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Why does my cat follow me to the bathroom?

Tabby cat plays with the tap in the bathroom.

The movement of water stimulates the cat's chase instinct. 

© New Africa - Shutterstock

Do you find your cat follows you around at home, even joining in on trips to the bathroom? Here we take a look at why your cat can’t miss out on the moment.

By Greta Inglis

Published on the 09/03/2021, 17:00

Most of us feel our visits to the bathroom should be solo moments of peace and tranquillity. For the cat owners out there, this is rarely the case. Cats seem to have an uncanny knack of working out when you’re heading for the bathroom, rushing in to join you as if their lives depended on it.

Why does my cat follow me whenever I go to the bathroom?

Cats are notoriously private when it comes to using their litter box. They typically need their litter tray to be placed in a calm and quiet location, without interruptions or observation. This stems from an innate need to protect themselves as small animals. When it comes to keeping their humans company, cats have different ideas!

Here we take a look at why joining you in the bathroom is so appealing to your feline friend.

Your cat wants to be with you

Cats hold a reputation as the independent and aloof members of a household, but any cat owner will tell you that in reality this is quite the opposite. Whilst cats can be solitary at times, they also love being near their owners, and well socialised cats enjoy nothing more than a cuddle and some fuss.

As funny as it may seem to us humans, you’re never going to be a more captive audience for your cat’s antics and attention, as when you’re trapped in the bathroom! It’s the perfect time for some bonding, or at least this is how your cat sees it.

Being alone leaves your cat feeling vulnerable

As natural-born predators, domestic cats have kept their feline hunting instincts intact. They will happily entertain themselves roaming where possible, or with toys at home, replicating the hunting patterns they would adopt outdoors.

It may surprise you to hear one of the main reasons your cat follows you to the bathroom, is because they feel vulnerable in your absence. The hunting instinct of your cat is still firmly there, but due to their small stature, your cat could also be prey, writes veterinarian Dr Kathryn Primm. As your cat’s guardian in the home, coming with you to the bathroom keeps your cat feeling safe.

They can’t be on the other side of a closed door

We’ve all heard the expression curiosity killed the cat, and as deeply curious as they are, closed doors are very intriguing for our feline friends. This, combined with the importance of territory, makes sitting calmly behind a closed door a difficult task.

As solitary hunters, territory is of huge importance to a cat’s hunting success. For the survival of the species, cats need to avoid conflict, and do so by hunting within a territory where conflict will not take place. This need is deeply ingrained, and to replicate this at home domestic cats typically have a core territory area, where they eat, interact, rest and generally feel at ease. This is marked out through urine, faeces and scratching. The act of scratching releases scent from the glands in between their toes, signalling the presence of territorial boundaries to other cats.

For our cats, their home environment makes up this core area, and when we close the door, we are shutting them out of a part of this territory. As far as your cat is aware, you might be hoarding resources or making friends with other cats during your visit to the bathroom. Your cat’s curiosity means they can’t just wonder, they’ll have to join you to find out.

Cats love running water

Surprisingly, and contrary to the popular belief that cats hate all water, many cats seem to love running water. They may hate the feeling of getting wet, but the little droplets that land in your sink or shower can spark a cat’s interest, stimulating their instinct to respond to movement as if they were working to catch prey.

Check out these cat breeds, known for their love of the water.

In addition to their interest in water, bathrooms are also full of exciting and fun toys for your cat; or at least they seem to think so. Paper, tissues and towels with your scent on, make the bathroom a playtime paradise for your feline friend.

How to train your cat to wait outside the bathroom door

Follow these steps if you’d like to teach your cat to wait outside the bathroom door. Through training and reinforcing calm behaviour, your cat will learn that good things come to those who wait.

Provide stimulation and distraction

Start by providing stimulation in the form of food puzzles or a play circuit for your cat in a space away from the bathroom door. When your cat is entertained, take a step towards the bathroom door, and reward your cat for continuous interaction with the toy.

Reward your cat for not following you

Once your cat gets the game, take a further step towards the door, rewarding your cat immediately when they continue interacting with the toy provided. Build this up over multiple sessions, with the door open at first. If your cat attempts to follow you, simply lure them back and encourage engagement with the toy available.

Once you’re able to reach the door without your cat joining you, walk into the bathroom and then return immediately to your cat. Engage in games and reward them for having remained calm and not followed you.

Practice closing the door

Once you see your cat is able to remain calmly outside, push the door gently to. Build the time up over various sessions, gradually increasing the time the door is closed.

As nice as alone time would be once in a while, we think it’s pretty overrated. The next time your cat follows you to the bathroom, see which of the above makes sense to you. We suspect that fundamentally, our company-loving, curious friends just want to be with their humans.

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