Why Do Cats Like the Smell of Bleach?

By John Martin - October 14, 2021

Ginger cat sitting by window

As a first-time cat owner, you’re probably surprised and worried to see your furball go crazy sniffing, rolling over and rubbing against everything that you have just cleaned with bleach, right from the floor, carpets, mops to your hands, even if you have washed them thoroughly.

You may be wondering what’s wrong with your pet? Well, this is a very common reaction and nothing to be worried about.

Do Cats Like the Smell of Bleach?

Well, as surprised as you are to see your feline’s reaction to the smell of bleach, you would be further surprised to know that your cat loves the smell of bleach and so he is acting the way he is.

And, this reaction is the same as when cats are exposed to catnip. So, you may ask, “why does my cat have a strange reaction whenever he smells bleach?”

According to experts, this reaction of felines to bleach is probably because of the chemical structure of the bleach. Bleach is essentially sodium hypochlorite, which decomposes to release chlorine, as well as other compounds. These probably act like pheromones that trigger a hormonal response in cats such as drooling, purring and rolling around.

Main Reasons Why Cats Like the Smell of Bleach

Cats have a highly developed complex sense of smell and when they smell bleach, it may trigger a biological and hormonal reaction that causes them to behave the way that they do. The main reasons why cats love the smell of bleach include:

Smells Like Pheromones

The most probable reason why your cat likes the smell of bleach is that the scent is similar to the sex hormones, which gets your pet all excited and he begins to purr, drool, rub himself against things and roll around.

Has a Catnip Effect

The chemicals contained in the bleach may trigger a reaction in your cat similar to catnip. The effect is drug like, altering your pet’s brain chemistry so that he experiences a temporary high.

Smells Like an Intruder

The smell of the bleach may remind your cat of an intruder. Since cats are territorial, they think that the intruder or another cat is trying to enter their territory and so they begin marking their territory by rubbing on everything to claim the area.

Also Read: Why Do Cats Like Rubber Bands?

Is Bleach Harmful to Cats?

The simple answer to this is “yes, bleach is toxic to cats.” However, this essentially depends on the type of bleach and how your pet has consumed the product. There are many different types of bleach that are used in households and the difference between these products lies in the amount of chlorine contained in each product.

However, despite the type of bleach, all of them are attractive to your cat because of the irresistible smell of chlorine and at the same time, all of them are dangerous for your pet too. If your pet smells the bleach or touches it, then this is harmless to your cat.

However, if the bleach gets into your pet’s eyes, if your cat licks or consumes a lot of bleach then it can lead to some serious consequences that may require immediate medical attention.

Symptoms of Bleach Poisoning

If your feline pal has consumed bleach, you may notice a strong smell of bleach or chlorine in the area. Your cat may be rolling around and purring. Here are some symptoms of bleach poisoning including skin irritation, stomach pain, vomiting, excessive drooling, sore throat and you may notice white patches or discoloration of the fur around your pet’s mouth and paws.

My Cat Has Consumed Bleach, What Should I Do?

If your cat has swallowed bleach and is displaying some or all of the above symptoms, don’t panic. Here are some tips on how to treat the symptoms:

  • Firstly, you should try and determine what kind of bleach your pet has swallowed. If he has consumed a very small amount of diluted bleach, then you may be able to treat your pet’s symptoms at home. However, if you’re not sure about the kind of bleach your pet has ingested, then it is better to take him to the vet immediately.
  • Try to flush the toxic bleach out of your pet’s digestive tract by making him drink milk or water. Drinking milk or water can help to alleviate the symptoms in around 30 to 45 minutes; however, if the symptoms persist, then take your pet to the vet immediately.

Ways to Prevent Bleach Poisoning

The best way to prevent your cat from consuming any bleach and suffering from bleach poisoning is by keeping the bleach out of reach. If you’re planning to use bleach, then keep your cat in another room. Also, ensure that the bleach you use is highly diluted.

You can do this by adding lots of water to the bleach before using it because the more diluted the bleach solution is, the less toxic it will be for your cat compared to undiluted bleach. And, once you have finished using the bleach, make sure to clean up any spills. Then place the remaining bleach in a safe place where your cat cannot reach it.

Bleach fumes are not toxic for cats and so once you have completed your work and cleaned up the area, you can allow your pet into the area. Your cat may still roll around and purr because he can smell the bleach fumes; however, since he cannot lick or drink any bleach, it is safe and there is no danger of bleach poisoning.

Also Read: Do Cats Like Blankets?

Safety Precautions to Follow When Using Bleach

Cats are irresistibly attracted to the smell of bleach; however, you can take a few precautions to ensure that your cat does not have any access to bleach and is safe. And, here are a few steps that you can take:

  • Keep all the household cleaning products i.e., bathroom, floor or laundry cleaners containing bleach in a closed cabinet that can be locked, which your cat cannot open.
  • Once you’re done with cleaning your bathroom, tub, floor, etc. with a cleaner containing bleach, rinse the area thoroughly with clean water. If there is any bleach left behind, the smell of the bleach will attract your pet, who may sniff, lick or rub himself on the bleach and get the bleach on his nose, mouth, tongue and paws, which can be harmful to him.
  • When you have washed the area that has been cleaned with bleach, allow it to dry fully before you allow your cat to come into the area. Because even if there is any bleach remaining, if it has dried out, dry bleach is less harmful and does not cause as much irritation as liquid bleach.
  • When you’re cleaning your entire home with cleaning products containing bleach, then ensure that you clean one room at a time and keep your pet in a room with dry floors.
  • After cleaning using products containing bleach, keep a close watch on your cat. Keep him away from the areas where you have used the bleach and prevent him from going in and licking the places that you have cleaned using bleach.

Safer Bleach Alternatives for Cleaning

Never use bleach or products containing bleach when cleaning your cat box because when the bleach mixes with the ammonia present in the cat urine, it releases chlorine gas, which is very toxic. Here are some cat-safe alternatives that you can use to clean your home.

  • White Vinegar: While white vinegar has a very strong smell; however, it disappears very quickly. Vinegar is safe for cats and you can use it to clean the floors and other surfaces without the risk of any toxic chemicals that can harm your cat.
  • Baking Soda: Also called sodium bicarbonate, baking soda is an abrasive cleaner that helps to remove sticky messes. Baking soda is also a very good deodorizer. Using baking soda is a safer and more effective alternative compared to bleach-based cleaning products.
  • Castile Soap: Castile soap contains olive oil that is very useful for cleaning jobs and is also safe for use around pets and kids.
  • Lemon Juice: Lemon juice contains citric acid that is quite powerful and can clean messes and stains while smelling pleasant.

Also Read: Why Does My Cat Smell My Eyes?

Parting Thoughts

Cats love the smell of bleach and when exposed to it, they exhibit behaviors like rubbing, rolling, drooling and purring. Bleach is quite toxic to cats and can cause serious harm, especially if your pet consumes it.