Just last week I spoke about a number of the different reasons that could explain why cats stare at their humans, often in a long, unwavering and unsettling gaze, and what the meaning behind that staring could be. I personally feel the topic of today’s post – possible reasons that could explain why cats often follow their humans into the bathroom – is pretty similar.
In my mind, there’s a lot of overlap in the types of explanations you can come up with for why these two odd behaviours exist, though I do feel there’s a bit more to the following-to-the-bathroom behaviour than the staring-at-humans one.
A lot of cat behaviours seem really quirky and strange at first glance. Some, like kneading and purring, are more complicated than we typically think. They’re not one-trick ponies, and have way more explanations than one behind them!
Others, like scratching, and being incredibly lazy followed by getting sudden bursts of hyperactive energy, are so fundamentally ingrained and important for the well being of our feline friends to act on, it’s a shame when people gloss over the fact that they’ve helped cats survive and stay healthy in the wild for generations. It’s easy to concentrate on the disruption these behaviours can create when it comes to cohabiting with us humans, but since quirks like these are more than quirks, they’re needs, they do have to be accommodated for. Luckily, it’s not too hard to train cats to scratch on things besides furniture and to drain a cat’s hyperactive energy with high-intensity exercise toys so they don’t wake you up at night or in the morning, making life together way less stressful for everyone involved.
The last type of cat behaviours include quirks we actually have no concrete explanation for because we haven’t studied them yet at all. Things like why cats really enjoy sitting and laying down on paper and why they dig chewing on plastic. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of excellent hypotheses, many of which could be true, but none have been tested, so we don’t know for certain which are accurate.
Staring at humans in my opinion falls into this category, and so does following humans into the bathroom. I’ve seen a lot of excellent hypotheses, but we don’t know which are true since there haven’t been studies to try to narrow the list down. That’s okay with me! Happy to have scientists work away at uncovering the perfect cat food formula composition, and other important feline healthcare related questions. Once they’ve worked those out, it’d be cool if they tackled questions that are not nearly as important to quality of life, like these, but I’m happy to take a few guesses at the answers until then myself.
Without further ado…
Reasons That Could Explain Why Cats Follow Their Humans into the Bathroom
1. Your cat might miss you, and want to spend as much time as possible with you.
If you’re away for a good portion of time and come back home to your affable little cuddle bug and he or she immediately follows as you go into the bathroom, it’d make sense that your cat may just want to get as much time as possible in with you after a hot minute without your well-loved company.
2. Your cat may simply enjoy following you around.
There are plenty of cats who follow their humans around wherever they go – Velcro cats, or shadows is what I typically label them. It’s an ever-so-sweet trait, and in my opinion, if you’ve got one of these types of kitties around, it’ll be hard for you to be in any room with the door closed for more than a moment without a little cry at the other side of the door to be let in. Speaking of doors…
3. Cats don’t like closed doors. Trying to close the bathroom door behind you is pretty much an instant way to make kitty want in.
There’s nothing more annoying to a cat than a closed door. I wrote about this in my article about Secret Rules All Cats Seem to Live By. A door to a room is left open, a cat has no interest in coming and going in. You close that door for even a moment, and nearly any cat I know will want out, then in, then out, over and over again until you finally give up and leave the damned thing open a crack large enough for kitty to come and go as he or she pleases. Of course then, kitty stays put. Welcome to Life with Cats 101.
4. Your cat could be bored, and may trail you around for some low-key entertainment.
People are interesting. People watching can be pretty fun, which is something I brought up in my article about why cats stare at their humans.
In that article, I also mentioned how people would likely stare at other people more if it wasn’t likely to lead to conflict, an awkward encounter, or potentially, to someone feeling upset. Why wouldn’t we stare if there wasn’t anything strange about it? Bringing me to my next point…
5. Your cat likely doesn’t realize there’s anything strange about going with you to the bathroom. So why not follow you in?
Okay so obviously – a lot of the reason we don’t go into the washroom when other humans are there more often than not is due to the fact that it’s socially considered to be a little awkward and weird to do so. If that awkwardness is gone – say between incredibly close friends or between spouses that don’t at all mind – being in the bathroom together may not happen a lot, but it still does infrequently happen.
Your cat is almost certain to never realize going into the bathroom with you is weird or awkward. It certainly isn’t for them, and they can’t tell if it’s awkward for you. How on earth could a cat understand there’s any discomfort on your part without some obvious behaviours out of you, like shooing away or yelling at your cat, and let’s be honest, what pet owner’s bothering to do that kind of thing? Instead, you’re just likely stomaching the awkwardness, furrowing your eyebrows in confusion, and maybe even eventually getting used to the company when you’re doing your business.
6. Your cat could be curious about what you’re going to do in the washroom.
Your cat doesn’t necessarily need to be bored to be curious enough about your behaviour to follow you straight into the bathroom. We all know how curious cats can be. It’s not a stretch to assume that maybe the only reason any cat follows a human into the bathroom ever is because he or she’s curious about what that human’s going to do. Pretty awkward, but it could be the whole truth.
And don’t tell me, “But my cat already knows what I’m going to do…” My cat knows I have coffee every single morning in the same, highly recognizable bright red Le Creuset Mug that I literally use for nothing else. Doesn’t stop him from taking a sniff and recoiling in disgust every single morning when I offer him the cup in case his curious self would like to catch a whiff. Cats are weirdos about this curiosity stuff, and will literally check on the very same thing over and over again to make sure it’s still that very same thing each and every time they are given the opportunity. Let’s not pretend knowing what’s going to happen next really factors into their curiosity. They still gonna check.
7. Keep the bathroom door otherwise closed? Cats love going into spaces they aren’t typically allowed into.
Another highly characteristic trait of almost every kitty I’ve met ever – cats practically needing to explore typically off-limits or not-always-accessible spaces. Ever tried opening the door of a closet with a cat around? You’re going to have a really intensely concentrated set of staring eyes trying to get a peek of what’s in there, maybe even a set of quick and nimble little paws trying to work their way – as stealthily as possible – into that dark, neglected corner. Cats seriously cannot resist.
How on earth could your kitty resist the appeal of joining you in a bathroom that’s typically left closed? There’s so much appeal in the typically-off-limits. It’d be insane to expect anything less than intense excitement and curiosity.
8. Keep the bathroom door otherwise open? When you walked in, you may have reminded your cat that (s)he really likes playing in there.
I have a cat who only remembers he wants to play with a toy if he happens to be in the same room as it. Out of sight, out of mind. You going into the bathroom may trigger a cat’s memories about interacting with things in the bathroom that are interesting. That nicely textured bathtub, a whiff of that bathroom cleaner left on the floor, all those water droplets on the glass to lick, that ever-so-cozy-clean sink.
Plenty to do in the bathroom, and even if your kitty can hang out there times when it’s not occupied, doesn’t mean he or she will remember to.
9. Your cat may like the attention you give him/her when you’re in the bathroom.
Let’s be honest, if your cat goes into the washroom, and you’re sitting on the toilet staring at your cat in confusion about why, you’re giving cats that passive, chilled out attention they pretty much all love and desire. And we all know you stare at your cat if he or she’s in there with you. After all, you’re on the toilet, what else are you going to do?
10. Your cat could be waiting for you to wash your hands, so (s)he can lick the droplets off the basin.
Cats really enjoy licking water droplets off of showers and out of sinks. Water droplets are probably their favourite form of water. If you happen to have a cat who’s into licking droplets, there’s a good chance your cat knows very well that right before you finish with the washroom, you’ll be washing your hands and that leaves fresh, delicious little droplets for him or her to lick off the bathroom sink.
Some people also leave their bathroom taps to drip a little after they go to the bathroom so their cats can get some fresh water as they know their cats to enjoy drinking this way. But if you do this, my guess is you already know that’s a huge part of the reason why your cat follows you into the bathroom, so you wouldn’t have to look the answer to this question up.
Your Theories on Cats Following Humans to the Bathroom?
Why do you personally think cats follow humans into the bathroom?
Do you agree with any of the theories I presented? Think any are far-fetched? Are there any theories you have that aren’t up on this list that you think should be?
Do you think some cats go for certain reasons, while others go for other reasons? Have you had multiple cats who each go in for what seem to be completely different reasons? What led you to believe this?
Love hearing your experiences! Really looking forward to reading about them in the comments below!