tucked-away corner of the bathroom, your cat may assert its right to enter. From their perspective, you’re the one encroaching on their territory.

With a litter box stationed there, your cat feels at ease entering and exiting as they please, as their scent already permeates the space. Alternatively, your vigilant cat might even be watching your back as a protective gesture. At the very least, you can find solace in the fact that no potential threat will catch you off guard during a vulnerable moment, all thanks to your loyal guardian.

It’s Part of Their Routine

According to Dr. Mark Biehl, DVM, owner of the College Station Cat Clinic in Wheaton, as reported by Homeward Trail Animal Rescue, “Cats are creatures of habit. Cats have a good internal clock [and] know when their owners are getting up, when they’re going to leave for work, and when they’re going to come home again.” Therefore, it’s only natural that your regular morning bathroom routine becomes a part of your cat’s daily schedule as well.

Attention Central

If you have children, you’ve likely experienced a larger audience while you’re in the bathroom. It seems our little two-legged imitators have discovered they can have your undivided attention in that moment. So, it’s not too far-fetched to imagine our four-legged counterparts have also caught on. Now, you’re a captive audience for doling out those sought-after chin scratches and plenty of pats.

Some cats take it up a notch and may even curl up on your lap. Uninterrupted attention and a warm, comfortable perch? You’re truly in a bind. It’s almost as if your feline friend is thinking, “Humans just sit there on that peculiar seat doing nothing, why not offer them a productive pastime?” How considerate of them! And here we thought they were simply being impolite and intrusive.

Territorial Curiosity

This next theory, while not definitive, seems to hold considerable weight. Cats are inherently territorial creatures. Once they’ve claimed a space as their own, marked it with their scent, and settled into comfort, your home becomes an extension of their domain.

Now, imagine you’re quietly slipping away and closing off a section of his established territory. It’s quite a bold move on your part! Cats are renowned for their curiosity; they have an insatiable need to be in the know about what’s transpiring in their realm at all times. Hence, it should come as no surprise that the bathroom door tends to swing open while you’re in there.

Cats simply can’t resist. They must uncover the mysteries of what you’re doing behind that closed door, activities from which they’re excluded. What if you’re indulging in some treats or secretly hoarding food? Perhaps there’s another cat in there that you’re bonding with, diverting all of your attention? Well, how will he ever know if he doesn’t investigate himself?

An animal’s actions are driven by the value they place on particular resources. For your furry friend, highly coveted items like food or the protection you provide are strong motivators. This same principle is often employed by trainers who use treats and other rewards to encourage desired behavior.

If your cat senses competition for a specific valuable resource, its worth escalates in his eyes. Each time you step into the bathroom and he’s shut out, he may experience a sense of unease, interpreting it as you withholding or compromising a space. Consequently, the bathroom and your attention become crucial resources that he feels compelled to be a part of immediately.

The desire to ensure resources aren’t being withheld or jeopardized serves as ample motivation for him to find a way, or perhaps even assertively demand entry into the room.

Separation Anxiety

While joining you in your morning routine may seem harmless, if your cat exhibits other signs of hyper-attachment, it could be indicative of separation anxiety. The pandemic has brought about significant shifts in our daily routines, work schedules, and home life. Cats, being creatures of habit, may be responding to these changes—especially if you’ve resumed office work and your cat is no longer a Zoom meeting sensation.

If your cat’s bathroom companionship is coupled with excessive grooming, unusual displays of aggression, a flicking tail, and other behavioral indicators, VCA Hospitals recommends considering independence training. This approach helps your pet become more at ease when you’re not present. You can find detailed steps on how to implement this in VCA’s article on preventing separation anxiety in pets.

A Place to Chill

If you’ve ever ventured into your bathroom in the dead of night and felt the cold touch of the tile underfoot, you’ll understand the essence of theory number one. The materials used in bathroom surfaces tend to retain a cool temperature. Imagine if you were wrapped in a fur coat all day – wouldn’t you seek the cool embrace of the bathtub?

Cats, like us, are warm-blooded creatures. They utilize their surroundings to help regulate their body temperature, ensuring it stays at a comfortable level. When we feel a chill, we might reach for a sweater. Similarly, when your cat feels the cold, they might seek refuge beneath a cozy throw. When we’re too warm, we might seek out a fan with a refreshing glass of lemonade. Likewise, when your furry companion feels overheated, they might seek a refreshing drink from the bathroom sink and then sprawl across a cool surface. Your cat’s inclination to access the bathroom might simply stem from the understanding that it provides a haven for staying comfortably cool.

Your bathroom may already be a favored oasis for unwinding and cooling down at various times of the day. How many times have you discovered your cat in the sink or spread out on the bathroom floor? Ceramic tiles, porcelain tubs, marble countertops with sinks, and other smooth, cool surfaces make excellent spots for a blissful nap when the temperature becomes a bit too much.

Your Cat Is Hungry

If your cat is following you, even to the bathroom, she might be signaling a desire for a snack. Cats are naturally inclined to graze, so it’s not unusual for them to prefer smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day. Pay attention to whether your cat is also vocalizing or pawing at her empty bowl. Remember, just like with humans, both obesity and underfeeding can lead to serious health issues in cats. Therefore, it’s advisable to consult your vet regarding your cat’s optimal weight, dietary requirements, and feeding frequency.

Mystery Solved?

Mystery potentially unraveled? Well, perhaps not entirely, but we can certainly strive to be more empathetic. The instinctual drive to safeguard themselves, their inherent curiosity, or the instinct to safeguard resources can all serve as plausible explanations. Each cat boasts its own unique personality, and perhaps a combination of these factors shapes why they choose to join you during your most private moments. Ultimately, you hold the key to deciphering the true motivation behind each of your feline companions. For them, it appears privacy only flows in one direction.

Cats have an uncanny knack for keeping us on our toes. It’s in their nature to have us cater to their every whim and shower them with attention. So, the next time your cat wants in and then wants out again, or meows for food only to find the bowl is still brimming, or insists on claiming your lap while you’re occupied in the bathroom, offer them a gentle nuzzle to affirm they mean the world to you—even if you did close the bathroom door.

Is it normal for a cat to follow me into the bathroom every time?

Yes, it’s quite normal for cats to exhibit this behavior. Many cats find comfort and security in their owner’s presence and may want to stick close by, even in the bathroom.

Can I train my cat not to follow me into the bathroom?

While it’s possible to train a cat to do certain things, it’s important to remember that following you to the bathroom is often a sign of affection and attachment. Instead of trying to prevent it, you might consider creating a designated space in the bathroom where your cat can comfortably join you.

Why does my cat meow or scratch at the bathroom door when I’m inside?

Your cat might meow or scratch at the door because they’re seeking attention or are simply expressing their desire to be with you. They may also be curious about the closed door and want to explore.

Is there a way to discourage my cat from following me into the bathroom?

While it’s possible to gently discourage this behavior, it’s important to do so in a way that doesn’t cause stress or anxiety for your cat. Providing them with engaging toys or a comfortable spot nearby may help redirect their attention.

Could my cat’s behavior be a sign of separation anxiety?

In some cases, excessive clinginess, including following you into the bathroom, could be a sign of separation anxiety. If you’re concerned about your cat’s behavior, it’s a good idea to consult with a veterinarian or a professional animal behaviorist.

Are there health concerns associated with my cat following me into the bathroom?

Generally, a cat following you into the bathroom is not a cause for concern. However, if your cat’s behavior suddenly changes or becomes more obsessive, it’s a good idea to consult a veterinarian to rule out any underlying health issues.

Should I be worried if my cat doesn’t follow me into the bathroom?

Not necessarily. Every cat is unique, and their behavior can vary based on their individual personalities and experiences. If your cat doesn’t follow you into the bathroom, it doesn’t necessarily indicate a problem with your bond or their attachment to you.

Conclusion

The phenomenon of cats following their owners into the bathroom is a common and endearing aspect of feline behavior. It stems from their natural curiosity, attachment to their owners, and desire for companionship. While it may seem peculiar at times, it’s a testament to the strong bond that can develop between humans and their furry companions.

Rather than viewing this behavior as an intrusion on personal space, it can be seen as a manifestation of trust and affection. Embracing this quirk can enhance the closeness between you and your cat, ultimately fostering a deeper connection.

As with any aspect of pet ownership, it’s important to approach your cat’s behavior with understanding and patience. If you ever have concerns about your cat’s behavior, consulting a veterinarian or professional animal behaviorist can provide valuable insights and guidance.


Michael R

Michael R

I'm a publisher and editor at Cat Guide 101. I imagine that since you’re here, you likely own a cat — or two! — so helping you better understand them is my aim. I'd like to invite you to check out our about page to learn more about the Cat Guide 101 story.

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