Why do Cats Like the Smell of Bleach: The Mystery Revealed

Did you know cats who like catnip are more likely to react to bleach? Catnip doesn’t affect all cats, just most of them. Similarly, bleach doesn’t make every kitty go crazy, but those who love it go a bit bonkers when they smell it. Susceptible kitties often display strange behavior. Rolling on the floor or rubbing all over anything that is cleaned with bleach is the most common. The bleach reaction is one of the more unique phenomena I’ve encountered in decades of cat care.

Why do cats like the smell of bleach? Bleach makes scents that probably remind your cat of mating pheromones, drugs, or someone breaking into their home. The reaction they have is kitties’ way of coping with that. 

Why Do Cats Love Bleach: An Overview

If you are a cat lover, then you’ve probably run into the strange phenomenon of cats going crazy over bleach before. This is one of those mysterious kitty behaviors that lead us to think that our housepets are mysterious creatures that we cannot expect to understand. However, most feline behavior makes a lot more sense than you’d expect.

For many years scientists and behavior experts have put their efforts into decoding the hows and whys of cat behavior. Many studies about their biology and what makes cats tick have come up with answers that we once considered impossible. After all, science is incredible stuff that can help us understand almost anything.

Though there’s no entirely proven answer, scientists have put their minds to the question of why cats like bleach so much. The theory they’ve come up with has to do with how sensitive a kitty’s nose is.

Why Cats Probably Like Bleach So Much

Dogs may be the ones who are known for their sense of smell, but your cat can detect things in bleach well beyond our limited human processing ability. Their evolution focused on different necessities than ours. While humans have learned to manipulate tools and work as groups, cats have been learning to hunt alone.

What that means for felines is a heightened sense of hearing and smell. When it comes to detecting odors, your pet can discern a lot more from a simple scent than we can. The bleach smell seems very likely to mimic or create something that your pet likes.

The sniffing, rubbing, and rolling around behavior are often kitty ways of showing approval and enjoyment. When cats react to bleach in this way, they’re showing us that they feel stimulated, and they love it. Alternately, rubbing is also a way to scent-mark things your cat is claiming as their own.


Three Theories of Why Cats Enjoy Bleach

Saying that bleach does ‘something’ your cat ‘likes’ isn’t a whole lot of information. Let’s take a look at what the bleach is probably doing. First, you need to know about the three most likely explanations of why your cat is acting so weird.

Here are three reasons your cat may like bleach:

  1. Bleach releases chemicals that mimic mating pheromones.
  2. The chemical interaction may cause a catnip like reaction.
  3. Some cats interpret the smell as an intruder.
  • Sex (Mating)

First, your bleach loving cat could be having a sexual or hormone-based reaction and loving it.  All that rolling and rubbing might be half turn-on and half confusion because there’s no other kitty there, making everything smell like mating time.

  • Drugs

Second, they might be having the ‘catnip’ reaction, which is not the same, though it can look pretty similar. Drugs affect your behavior and actions by temporarily changing your brain chemistry. Catnip and bleach certainly seem to fit the profile.

  • Home Invasion

Third and finally, the hormones might smell more like an intruder than a potential mate. Therefore the rubbing could be an extreme form of (non-spraying) marking behavior to try and re-odorize the environment and reclaim their territory. Cats who spray, or drag their butts through bleach are more likely to be having a territorial reaction.

Interestingly, the answer doesn’t have to be limited to just one of these theories. It could be that more than one of the compounds released by bleach causes a reaction. Moreover, those reactions could be different, even though the response looks similar.

You can keep your home clean without any bleach and get rid of that tempting bleachy smell with some BUBBAS Super Strength Commercial Enzyme Cleaner for Pet Odors. It will clean up pet messes and remove the bleach smell from your home. Plus, you can use it on floors, tubs, and other spots you’d generally bleach. Check prices and availability by clicking here

What is Bleach Doing to Interest Your Cat

Sodium hypochlorite, which is what most people mean when they talk about bleach, has several compounds either within it or that it produces, any of which might be what your cat is reacting to. Chlorine is, perhaps, the most obvious.

Chlorine is released when the sodium hypochlorite decomposes within the solution. It might be that your cat likes the chlorine, but that’s not the only possibility.

Bleach also reacts with more than a few organic compounds. When the chemical does this, it releases Volatile Organic Compounds (aka VOCs). When chlorine in tap water encounters contaminants, it releases carbon tetrachloride and chloroform, among other VOCs. Any or all of these could be what your cat is interested in.


Why Bleach Doesn’t Effect All Cats

Some cats go bleach crazy, and others do not. Why is that? Well, it comes down to heritable traits in the species and individual cats. Heritable means inherited, and not all cats get the same things from their ancestors. Hence there are different personalities and color patterns, among other qualities.

There’s more to the way a cat behaves than only genetics. The nurture versus nature aspect affects some things, like how social a particular kitty is. However, the bleach reaction isn’t learned behavior. In short, it’s not a part of the ‘nurture’ side of what makes your cat who they are.

While cats haven’t been studied as comprehensively as dogs, there’s still a fair bit of research on kitty behavior. What this tells us is that certain breeds are more susceptible to different reactions. Both researchers and vets agree on this. Naturally, pet-parents could have told you that, but since the average cat lover isn’t a specialist, it matters that the pros see the same thing.

An excellent example of genetic heritance comes from Asian cats like Burmese and Tonkinese kitties, who are more likely to exhibit signs of PIKA. They often show this by nursing and kneading on wool. Ragdoll cats are especially prone to bleach reactions, though they aren’t alone.

Therefore, it seems likely that cats get their bleach reaction from their ancestors. Crossbreeding between different cat types could be the reason a cat who looks like one breed still acts like another.

One of the strangest things about genetics is that it’s a grab-bag. You never know what you’ll get, only that it has to come from someone who came before you. Even identical twins can have different genetic profiles.


Options Other Than Bleach For a Clean Cat-Safe Home

Plenty of cat owners make the mistake of cleaning cat boxes, among other household surfaces with bleach. Before we go any further, let me say that while bleach is a great cleaner, it’s not safe for pets or human skin. Sure, it’s cheap and useful, but there are better solutions, especially if you have cats who love bleach. A cute reaction isn’t worth risking their health.

Try using urineOFF Cat & Kitten Stain and Odor Remover and Pheromone Blocker from Amazon. You can get rid of bleach and any other scents your cat may be attracted to, plus it gives a great clean. Find out more by clicking here

Bleach Alternatives for Cleaning

Especially in a catbox, you should never use bleach. When mixed with the ammonia in cat urine, it releases toxic chlorine gas. It’s a common misconception that this is ‘mustard gas,’ which it’s not. Nevertheless, chlorine gas is dangerous. Use these alternatives to get your house cat-safe clean.

  • Baking Soda- Also known as sodium bicarbonate, this white powder works well as an abrasive to remove stuck-on messes. Plus, the deodorizing power of baking soda is legendary. Skip the bleach and ammonia risk and use baking soda instead.
  •  White Vinegar- The smell of white vinegar may be strong, but it dissipates and disappears reasonably fast. You can use a splash of vinegar on floors and other surfaces to clean up messes without all the nasty chemicals that could hurt your cat.
  • Lemon Juice- The citric acid in lemon juice will power through lots of different stains and messes. Not to mention, lemons smell nice.
  • Castile Soap- this olive-oil based soap is useful for so many jobs. It’s safe around kids and pets.

It may take a little more elbow grease to use a natural alternative, but your cats’ health and yours is well worth it. Rather than worrying about why your cat loves bleach, and whether it’s hurting them, take it out of the equation.

Final Thoughts

In the annals of strange cat behavior, bleach reactions are right up there with staring you down while shoving something breakable off the counter. We may never know exactly why some cats react so strongly to bleach, but that’s not the most important thing to take away here.

Your cat shouldn’t be exposed to bleach. It is toxic and harmful. Moreover, you don’t need bleach for anything. It’s a convenience but never a necessity. So keep yourself and your pet safe and healthy by using a bleach alternative.

Sometimes we start with a question and end up with an unexpected answer. In this case, the response to your cats’ love for bleach is that you have to separate them. It’s an unhealthy love, and no good can come of it.

*Note- Science is Good, but Good Science isn’t Perfect

Studying cats with bleach would be a severe problem. One of the most amazing things about humans is our ability to figure out what’s happening through science. However, we can’t just experiment willy nilly and do whatever comes to mind.

Doubtless, a big part of the reason we don’t yet know the intimate details of how and why cats react so strongly to this household cleaner is that bleach is toxic. It wouldn’t be ethical to dump toxic chemicals on people’s beloved housepets. Sometimes good science means not having an answer because getting there would be wrong.

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