Why Does My Cat Lie on My Dirty Clothes?

Cats are meticulously clean animals, making their attraction to dirty laundry a little strange. They spend countless hours grooming themselves before rolling around in their owners’ unwashed, sweaty clothes. However, this is a natural behavior in felines.

Cats like to rest on unclean laundry due to the distinct odor. They can detect their owner’s unique body aroma as the clothing smells just like you. This gives your cat familiarity and comfort while resting. Also, the cat enjoys making a bed from clothes and claiming them as its property.

There’s rarely any harm in a cat lying on unwashed, smelly clothing. Just be mindful if you have spilled/toxic substances on your garments, such as oil or antifreeze. If this isn’t the case, your worn clothing will merely be a source of comfort to your cat while it rests and recuperates.

Why Does My Cat Lie on My Clothes?

After a long day, we cannot wait to change our clothes as we feel better when clean.

The same applies to cats, which makes their fascination with dirty clothes more interesting. Why do animals that spend so much time grooming also enjoy resting on sweaty clothing?

Your cat understands that your clothing has already been worn, which is part of the appeal. As discussed, the worn clothing of an owner can offer comfort and reassurance to a cat.

Human Scent

Cats have an excellent sense of smell. Humans have around 5 million odor sensors in their noses, but cats have more than four times as many.

Cats rely on their potent sense of smell to aid in hunting and detecting threats. Scents also enable cats to acknowledge and claim territory.

While cats primarily recognize owners by voice, scent is almost important. To a cat, your body odor is as unique as your fingerprint, so there’s no masking your aroma.

No matter how much antiperspirant and cologne you wear, a cat’s nose cuts through the fragrances.

Few things have a stronger scent than dirty clothing. On a summer’s day, you’ll release a distinctive scent as you sweat. Even in cooler climes, clothing spends enough time on your body to generate an aroma.

Why Does My Cat Like My Scent?

Your natural scent provides a cat with serenity and security. If you have a strong bond with your cat, it’ll miss you while you’re gone. Just because felines are not fulsome in their emotions doesn’t make them unfeeling.

By scenting your dirty clothes, the cat feels closer to you. It’ll breathe in your scent and feel safe. Your distinctive aroma is an anchor to home and safety. It makes the daily stresses of a cat’s life, which are surprisingly many, fade away.

Physical Comfort and Pleasure

Cats are natural-born comfort seekers. As discussed, the scent of your worn clothing provides contentment. Also, the clothes may be comfortable in a tactile sense.

Cats enjoy the feeling of a variety of different textures under their paws. This means that a cat may enjoy playing with your clothes, so it may enjoy picking at the buttons for recreation. If you have leather or corduroy clothing, this will provide a different tactile sensation.

Your cat may also like to use your clothing as a pillow or mattress. Cats may not enjoy dozing on the floor as it’s too hard. By lying on clothing, your cat has an additional barrier of protection. This comfort, coupled with the familiar scent, will often lull a cat into sleep.


As intimated above, many cats like to sleep on clothes. This is typically when the clothing is found on a soft surface, like a bed. Even casually discarded clothes can create a makeshift bed.

Cats can spend up to 20 hours a day asleep. All the same, cats cannot sleep just anywhere. They need to feel safe and secure before letting their guard down and dozing, and your clothing will provide security.

If your scent is nearby, your cat will feel that you’re close to it. This enables the cat to feel more secure, resting safely in the knowledge that nobody will attack while you’re around to offer protection.

The cat may nuzzle into your worn clothing, creating blankets. The more enveloped the cat is, the safer it feels. A cat will distract itself from external stimuli while sleeping.

why do cats like sweaty clothes?


Even if the cat remains awake, it’ll draw comfort from your clothing. If your cat starts kneading dirty laundry between its paws, take it as a compliment. A cat kneading your clothing means that it feels relaxed and secure due to the presence of your distinctive scent.

The Journal of Veterinary Behavior links kneading to younger cats and their mothers. This is because kittens knead at their mother’s teat to release milk, and this habit persists into adulthood. Cats knead as it brings back memories of happiness and contentment.

What’s more, this behavior suggests that the cat now sees you as its mother. You fulfill the same role, offering food, shelter, and comfort from anything that would harm the cat. Based on the scent of your clothes, Kneading denotes a high level of trust in you.


Warmth is another reason that cats enjoy resting on used clothing. We often discard our clothes due to residual body heat trapped in the fabric. While that is unappealing to us, cats consider it to be advantageous.

Science explains that a cat’s body temperature drops while it sleeps, meaning that it’ll do what it can to generate a higher temperature before dozing. Many cats opt to sleep in direct sunlight or beside a window, but clothing provides a warm alternative to these options.

The cat will surround itself with dirty clothes to increase its body heat. The cat doesn’t know or care that this heat is transient. Your cat knows that it feels warm at the moment in time.

This warmth helps the cat to fall asleep. It feels safe that it’ll retain its standard body temperature of around 100.5-102.5 degrees Fahrenheit.


If you’ve been away for several hours, your cat will wonder where you’ve been. Dirty clothes will carry scents that can provide important clues.

Your cat will check for the smell of other animals. Cats can be jealous and possessive, so they will want to know if you have been around rival felines. If so, your cat will seek to overpower their scent with their own.

In addition, your clothes offer scents of the outside world. This will be fascinating to cats, whether they roam outdoors or stay inside, as cats love to experience new aromas.

The scents associated with nature, your work, or your car will enthrall a cat.

Territory and Ownership

Your cat may be trying to claim your clothing as its property. Felines operate a finders-keepers policy so, if they see something new and interesting, they’ll quickly claim it as their own.

You may find a cat lying on your laptop, cellphone, or other items that you use regularly. This is your cat trying to claim the object for itself, so it may be pleading for additional one-on-one attention.

Visual Appeal

Cats are drawn to small spaces and different areas. If you leave a garment of clothing on a bed, your cat will make a beeline for it. Newness and novelty create interest and excitement for a cat.

Test this theory by leaving a sheet of plain white paper on a large, colored carpet. Almost all cats will immediately wander over and sit on this paper as they’re instinctively drawn to differences in their surroundings.

If your dirty laundry is in a pile, your cat will sit atop it. If your clothes are strewn around the floor or bed, your cat will choose a resting place.

Often, this decision will be based on scent and color. As per the Journal of Physiology, cats see blue and green shades clearer than other colors.

Why Does My Cat Lie on My Shoes?

In addition to clothing, many cats like to lie on shoes. These may be shoes you have been wearing all day or a pair of slippers, and cats will always be drawn to footwear worn frequently.

Your shoes carry a distinct aroma that you likely can’t detect. Remember, your cat’s nose is sharper than your own.

You need to consider your cat’s size. A cat spends most of its time on the ground, close to your feet, which means your lower appendages carry the most familiar scent of all.

Your cat understands how important shoes are to you. Cats observe their owners constantly, so your cat will acknowledge that you cannot leave home without shoes. By lying on them, it’s keeping you at home.

If a cat is reluctant to let you out of its sight, it usually lacks routine. The cat may also be lonely, nervous, or skittish.

why does my cat sleep in my laundry basket?

My Cat Soils My Dirty Clothes

Sometimes, a cat lying on clothes can have unwelcome side effects. The scent of your cat, or any fur it sheds, should not be a concern. These garments will have to be washed anyway. Unfortunately, some cats will urinate on clothing.

If your cat’s litter has not been changed, waste will become trapped in a cat’s paws. Inevitably, your cat will tread this through the home. If your cat locates your clothing, it may knead and bunch it up. If traces of feces remain trapped in the paws, this will mark your clothes.

Perhaps your cat was acting deliberately as soiling the bed is a common sign of separation anxiety. If your clothes were on the bed, the cat might have marked them.

If this is the case, you need to work on the human-feline bond. You need your cat to understand that its needs will be met. If the cat is lonely, it likely needs some company during the day.

Another explanation is a display of dominance. Some cats will go to the toilet on your possessions, including clothing, to claim ownership.

Keeping a Cat Off Clothes

There is usually nothing to worry about when a cat lies on dirty clothing, except if the clothing contains anything harmful. For example, you may have gasoline and oil on your clothes, which can be toxic if ingested.

If so, you need to prevent your cat from lying on your clothes due to the risks posed. As discussed, your cat may also be soiling them. Alternatively, a cat’s claws may be causing unintentional damage to the fabric.

The easiest way to stop cats lying on your clothing is to keep it in a laundry basket with a lid to restrict access. If your floor doubles as a wardrobe, cats have no reason to assume that clothes are off-limits.

There’s rarely any harm that comes from your cat lying on dirty clothes. If your cat is not damaging your clothing with its claws or soiling them, just let it happen. It’s merely taking comfort from your scent and enjoying the warmth.

Photo of author

Richard Parker

I'm Richard, the lead writer for Senior Cat Wellness. I'm experienced in all cat health-related matters, behavioral issues, grooming techniques, and general pet care. I'm a proud owner of 5 adult cats (all adopted strays), including a senior cat who is now 20.

Leave a Comment