Why do cats insist on lying on your freshly washed clothes?
Cats tend to prefer softer surfaces. It doesn’t even have to be that much softer.
Cats will sleep on the doily part of the wooden table. They are a little like the fairy tale, The Princess and the Pea. Cats can detect slight differences in softness.
Cats have a practical side to these preferences. Their highly wound, flexible bodies need corresponding down time to fuel those incredible acrobatics. To relax, they go all the way into their famous “boneless” poses, where they drape themselves over and off the edges of things. Extra “cush” offers a far better surface for this purpose than hard, unyielding objects.
Cats and laundry are a case in point. Yes, they like sleeping on our dirty laundry, because it’s soft and smells like us. They also like sleeping on the clean laundry, because it’s even softer. Depending on the products we use, we could be making our laundry even more attractive. Botanical scents, like lavender, wheatgrass, and the mint family, can attract the cat because they find these scents pleasing, just as we do.
Warning: Bleach can be sending the wrong message. After we clean bedding or floor areas with bleach, cats can sometimes detect a scent they interpret as “go to the bathroom here.” Ammonia sends this signal even more strongly.
That’s why vinegar is a better cleaner/deodorizer in cases where we wonder if the cat is getting the wrong signal. If we have a problem with the cat mistaking the bed for some other purpose, leaving the bleach out of the laundry for a few cycles can solve this problem.
We can signal the cat about good sleeping spaces by draping an easily laundered throw over corners of couches or chairs. Cats will seek the extra softness, and we have something that can be whisked away when company comes. I make my bedcovers easily laundered types, because I want to encourage the cats to sleep on the bed. It’s not only attractive because it offers acres of softness. It’s the way cats communicate closeness with us, whether we are there at the moment, or not.
If we have a cat seeking “cush” in places that we dislike, we can try coming up with better, even cushier, places for the cats. But we should not be ruthless about our goals. The cat chooses their lounging places for other reasons besides their softness. They also want outposts to detect activity, a place that offers good escaping or ambush possibilities, and places that mean something to us, so they can display their good feelings towards us and our territory.
Keeping some designated towels around to throw over fresh laundry can be a simple step that keeps both of us happy. Remember, it is also their house. When we share, there is enough for everyone.
The cat’s liking for the softest possible surface is hedonistic. Cats will always opt for the pleasurable side of almost any choice.
But their pleasure seeking has practicality; they need, and must have, sleeping spots that fulfill many purposes. There’s nothing wrong with having more than one good reason to do something.
This is a lesson we can learn from the cat.