Felines exhibit all sorts of strange behavior, so it should hardly be a surprise to see your cat having a good time rolling around on your personal belongings. But have you ever wondered why your furry companion loves nesting on your wet towels? The reason is not actually so surprising: It is simply because your cat can smell your scent on the towel.
Scent is incredibly important for cats. Through their sensitive sense of smell, they can detect danger, find food and water, locate potential mates, check whether their environment is safe, and many other things. And since cats are sensory creatures, they can send messages through scent markings. In a nutshell, cats use their sense of smell for survival.
Felines bond strongly with their favorite humans through scent. If you notice your cat lying on your damp towels, it is likely because he finds your unique scent pleasant and comforting. Your body smell embedded in the fabric reminds him of your presence, and through your presence he feels safe and happy.
Why your cat loves to curl up on your wet towels
It is a common occurrence for fur-parents to see their cats curled up on their damp towels, and they might be left wondering why their adorable fur babies behave so strangely. Although not surprising, the main reason cats love damp towels is because of your scent.
Cats can distinguish their owners’ body smell from that of anyone else. When you use your towel after a shower, your scent is embedded into the fabric. As the moisture in the towel evaporates, it sends your scent molecules into the air where your cat can smell them intensely. And, for some cats, nothing matters more than the scent of their beloved humans.
Cats enjoy your scent
Felines create strong bonds with their favorite people through scent. They do not just enjoy your smell on a wet towel, but also on any objects where your scent is present. Cats can easily pick up your scent on the floor where you walked on or the bed where you slept. You may even find your four-legged friend wrestling your shoes or snuggling with your sweaty gym clothes.
As you can see, cats are especially attracted to fabrics you have used, such as towels or clothes, because these contain potent odors from your body’s sweat. Your armpits and groin area produce the highest concentration of smell, which your fur babies revel in. Rubbing and snuggling against your personal belongings allows them to deposit their own scent on your stuff, as well as attaching your body smell to their fur. For cats, this is their way of establishing a secure and friendly environment.
Why scent matters
Felines use scent as a valuable communication tool. It serves like an encyclopedia of information about your cat and the surrounding environment. You may not be able to appreciate or even understand the importance of scent, but for a cat, it is survival. The reason for this dates back thousands of years, to the time before cats were domesticated.
In the wild, cats use scent to identify a territory, communicate with other cats or animals, send signals during mating season, and many other things. Pre-domesticated cats also use scents to mark objects as ‘safe’ and establish a friendly environment with other cats. Moreover, scent marking also allows felines to communicate and signal the presence of food, water, and shelter to other animals.
What are pheromones
When cats mark or ‘label’ objects and places, they release a substance called pheromones.
Pheromones are like chemical messages that cats use to interact or trigger a response in other felines. The chemicals are secreted through the cat’s forehead, rear, paw pads, chin, cheeks, and tail.
Pheromones are odorless and can only be detected by members of the same species. So, when your cat releases these ‘message chemicals,’ they cannot be detected by you or other pets like dogs. The secreted chemical can only be perceived by other cats.
What your scent means to your cat
Remember those times when you have seen your cat rubbing his tail or cheeks against your furniture? He was marking the objects as ‘safe.’ And, when you drop that damp towel on the floor after a shower, your cat ‘understands’ the message and snuggles into the towel.
Scent markings are very important to give felines a secure place to rest. For domestic cats, the safest place to be is with their owners. This is why some cats with separation anxiety find comfort in their owner’s towel, bedsheets, or clothes. Simply put, the scent makes them feel the presence of their owners even though they are not there.
Is dirty laundry safe for cats?
Cats are meticulous groomers and do not want their personal spaces to be dirty. So why do they seem to enjoy rolling on your sweaty, unwashed clothes?
Felines love their owners’ scent, regardless of where it comes from, and your unique body aroma is well-embedded into fabrics, especially around the armpit areas of clothes. Thus, your feline friend will find comfort and familiarity in your pile of dirty laundry. Do not worry; dirty clothing is unlikely to cause any harm to your pet, unless you have spilled toxic chemicals on it.
Since cats generally have a very sensitive olfactory system, not all scents are safe for them. Some chemicals that you put on your clothes can be potentially toxic or dangerous to cats. Depending on how strong the chemical is, they might experience serious symptoms such as skin and nose irritation, digestive problems or breathing difficulties, or it might trigger existing respiratory issues like asthma.
Please be aware of the risks if you use any of the chemicals below:
- Essential oils
- Potpourri scent or liquid
- Scented candles
- Air fresheners and pine sprays
Cats peeing on your towels could be another story
Finding your towels stained with cat urine can be an unpleasant surprise. Often, this behavior is no longer about enjoying your scent but rather some problem that may have to do with the cat’s health or dissatisfaction with a dirty litter box.
First, let us talk about the dirty litter box. Think about how grossed out you would be to use a dirty public toilet. Your furry friend feels the same every time you forget to clean his litter box. Cats are finicky when it comes to cleanliness. They may tolerate using a dirty litter box for a while, but soon they will find things like your wet towels a suitable alternative for doing their business.
If cleanliness has nothing to do with your cat’s odd behavior, then the peeing problem might have to do with his health. Urinary tract infection is a common condition that causes felines to urinate in places other than their litter box. The inappropriate urination might also be caused by stress, an underlying health issue, or mobility problems. In this case, a trip to the vet will help get your kitty properly assessed and appropriately treated.
Wrapping it up
You might find it cute but also odd to see your cat having a good time on your wet towels. The truth is, he loves your smell on the fabric. Cats find comfort in places or things to which their owners’ body scents are attached. And, through their sense of smell, they are able to communicate and bond with their favorite humans.
So, the next time you see your furry friend lying on your damp towels, take it as a big compliment. It means that your cat is delighted with your presence and just loves being close to you.
Image: istockphoto.com / Olya Smolyak