Why does my cat love my panties?
June 29, 2012 2:31 PM   Subscribe

Is my pee made of cat nip? Why does my cat go crazy rolling around in my dirty underwear?

My male cat seems to be intoxicated by the odor of my dirty underwear. If I leave a pair on the floor, he will roll around in it, lick it, rub his face in it, fall asleep on it. Basically, he acts like a cat high on catnip in the presence of my panties. I am female btw. Only my male cat does this. My female cat who I am less close to is uninterested in my undergarments. Any idea what this is beyond cats are weird?
posted by anonymous to Pets & Animals (37 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
My parents had a female cat who used to do that in my brother's dirty underwear and sweaty t-shirts. The laundry basket was her idea of heaven. I don't have an explanation either, but my theory was perhaps certain human pheromones are similar to cat ones?
posted by KateViolet at 2:35 PM on June 29, 2012

I don't know, but (as an additional data point) my female dog loooooooves to roll around in dirty underwear.
posted by insectosaurus at 2:36 PM on June 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Our cats just love our dirty (and clean?) clothes in general. I think it just smells super safe? Like family? Which I realize sounds crazy but cats do bond and have family groups.
posted by Medieval Maven at 2:37 PM on June 29, 2012

MedMav is onto something there, my kitties NEVER miss out on helping me sort the dirty laundry and fold the clean. NEVER. (also cats just like stinky stuff)
posted by supermedusa at 2:50 PM on June 29, 2012

sigh. ok here goes. i'm going to say it on the internet. My (male) dog LOVES LOVES LOVES to eat my dirty underwear. My (male) cat loves to sit in the dirty laundry in general.
posted by magnetsphere at 2:50 PM on June 29, 2012 [5 favorites]

My male cat does this with men's shoes. I think it is just a mystery.
posted by jinjo at 2:58 PM on June 29, 2012

Our feline frequent houseguest (RIP Bubbie) became physically affectionate whenever, and only when, I came home all sweaty. The late Lute on the other hand was a connoisseur of mildew, who guarded his mildewy armchair from all intruders, and once cavorted for a good 40 minutes in a bathtub of mildewed photographs. So it's not necessarily human-related. Perhaps cats enjoy complex scents for the same reasons humans enjoy sniffing coffee, playing fast video games, or reading epics.
posted by feral_goldfish at 3:09 PM on June 29, 2012 [6 favorites]

I had a cat who adored my husband's stinky shoes. Like "get a room" kind of love. His work boots were the best, he'd put his face inside and sort of scoot around the room in a boot-wrestling tangle of lovin'. I currently have a cat who loves nothing more than a pile of dirty laundry for napping.
posted by upatree at 3:09 PM on June 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

Malcolm loves to loll around on my bras, shoes, and pretty much anything with my scent on it. He can't get enough.

Both cats enjoy bathroom time. It's very social. We sing songs, drink from the sink, rub ourselves all over everything, good times!

Now if someone could solve the mystery of why the cats love to be on the bed when you make the bed...well, that there would be something.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 3:13 PM on June 29, 2012 [10 favorites]

Response by poster: One of my cats has a thing for my boyfriend's workout clothes. Cats like smells, and that's a pretty strong source.
posted by Anonymous at 3:14 PM on June 29, 2012

Cats don't have a dog's or bear's sense of smell, but theirs is nonetheless a whole lot better than ours. And few things about you smell more of you than your underwear. (Also, I know you jest, but I doubt very much that your underwear primarily smells of pee.)

I think this is one reason dogs are always putting their muzzles in people's crotches and each other's underparts.

Our male cat loves to roll in shoes shortly after they come off. Pretty clearly he likes the ability, essentially, to roll in our aroma.
posted by bearwife at 3:16 PM on June 29, 2012

Cats are weird.

I had a cat who would eat sour cream and onion potato chips. But more funny (and I've never admitted this to anyone before) was that she loved the bag they came in. She wanted to snuggle it with her face very close to the open top.

Armpits have also been popular with previous cats of mine. The sweatier the better it seemed. And currently there is a kitten that seems to enjoy nothing more than watching (really watching) me pee. While she is perched behind me on the toilet seat.

I do not profess to understand, only to commiserate with you that there is very little in the way of 'normal' when cat behavior is in question.
Actually. This is not entirely true. Cats sniff each others buys as a way to say hi. Also to get information. Are you sick? Are you eating well? Etc. Cats cannot usually reach our butts, and I am thankful for that.

I understand that a photo of th cat in question is not possible, and so have pretended that you supplied a few.
posted by bilabial at 3:24 PM on June 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

O.K. i'm gona through this one out there. When I have my menstral cycle, My cats go into labor or go into heat ! They love My shoes, and when it becomes that time of month, there more curious that ever, following me into the bathroom, etc...
posted by brittaincrowe at 3:24 PM on June 29, 2012

One of my cats likes to sniff eyeballs. She preferred the smell of a former boyfriend's eyeballs to mine.
posted by IwishIwasFordMaddoxFord at 3:27 PM on June 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

Cats are smell freaks. As in, their brains are *hugely* oriented to respond to olfactory stimuli. That's why they go bonkers over catnip...the oils from the leaves trigger some kind of WHOOOAH response in their brains. Humans don't have that kind of wiring so it seems weird to us that a smell could have that big of an effect, but if you're a cat it's pretty straightforward.

And while catnip is the most common thing that does this, many cats I've met have other favorite smells.

Shadow, one of my male cats, has a bleach fetish. I have to shut the door if I've just cleaned the bathtub otherwise he will go and roll around in it and cover himself with the residue. Same cat is also similarly enamored with rubber...I caught him on the couch once snogging the head of a rubber mallet, and when I've taken him out on the back patio for fresh air he's often gone over and ecstatically greeted my bicycle tires.

Meanwhile, his sister Cora is an armpit fan. She will crawl up and stick her head in my and my partner's pits if she can manage it. I've never presented dirty laundry to any of them but it wouldn't surprise me if someone had a reaction, as sweaty human clothes are probably chock full of interesting and fabulous pheromones.
posted by aecorwin at 3:54 PM on June 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

As a guy I have always been amused by the fact that one of our female cats loves to snuggle in piles of my dirty shirts. My wife insists the scent is comforting to.the cat and makes her feel safe.
posted by Telpethoron at 4:19 PM on June 29, 2012

That would be Uninhibited Love.

Animals are weird. And don't kid yourself, we are animals too. I bet you would not have to look to hard to find people, who if they felt completely safe and loved and comfortable, they would enjoy rolling in dirty underwear too.

Your cat really likes you. He wants to have the smell of your butt all over him, and he does not care if you not, because he is at peace with himself and your relationship.
posted by Flood at 4:24 PM on June 29, 2012 [16 favorites]

Cats (and dogs) love stinky things that smell like their human minions (huminions?). In high school a friend of mine's mom had a cat who was known throughout our social circle as Ball Sniffer. For example.
posted by elizardbits at 4:48 PM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just be careful. My cat loved the smell of my gym bag, but it also sent a very strong YOU MUST URINATE HERE message.
posted by JoeZydeco at 4:57 PM on June 29, 2012

You and me both, buddy.
posted by c'mon sea legs at 5:14 PM on June 29, 2012

My wife wears little silicone thingies in her running shoes to separate her bunion toes. One of our cats thinks that these things are the greatest things of all time. She pulls them out of the shoes, off the shelves we've used, etc. She even learned to open the little cabinet to get at them. We have to put them way up high. I always figured it was a texture/salt thing, since she carries them around making the same "purr-ow" sound she makes when she's trying to bring a dead bird in.

Another (anec)data point: when I was a kid, I had a friend who had cats. One of them used to pull laundry out of the basket, but only towels. He'd drag the towel out into the an area where he had some room, and then proceed to twist it into a towel rope sort of affair. Then, holding the end of the towel in his mouth, he'd straddle the twisted towel and start making humping motions while yowling. They kept finding towels everywhere twisted up the same way, but finally caught him in the act. I didn't believe it either until I witnessed it myself.

So, yeah, cats* are just plain bonkers.

* Make that animals in general. I have a relative with a chihuahua that craps on the wall or other nearby vertical surface, so go figure.
posted by jquinby at 6:27 PM on June 29, 2012

Yeah, my Mister won't react to catnip at all, but anything latex will have him rolling around ecstatically.

Cats are, indeed, weird.
posted by patheral at 6:49 PM on June 29, 2012

Pets are scent junkies, and if they like you, then that means they really like things that smell like you. They don't have the same good/bad associations that we do with smell (OMG YAY CARRION LET'S ROLL IN IT AND THEN EAT IT) so this leads to... weird behavior.

Now, anecdata time, and also Oh God Why Am I Telling The Internet This, and also also dogs not cats, so possibly useless, but. In my experience male dogs seem more interested in the scents and effluvia of women. I really don't know why. I had to rig up a Rube Goldberg machine to keep a dog of mine out of the used period waste. He was mad for it, you'd think I bled meth. Another friend's male dog is constantly getting into her worn underwear. Never the new/clean stuff. I vaguely recall a third friend having a similar pad problem with her male dog, which made puberty for her and her sister a bit catastrophic.

Two of the three dogs involved were neutered, so that's not it. I have no idea what it is - maybe they dig the blood taste/smell, maybe they feel they need to hide the evidence. Never had a female dog react like that, intact or spayed.

Pets like smelly things. And they like us. I figure it's not all that different from liking the smell of your significant other's shirts, just to a lesser degree, because our brains and noses are wired differently.
posted by cmyk at 7:00 PM on June 29, 2012

I've also found that certain cats have affinities to specific body humors. My cat looves dirty t-shirt underarms. He has a favorite shirt and he steals it whenever I toss it to the hamper. He doesn't care for any other scents, other than catnip.
I've known cats who love to lick sweaty feet, or to breathe deeply into still warm shoes. And yes, a cat that loved dirty panties.
posted by clearlydemon at 7:04 PM on June 29, 2012

I'm a vet, and panties are one of the most common things I have to go in to surgically remove. Cats are weird. I've heard colleagues say that it is due to a pheromone thing, or another said its about a salt craving, but I think they're both just guessing.

(Most awkward moment ever, giving the offending panties back to the middle aged couple, to have the wife say, "those are NOT mine". Yikes. Now the woman changed her last name and comes in alone.)
posted by Nickel Pickle at 7:45 PM on June 29, 2012 [38 favorites]

Sora, our male cat, loves stinky sponges and dirty washrags.
posted by telophase at 8:24 PM on June 29, 2012

When I was a kid, my dad played racquetball, and our already weird male cat went crazy for his very sweaty workout clothes. He would roll around in them and make noises like a female cat in heat. I miss that fatty.
posted by peep at 8:48 PM on June 29, 2012

I've got one that's got a shoe/sock/foot fetish and one that loves armpits. Cats are weird.
posted by MsMolly at 8:52 PM on June 29, 2012

Another male cat who loves sweaty workout clothes. Lie on side, grab workout shirt with paws, rub all over face, bunnykick, loll.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:55 PM on June 29, 2012

I have a male cat who does the same thing with my underwear. He also gets insanely jealous when my husband and I do our special spousey things. Yowly, bitey, trying to separate us jealous. I try not to think too hard about what this means.
posted by SakuraK at 8:56 PM on June 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

I read some of this thread to my husband and he thought I should add that one of our cats will climb furniture, dig through his pockets, whatever she has to do to find one of his used ear plugs (honestly, I would prefer he just throw them away already). When she gets one, she throws it in the air, hides it in shoes so she can "find" it in total surprise five seconds later. She carries them around in her mouth, trotting up and down the hall like she caught a rat or something, so proud of herself. She will hold one of those tiny things between her front paws and rub it all over her face. So so weird. Her most favorite thing ever, though, is ponies. She steals them from my daughter and engages them in mortal combat to the death of them.
posted by upatree at 9:03 PM on June 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


'Purr-ow' is usually feline for 'come check out this really, really cool thing I found!' Mr. Heavy used to make the noise while sniffing/rolling in the millipede corpses that occasionally appeared by our front door.
posted by Kibby at 9:07 PM on June 29, 2012

I currently have a pile of hockey gear in my room and my roommate's cats LOVE it. They don't really care either way about me, but my hockey equipment smells awesome, apparently.

I think it's because cats are weird.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 10:18 PM on June 29, 2012

Cats love to smell the essence of their beloved human. For them it is Eau de femme adorée (women-humans) and Eau d'homme aimé (men-humans). It's concentrated you, so much better than just rubbing up against a leg or hand.

Now if someone could solve the mystery of why the cats love to be on the bed when you make the bed...well, that there would be something.

posted by fraula at 3:38 AM on June 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Mod note: From the OP:
Here is a picture of the underwear loving cat
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 2:51 PM on June 30, 2012 [5 favorites]

my (male) cat does this too. fa-REAK! female cat does no such thing.
posted by FlyByDay at 12:05 PM on July 1, 2012

Yeah, I have had cats that adore stinky human clothes and other smelly things. The strangest one was a cat we had who hated, HATED our housemate's the dogs - she hissed whenever they came near her and used to sit on top of chairs so she could swipe her claws at their backs as they ran past - but she loved rolling around ecstatically in the stinky dog beds full of stinky dog fur, rubbing her head all over it. Cats, eh.
posted by andraste at 11:04 PM on July 1, 2012

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