Why Do Cats Follow You to the Bathroom?

For cat owners, taking a shower can be a spectator sport.
He likes to watch.
He likes to watch. / Melissa Ross/Moment via Getty Images

Browse the internet long enough and you’re bound to find photographs or stories of cats lurking near bathtubs while their owner showers, their curiosity piqued by humans purposely getting themselves wet. In the subreddit r/lifeguardkitties, for example, cats are seen lurking in the margins of tubs or peering behind shower curtains. (“Cats concerned for their bathing owners,” reads the subreddit description.) This phenomenon appears markedly different from cats enjoying a cool bathroom sink. In fact, it seems to be a kind of cat voyeurism. So why do they do it? Are they worried about the welfare of their owner? Or, as is customary for cats, is the reason more inscrutable and insidious?

Why Cats Follow You to the Bathroom

A cat is pictured
Just an innocent observer. / Cindy Loughridge/Moment via Getty Images

Most cat breeds have a natural aversion to getting wet, which can create an unpleasant sensation thanks to a soggy, matted coat. Yet they seem fine with being water-adjacent if their owner is showering or bathing.

While no definitive answer exists, there are a number of theories. Among the most prevalent is that cats have a preexisting fascination with water. When kitchen or bathroom faucets run, cats seem to be enamored with the water, either due to the peculiar (to them) motion of the fluid or the way it reflects light. A shower is essentially a giant running faucet with a similar hold on their attention. It also has the bonus of having a human interacting with it.

But that wouldn’t explain why cats seem just as compelled to watch humans idle in the bath when no water is actually running. It’s possible cats are intrigued by the fact that their owner is occupying space a cat may think they have a proprietary claim on. Cats are prone to relaxing in (dry) tubs due to privacy and the feel of the cool porcelain. That a person is intruding in their space—with dreaded water, no less—could prompt a cat to be mildly awestruck at the turn of events. Or, they may actually want to use the tub to unwind and have some expectation you’ll eventually get out of it.

This is even more likely to be true if cats exhibit signs of distress while you bathe, meowing or pawing at the curtain. These could be indications your cat is “guarding,” a behavior in which the animals appear protective of owners. Consider that running water, flushing toilets, and other commotion in the bathroom are all signs of potential hazards—to a cat, anyway.

Another popular theory is that cats like the humidity of showers or baths and enjoy the warm air surrounding the tub. It could be part of a larger attraction to bathrooms, which house the aforementioned sinks, fuzzy bath mats to lounge on, and possibly even their litter box—all features that make the room a safe space for them.

And remember that while cats are generally hesitant to get wet, it’s not true of all breeds. Maine coons and Japanese bobtails, for example, don’t mind water and may even investigate a semi-damp tub after you hop out.

Why Cats Watch You Pee

A cat is pictured
Personal space? Never heard of it. / nico piotto/Moment via Getty Images

Bathing isn’t the only source of a cat’s lavatory fascination. Some owners report that cats enjoy watching or otherwise interacting with them as they go about their business on the toilet.

Cats may infer that this is their chance for a captive audience and make an approach for attention, just as they would when you sit down to watch television or go to bed. That you’re in a more compromising position doesn’t really matter to them.

When Things Get Uncomfortable

A cat is pictured in a tub
Not acting at all suspicious. / Cyndi Monaghan/Moment via Getty Images

Having a cat voyeur while you bathe may be something you find awkward. If so, you can try simply shutting the door. Alternately, you can try providing a distraction for the cat. Given the choice between watching you shampoo your hair and eating dinner, most cats will opt for the latter.

If you’re still wondering why your cat follows you into the bathroom, you may want to evaluate your own habits. Finding a cat in the sink or on the floor might result in you petting them or otherwise reinforcing the behavior. If a cat begins to associate being in the bathroom with praise, then they’re likely to continue making a trip to the toilet a team effort.

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