Some cats like the smell of bleach even though generally cats dislike the smell of cleaning chemicals. Some cats get high on the smell of bleach as if it is catnip. There appears to be no chemical link between the chemical in catnip (4aα,7α,7aα-Nepetalactone) and the usual chemical which we call bleach (sodium hypochlorite). Although there are other types of bleach.
We don’t know precisely why, at a chemical and biological level, catnip causes about 80 percent of cats to respond as they do. We know they get on high on it. A cat is predisposed to being affected by these chemicals through genetic inheritance.
Both bleach and catnip can be described as cat attractants. The attraction is via the cat’s sense of smell. Clearly there is something in the volatile chemicals of both these attractants which tweaks the cat’s brain.
One suggestion is that the volatile chemicals enter the cat’s nasal tissue where it stimulates sensory neurons (nerves that are switched on by the chemical). These neurons cause a response in the olfactory bulb which in turn sends signals to parts of the brain including the hypothalamus which is the master gland and which regulates hormonal responses via the pituitary gland creating a “sexual response”. The cat is reacting to an artificial cat pheromone. The cat’s behavior has the appearance of a cat in heat which bemuses me because male cats do not go into heat but are affected by these chemicals.
Another possibility is that the sodium hyprochlorite reacts with organic material to release volatile compounds that then affect the cat as a pheromone would.
The video maker writes:
So this is what happens when my cat Kisa decides to like the smell of bleach a little too much XD.
I can’t add much more than that. I am implying that the cat’s behaviour on smelling bleach has sexual connotations. Catnip does not affect kittens until they begin to reach sexual maturity. This reinforces the idea that this is a artificial sexual response. But this may be incorrect.
Certainly more research is required on this topic. The excellent books on cat behaviour that I possess do not help at all.
I’d love it if someone can (a) correct me! and (b) provide the ultimate reason as to why their cat likes bleach. My cat has never given me the impression that he likes bleach. Be careful with bleach as it is a caustic substance which could hurt your cat.
P.S. It seems that the feline attraction to bleach is not due to a dietary deficiency. It is possible that a cat might lick dilute bleach if it is on the floor during cleaning. This may be hazardous. Some cats will roll around on a floor which has just been cleaned with bleach. This is safe and confirms the attraction of the smell of sodium hypochlorite. And some cats like fruit for the same reason (it’s been washed with dilute bleach I suppose).
Note: This article was first published about 2 years ago and has been republished because (a) I have run out of things to say today and (b) it has been updated.