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Why Does My Cat Like My Underwear? Vet Reviewed Feline Behavior

Written by: Misty Layne

Last Updated on April 25, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

tabby maine coon cat inside an open laundry basket

Why Does My Cat Like My Underwear? Vet Reviewed Feline Behavior


Dr. Lauren Demos (DVM) Photo


Dr. Lauren Demos (DVM)


The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Felines engage in some pretty weird behavior at times. They stare into corners for long minutes, watching who knows what (and creeping everyone out in the process). They chase things only they can see. And sometimes cats do odd things that are kind of gross, like stealing your underwear to smell it or drag it around.

But why does your cat like your underwear and want to smell it? Why do they roll around in dirty underwear? Is there an explanation for this weird feline behavior, or is it just one of those unexplainable cat things we’ll never understand? Essentially, it probably comes down to your pet liking or feeling comforted by the scent of your underwear.

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Why Does My Cat Like Underwear & Want to Smell It?

Your cat has an amazing sense of smell. While humans only have about 5 million scent receptors in the nose, kitty has approximately 200 million! That means your cat’s sense of smell is 14 times stronger than yours1.

One of the things that helps your pet with their sense of smell is the Jacobson’s organ, a receptor located in the top of their mouth. This receptor takes in extra information and triggers what is known as the flehmen response. You’ll know your kitty is using the Jacobson’s organ because it makes it look like they have a grin on their face!

So, your cat smells things much more strongly than you do because they take in tons more information via the nose and Jacobson’s organ. This includes pheromones, which humans have plenty of (even if we can’t smell them ourselves) and sweat. And guess what has sweat glands? The groin area. In fact, this area contains what are known as apocrine sweat glands, which are known to produce pheromones, as well as sweat that is lipid-rich and contains sugars and proteins. Basically, your underwear probably smells pretty great to your cat.

cat inside the fallen laundry container with underwears
Image Credit: patoouu pato, Shutterstock

Why Does My Cat Roll in My Dirty Underwear?

We’ve determined that your underwear smells good to your cat, but is it so good they need to roll around in it (especially when it’s dirty)? Actually, your kitty is probably rolling around in your dirty underwear less because they enjoy the smell and more because it smells like you. You are your kitty’s person, and because cats rely so much on their sense of smell, your pet becomes fond of yours. Your scent can equal safety and love. So, if your cat is rolling around in your dirty underwear, yes, it’s because it smells good, but more so, it’s because it smells like you, which means that it is a safe spot.

That’s not the only reason, though. Cats have tons of scent glands all over their bodies that they use to leave behind scent markers wherever they go. When your pet rubs their face all over you, this is what they’re doing.

What is a scent marker? This is when your cat transfers some of their scent to you (or whatever item they rub against). When your pet leaves a scent marker on you, they’re essentially saying, “Hey, this is mine; leave it alone.” Rolling around in your dirty underwear means your kitty is rubbing their scent glands everywhere and covering your underwear with scent markers. It’s another way to get you to wear their scent so other animals know you’re claimed.

Should I Be Concerned About My Cat Sniffing My Underwear?

Your cat stealing, sniffing, rolling around in, or licking your underwear isn’t a cause for concern. It’s perfectly normal (if kind of gross) feline behavior. However, if you see your cat chewing on or eating your underwear, take it away from them! If the cat manages to ingest any of the fabric from your underwear, it could lead to an intestinal obstruction, which can be deadly. If you see your cat swallow a piece of your underwear, take them to the vet as soon as possible.

Image Credit: jajam_e, Shutterstock

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Final Thoughts

Cats are delightful but awfully weird at times. One of their strangest feline behaviors is how much they like underwear, but once you know why they enjoy it, it becomes less weird. Your pet loves how you smell; since your underwear smells of you, it equates to a safe, happy spot for them. And rolling around in your underwear helps kitty to leave their scent all over something of yours, so others know to stay away. Just think of the whole underwear thing as a gesture of affection!

Featured Image Credit: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

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