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Cats are well known for their cleanliness habits and the constant need to groom themselves. So it can be pretty confusing when your cat starts cuddling and rubbing on your dirty laundry. It’s even more confusing when that dirty laundry is fresh from the gym and a little ripe. So, why do cats rub on dirty clothes?
Cats rub on dirty clothes because they enjoy your scent. They also want to spread their scent onto various objects like clothing. Cats also rub on dirty clothes for comfort, closeness, and security.
Of course, that doesn’t entirely explain the details of this behavior. Let’s dive in and see why cats love to rub on dirty clothes.
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Reasons Cats Rub On Dirty Clothes
Scent is a major reason cats rub on your dirty clothes, but there are a few more to consider.
Dirty Clothes Smell Like You
The number 1 reason cats love rubbing on dirty clothes is just that those clothes smell like you. Your cat can likely smell your scent more clearly than you can, even through deodorant and perfume/cologne. So that slight odor that a lot of dirty laundry develops smells more like you to your cat.
Your Cat Wants To Spread Their Scent
For cats, the scent is one of the most important ways to identify individuals. Spreading scent between individuals is an essential way for cats to show that they care about one another.
Your cat probably wants to spread their scent onto your clothes to establish that you share a space and appreciated. They also want to smell like you to announce that relationship to any other cats or scent-sensitive animals that might be nearby.
They Miss You
Your cat might also be tempted to curl up with a pile of your dirty laundry when you’re gone for an extended period. For them, curling up with a bunch of laundry that smells like you is a little like getting to cuddle with you.
Surrounding themselves with your dirty laundry can also be a way for your cat to tell you that you aren’t paying enough attention to them. If they seem to curl up in your laundry when you’re around, they’re likely seeking the attention they aren’t getting otherwise.
Dirty Clothes Are Comfortable
This is often overlooked when cats start getting into laundry, but it can be as simple as dirty clothes being a comfortable bed for your cat! Especially if your cat doesn’t have many other comfortable places to relax, like a cat tree or a bed, they might decide that your dirty laundry is the softest and warmest option.
Providing your cat with more comfy resting places can be a great way to keep them out of your dirty laundry.
Dirty Laundry Might Look Like A Nest
This reason is similar to the previous one since it’s all about comfort. But it’s a little different because this isn’t just about being comfortable so much as your cat trying to find places that look comfortable.
In the wild, cats will often use a den filled with tufts of grass or hay, feathers, and other soft materials to help keep them warm.
Your dirty laundry looks like the same kind of nest, so they might be tempted to curl up in your laundry whether they’re looking for your scent or not. Keeping your laundry picked up in a basket can help stop them from sleeping in your dirty laundry if this is part of the temptation.
Why Do Cats Like Dirty Clothes
Cats like dirty clothes for a wide variety of reasons. We’ve already talked about some of the most important ones, like being drawn to your scent for comfort and socialization, but there are plenty of other reasons as well.
For one thing, dirty clothing might be accessible and comfortable to your cat. If they know that they have a safe and comfortable place to sleep every night on your dirty laundry, there isn’t much incentive for your cat to find a different bed.
Depending on the season, your cat might also be looking to stay warm. Cats are most comfortable at slightly higher temperatures than people are most comfortable. Most humans are happiest at about 72 degrees Fahrenheit. But cats tend to prefer temperatures closer to 75-76 degrees.
They’re relatively comfortable in any room over 70 degrees but colder than that, and your dirty laundry might look like an excellent place to warm up. Rubbing on your dirty clothes and even cuddling or sleeping with your dirty clothes can all help your cat feel a little warmer.
Most importantly, though, your dirty clothes smell like you. This means that your cat can feel a lot closer to you if they rub on your dirty laundry or curl up with it.
Why Does My Cat Sleep On My Dirty Clothes
Sleeping on your dirty clothes is a natural extension of rubbing your dirty clothes or playing with your dirty clothes. Cats are likely to sleep just about anywhere they are comfortable and feel safe. Your scent is something that can help make your cat feel safe and comfortable.
That’s a naturally good place to sit and curl up to go to sleep. Dirty clothes are usually readily available, which means that they can be a highly available attractive place for your cat to curl up.
Why Does My Cat Lay On My Dirty Laundry?
Laying on your dirty laundry is a way to relax and feel safe for most cats. It’s a lovely and warm location that can be soothing and tells them that they are loved and comfortable. Laying there even when they aren’t tired can be a way to help them relax even if they aren’t sleepy. Laying down can also be a way for your cat to calm down or digest its food.
Why Does My Cat Rub On My Sweaty Clothes
Sweaty clothes are filled with your natural hormones and scent, even more than just regular dirty clothing.
Sweaty gym clothing and other sweaty clothes smell more powerfully of you, their owner, than almost any other clothing. So your cat might want to rub on your sweaty clothing more since it feels like they are getting closer to you when they do it.
It’s also a better way for your cat to get your scent on them. Since mingling scents are an essential kind of socialization for cats, smelling like you can be incredibly satisfying.
Remember that just because your laundry is dirty to you doesn’t mean your cat thinks it’s dirty or needs to be groomed or bathed because they got into your laundry. Unless your cat is smelly to you, you probably don’t need to worry about them getting into your laundry.
A lot of cats won’t seek out laundry preferentially unless it’s already readily available. If your cat is starting to get into your laundry, and especially if they are starting to spread it around your room, the easiest solution is just keeping your laundry a little more contained.
If putting it in a regular laundry basket isn’t enough, consider getting a laundry basket with a lid on it to help keep things more contained.
Of course, your cat getting into your laundry constantly can sign that they are lonely or stressed, so if this is a new behavior, it’s super important to make sure your cat is getting enough attention and that the environment isn’t part of the problem.
It’s also important to watch out for things like sock eating and other behaviors that can lead to pica and other serious health problems.