Have you noticed your cat acting strange every time she smells bleach or chlorine on the floor or walls? You are not alone – many many cat owners attest to this strange behavior. If you are wondering what it is about bleach that makes cats act so weird, read on and let us unravel this phenomenon.
Why do cats like chlorine and what are the risks?
1. The smell of bleach mimics mating pheromones.
Bleach, or chlorine, contains chemicals and their smell mimics mating pheromones, so your cat may be having a hormone-based or sexual reaction. If you see your cat rolling and rubbing a surface where she detects a hint of a bleach smell, she may be aroused but also confused, since it smells like mating time but there is no other cat around.
2. They experience a drug-like high that is similar to the effect of catnip.
Bleach, or chlorine, has a catnip-like effect on cats and their reactions are quite similar. Researchers note that the scent of catnip targets ‘happy’ receptors in a cat’s brain. Cats react to catnip by rolling, rubbing, flipping and zoning out. Similarly, most felines react this way to bleach or chlorine, because their brain chemistry has been temporarily altered.
3. Cats may rub the bleached area to leave their pheromones and reclaim their territory.
Some cats perceive the bleach smell as akin to the hormones of intruders. Thus, they tend to rub and roll over the area to mark it with their scent and reclaim it as their territory. Some felines spray or drag their butts through a bleach-scented spot as a territorial reaction.
Bleach, or sodium hypochlorite, contains several compounds including chlorine. This is usually what cats are reacting to. Chlorine is released when the sodium hypochlorite breaks down within the solution.
While cats like chlorine, there could be so much more. Bleach reacts with several organic compounds, releasing volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. Once the chlorine in tap water encounters contaminants, it releases chloroform, carbon tetrachloride and other VOCs, and any or all of these VOCs could be appealing to cats.
What are the risks of chlorine for cats?
Chlorine could be potentially toxic for cats. If felines are exposed to it too much and have ingested it in large amounts, they could be poisoned. Symptoms of chlorine poisoning include the following:
- Stomach pain
- White patches around the mouth
- Skin irritation
- Excessive drooling
What to do if your cat ingested chlorine?
First, you should be able to identify the type of bleach your cat consumed.
If your cat consumed a small amount of diluted bleach, home remedies may be sufficient. However, if she ingested undiluted bleach you need to take her to the vet for proper treatment.
Treat the symptoms at once.
Encourage your cat to drink water or milk to flush out the chlorine from the digestive tract. This will remove the toxic bleach from the system. It can be challenging, though, to make your cat drink water, and if she refuses you should take her to the vet.
If she drinks water or milk, the symptoms should be gone after 30 to 45 minutes. However, if you notice there are still symptoms after an hour, consult or take her to the vet.
Keep chlorine away from your cat.
Prevention is better than cure, so be sure to keep chlorine and other bleach products away from your cat. Stash them away in a shelf or closet, away from your pets.
Options other than chlorine that you can use for a cat-safe home:
- White vinegar – It has a strong smell but it effectively cleans and disinfects floors and other surfaces without any toxic chemicals. The strong smell disappears quickly so it should not bother your cats too much.
- Baking soda – This is a white powder that removes stuck-on dirt and grime effectively. This abrasive, also called sodium bicarbonate, has legendary deodorizing power.
- Lemon juice – It has a fresh smell but some cats may dislike it. It contains citric acid that removes stains and messes.
- Castile soap – This olive-oil based soap is safe around cats and kids and is an effective all-purpose cleaner.
Cats are unique and intelligent animals with superior senses. Their sense of smell is 14 times better than that of humans, and some smells are more appealing to them than others. Felines like chlorine because they experience a hormone-based reaction due to chemicals that mimic mating pheromones. Some cats experience a catnip-like reaction, and they may roll, rub and zone out when they detect chlorine on the floor or walls. Finally, some felines tend to have a territorial reaction, since they perceive the bleach scent as that of intruders.
Image: istockphoto.com / Svetlana Sultanaeva