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Why Do Cats Like The Smell Of Bleach? Feline Behaviour Explained

Bleach Bottle Spray
Image Credit: JumpStory
Last Updated on November 16, 2023 by Christian Adams

Cleaning with bleach may be a stellar way to kill off pesky viruses, but the smell left behind can be a bit overwhelming. Most people don’t love the odor of bleach, but some cats can’t seem to get enough of it. While we don’t know the exact reason for this, the suspicion is that cats like the smell of bleach because it’s similar to the scent of cat pheromones in urine.

In this article, we’ll discuss how the cat’s sense of smell could lead them to like the odor of bleach. We’ll also cover whether bleach is toxic for cats and how to keep them safe from this strong chemical.divider-catclaw1

The Cat’s Sense of Smell: A Curious Thing

A cat’s sense of smell is about 14 times more sensitive than a human’s. Cats detect odors not only with their nose but with a specialized structure called a Jacobson’s organ. This organ, located on the roof of a cat’s mouth, allows the cat to identify chemical substances whether or not they create a detectable odor.

The Jacobson’s organ is how cats recognize pheromones, or chemical scents, from other cats. Scent is the primary way cats communicate, especially when marking territory or during the mating process.

Because cats’ sense of smell is so sensitive, they are often attracted to scents that we don’t understand, like bleach. Another example is cantaloupe, which many cats seem to enjoy eating. This fruit produces a smell similar to that of meat proteins, undetectable to humans but irresistible to many kitties.

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Is Bleach Dangerous To Cats?

Cats may love the smell of bleach, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe for them to sniff to their heart’s content. Depending on how concentrated the bleach is, contact with this cleaner could be irritating to downright dangerous to your cat.

Household bleach and color-safe bleach are the most common types your cat will encounter. These bleaches are considered tissue irritants. Drinking or licking them could cause problems for your cat. Symptoms may be less likely, however, if the bleach is diluted in water when the cat makes contact with it.

Ultra-concentrated bleach, typically only used by professionals or in agriculture, is much more dangerous. This cleaner is considered a corrosive agent. A cat who ingests or walks in this bleach may suffer severe chemical burns to their skin or digestive tract.

liquid bleach being poured
Image Credit: RVillalon, Shutterstock

Protecting Your Cat From Bleach

Cats usually come into contact with bleach when it’s used for cleaning. They may drink out of a bucket full of diluted bleach or stick their paws in to play and then lick them. Cats may also walk, lie down, or roll on a recently cleaned surface.

The best way to protect your cat is to keep them out of the way while you’re using bleach products. Close them in a separate room (with toys, treats, etc.) until you finish cleaning and the surfaces are all dry.

You could also choose not to use bleach as a cleaner in favor of a gentler option. However, diluted bleach is the disinfectant of choice for killing off many bacteria, viruses, and fungi that cause disease in both humans and cats. If these strike your household, cleaning with bleach may be unavoidable, and you should take precautions.

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What Should You Do If Your Cat Licks Bleach?

If you don’t witness your cat licking or touching bleach, here are some signs you may notice:

  • Excessive drooling
  • Red, irritated skin around the mouth or paws
  • Vomiting
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Chemical burns (if the bleach was ultra-concentrated)
  • Discomfort

If your cat gets bleach of any type in their eyes or ingests ultra-concentrated bleach, these are generally considered emergencies. Contact your veterinarian immediately and be prepared to transport your cat to the hospital.

You should still call your vet if your cat licks household bleach, but the treatment will probably vary depending on their symptoms. These cats won’t always need medical intervention but don’t try any home treatment without consulting a vet first.

vet giving drugs to cat
Image Credit: thodonal88, Shutterstock

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Like people, cats differ in their preferred tastes and scents. Because of their more developed sense of smell, cats may find enjoyment from odors that we simply don’t understand, like bleach. We smell cleaner while our cats may detect the scent of familiar pheromones. Whatever the attraction, you should prevent your cat from getting too close to bleach for their own safety.

Featured Image Credit: JumpStory

About the Author

Christian Adams
Christian Adams
Christian is the Editor-in-Chief of Excited Cats and one of its original and primary contributors. A lifelong cat lover, now based in South East Asia, Christian and his wife are the proud parents of an 11-year-old son and four rescue cats: Trixie, Chloe, Sparky, and Chopper.

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