Understanding the Mystery of Why Cats Don’t Like Us to Close the Bathroom Door

Close the door? How dare you!

Bathrooms are meant to be that one scared and intimate place in our home where we can shut the door and retreat from the world to our own blessed sanctuary of aloneness and privacy. Unless you have cats, of course. There is literally nothing that will make a cat magically appear from thin air to break that privacy code than a closed bathroom door. You’ll hear that mournful, repeated, and frantic “Meeoooooooooowww” in tangent with a paw, paw, paw, dig, dig, dig under the door and a scratch, scratch, scratch on the door.

“Where are you? When are you coming out? What are you doing in there without me?”

You’ve probably been in the bathroom less than 10 seconds, but to your cat, it would seem as if you’ve had the door shut for hours, the waiting is so tortuous. Why do cats do that? What’s the big deal to them to have a door shut that’s normally open? Especially when history tends to prove that the door won’t remain shut and that you’ll open it to come out again.

It’s probably the simple fact they’re insatiably curious and can’t stand not knowing the unknown. Even a room they’ve been in and out of for years – it only takes the door being closed once or twice before they get the idea the closed door could mean some sort of change. Add in the fact we’re in the room behind the closed door, doing things they want to know about, and it builds up a fascination.

Many cats are fascinated with bathrooms in general and perhaps they consider the closed door an affront to what they consider is their personal territory and sanctuary, not ours. I know my cats think our master bathroom is theirs because it’s one of their favorite hangout spots. We no longer have a door for them to contend with as it broke years ago, but they still insist I can’t be alone in the room without one of them sharing the space with me, and even when I’m not in the room, there’s always a cat sleeping on the hamper we keep in the corner.

Zee and Zoey as the reigning King and Queen of the Hamper Kingdom.

The rotation changes – sometimes it’s Zee, or Zee and Zoey together – lately, it’s been Jazmine. And because there’s a litter box in the room too, they also insist if I’m going, they’re going as well, regardless of whether or not they really need to. It seems to be a bonding moment between us and Zee even takes it a step further.

I don’t how he knows I’m in the bathroom because when I walk in he’s not there, but within seconds he’ll be there, using the box of cat litter next to the toilet as a step stool to reach me where he plunks into my lap. It’s an awkward climb for him and inconvenient for me, but because I love him so much and adore our time together, there we sit. And sit. And sit. He curls into my lap as pleased as can be (I can feel his body give me that contented sigh, signifying he’s fully relaxed) and we’d be there all day if I let him.

“Hello. Yes, it’s me, Deb. I’m going to be late. My cat’s napping on my lap in the bathroom. It’s a bonding thing with us and I can’t move him.”

That’s me calling work…somehow I don’t think the reasoning would fly.

Some like to curl into the sink while I’m showering and Rolz likes to sit on the vanity counter, intently watching me put on my makeup, cheering me on with some “meow” conversation. And probably the most significant bathroom moment was a couple years ago when my otherwise brutally shy “don’t-you-dare-touch-or-pet-me” cat, Mia, jumped up onto my toweled head after I got out of the shower and settled in for a deep nap, purring, and making biscuits into the towel.

Yes, that’s Mia napping on my head. And yes, despite how uncomfortable it was for me, I let her stay there for quite a while…

That was the morning the idea for my now three-time award-winning book, Makin’ Biscuits – Weird Cat Habits and the Even Weirder Habits of the Humans Who Love Them was born. This particular habit of Mia’s lasted several weeks, but more interestingly, it somehow broke her aversion to human contact and she now religiously naps on my outstretched legs at night when I’m relaxing on the couch to watch TV.

So why all the odd bathroom etiquette? In the case of Zee who rarely sits on my lap in other spots of the house (although he does sleep on my head at night) the answer might simply be, because he got my undivided attention the first time he sat on my lap while I was on the toilet and was rewarded with petting and loving conversation, he associated that as a positive experience and it became a habit. Bathrooms are typically a small room – from a cat’s perspective, you’re a captive audience, with little opportunity to escape, so they give it a shot.

Sinks – they seem to be made specifically with cats in mind, what with their contoured shape and cozy size.

As far as sinks, it’s a relatively common behavior – whether it’s the cool surface or the contoured shape that’s suited for a cat’s body – they’re just drawn to them. It could also be a fascination with water – some cats find drinking from a dripping faucet thoroughly entertaining. It might also be instinctual. For example, years ago after Mia and Peanut were spayed and I brought them home from the vet, I put comfortable bedding on the bedroom floor for them to recover. I didn’t want them jumping up onto the bed while still woozy from the operation, but both bee-lined to the bathroom sinks, as the sinks probably simulated a cave or den to them – a place to safely hide from predators and danger while in a weakened state.

Thankfully, we don’t have much in the way of danger most days in our bathroom. Maybe an unlucky bug or lizard that’s found its way into the room. But clearly, we have cats on guard to take care of that…

Our bathroom is also where those poor, unsuspecting plush toys find themselves after being stalked and preyed upon. Thank goodness we are safe from the evils of Angry Bird.

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For more on the fascinating subject of feline behavior, consider reading my three-time award-winning book, Makin’ Biscuits – Weird Cat Habits and the Even Weirder Habits of the Human Who Love Them. It’s all about what makes a cat tick – the how’s and why’s of what our cats do – such as why they hide toys around the house, steal food from our plates or seek out boxes to nap in. For more information, please click here.

Makin’ Biscuits – Weird Cat Habits and the Even Weirder Habits of the Humans Who Love Them.

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  1. ERin the cat says:

    Cats are a truly inventive practical adventurous and engrossing species, in some senses far better than mankind.
    Your home, with multi cats, must be such an inspiration.
    Toodle pips
    ERin

  2. meowmeowmans says:

    Ava waits outside the bathroom while I’m taking a shower, then comes in as soon as the door opens. Our Angel Moosey used to do the same thing (actually, he would just open the door, plop himself down on the bath mat, and wait. 🙂

    That shot of Mia napping on your toweled head is awesome, Deb!

  3. I must say I have never seen a photo of a person with a cat SLEEPING on their head before!

  4. jmuhj says:

    Awwww, Mia!

    My cats through the years don’t care what the room is, but if there is a door that’s shut, it’s GOT to be opened. As for sinks, there have been several sink-loving cats in this furmily — whether the small guest bath sink, the cozy double sinks in the master bath at our last home, or the huge tri-partite “gourmet sink” in the kitchen of that home, a sink is MADE for a cat!

    The toilet seat has long been the “grooming station” in our furmily, and in the past, there have been two cats at a time up on it, insisting on being brushed.

    Life with cats is never dull.

  5. Jo Singer says:

    I must disagree with you on the statement that cats don’t like the bathroom door closed. It seem that our Oriental Shorthair, Aki Pataki Baracki has a passion for SHUTTING doors. In fact his delight in doing this got us very worried that he might get himself locked in to a room and not be able to get out.

    He stands up on his back legs, throws his full weight onto the back of the door and waits patiently until he hears the click letting him know it is shut firmly.Then he sits back and smiles- so proud of his work. We had to do something to stop this behavior and the traditional doorstops didn’t work because he could push them aside. So we bought baby-proof door stoppers that are attached on the middle of the door. Aki can push the door but it won’t close completely.

    Yes, he is frustrated but we know he is safe. We have them on all the bedroom and bathroom doors- which are the only doors in the house . The rest of the house has no doors. I am wondering if anyone else has a cat that is fascinated with closing doors, or is Aki unique?

    • Deb says:

      You are not wrong, Jo. I should correct my post to say some cats don’t like the bathroom door closed! My Zoey is just like Aki – sometimes out of nowhere I’ll hear a door slam and I know it’s her. It got so bad a while back that we put boxes that 12 packs of soda come in next to our bedroom door to keep it open because she would shut it all the time…the problem, the litterbox is in the master bathroom, which is in the bedroom and I didn’t want the other cats shut out! Again, like Aki, when you go in to open the doors she acts like she doesn’t have a care in the world and wonders why I’m all flustered about her accomplishment!

  6. Andrea Dorn says:

    I have another situation at my house now. Jabberwoky Glitter is almost blind so when I close my office door (when I’m not in there) she runs into it. Of course she also runs into the other cats if they aren’t looking. Poor baby.

  7. Ellen Pilch says:

    I haven’t gone to the bathroom alone in years 🙂

  8. Our Miranda dislikes me taking a bath. She does not at ALL. She comes in and yells and YELLS!!

    It’s been a public holiday here so we are late commenting! Sorry but we hope it you had a great Sunday Selfie,!

  9. We can relate : Pixie does her business at the same time as Claire (girls…), and I am just like Zee : a bathroom lap cat, MOL ! Purrs

  10. Charles Huss says:

    I usually leave the door open but when I don’t it is not more than thirty seconds before I see a paw come under the door. My cat Frankie is fascinated by the shower and often gets in there with me (on the dry side) to see what’s going on, or he stands on the sink and waits for me to come out.