You love your cat, but they sure do some peculiar things. One habit you might've noticed they have is that whenever there is a pile of dirty laundry in your laundry basket or on the floor of your room, they like to lay on it, meow, and start kneading it. You're wondering whether or not this is normal behavior. By finding out the answer, you can determine if there is something wrong with your cat, or if they are just being your typical feline.
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Here are some reasons why your cat loves your dirty laundry.
It’s an instinctual habit
When your cat sits on your dirty laundry (or your clean laundry for that matter) they're just acting instinctually. When cats in the wild live in a family group, they share resources with one another, as well as communicate the value of what resources they have through scent marking.
Scent marking happens when an animal leaves its odor in a certain place to send a signal to another animal, and it is used to mark territory. You are unintentionally scent marking your clothing. Even if it smells gross to you because of your armpit scent, for instance, your cat enjoys it. Your cat smells your clothes and feels comforted. Also, your cat leaves their scent on your clothes to mark them as theirs, too. Along with the scent glands in the corners of their mouths, cats will produce pheromones through their paws. When your cat kneads your laundry, they are marking their territory.
Another possibility is that your cat may feel like the pile of laundry is like a nest. In the wild, cats create little nests with feathers, hay, grass, and other types of soft materials to stay warm and cozy — and your laundry feels like that.
It reminds them of their mother
When kittens are first born, they are unable to see and hear, and they rely on the scent of their mother to guide them until their other senses develop. When your cat is sitting on your clothes, they may be tapping into their early memories of their mother.
It feels like cuddling
If you've been gone for a long time, your cat may sit on your dirty laundry because it feels like they are cuddling you. They could be having anxiety and want to feel better, so they find the nearest pile of laundry to rest on until you get home.
Why cats like human scents
Just like dogs, cats have an amazing sense of smell. While humans possess about 5 million odor sensors in their noses, cats possess four times as many, making them excellent at hunting and noticing threats.
Your cat will primarily recognize you through your voice as well as your scent, and your scent gives them familiarity and comfort. According to an October 2021 study called, "The Effect of Owner Presence and Scent on Stress Resilience in Cats," researchers found that cats are less stressed out when their owner is around. Simply smelling their owners' scent was not enough by itself.
Is this harmful behavior?
When your cat sits on your clothing, it's a perfectly natural behavior. You may be annoyed if they're not clean or going from the litter box to your pile of clean laundry, but you can always hide your laundry basket where they can't reach it. Just make sure that if your dirty laundry is out, there aren't any harmful substances on it that could hurt your cat. If your cat is soiling your clothing, make sure you encourage them to use their litter box by keeping it clean and putting it in a safe, quiet space where they feel comfortable using it. Also, the type of litter you're using should feel like sand — it's what cats prefer.
Simply put, cats like piles of dirty laundry because it makes them feel good. If you don't like this behavior, or your cat is going to the bathroom on your clothes, set up their litter box so they actually want to use it, and store your clothing where they can't access it. Just make sure they have other comforting objects nearby, like toys or their bed. By taking a few steps, you can solve this issue and ensure your cat stays happy and healthy.