Why Do Cats Roll in Dirty Clothes?

You look over one day to see your cat rolling in dirty clothes. A few days later, you see him doing the same thing.

Why do cats roll in dirty clothes? Cats are especially attracted to the scent of their favorite humans. They also want to mingle their own scent with the dirty clothes because it creates a group scent. Group scent provides social comfort. Many times, they will even groom and rub up against other cats to create group scent.

If you’d like to learn more about why cats roll in dirty laundry, keep reading because we will cover group scent and other things that may be attracting your cat to your dirty clothes.

Creating Group Scent in Your Dirty Clothes

Cats depend on scent more than all the other senses combined. The chief purpose behind rolling in dirty clothes is establishing group scent.

Think of group scent as a combined scent. We have our own individual scent, but we have a group identification scent. Cats want to feel like they belong to a group, which explains why they roll in dirty clothes.

When cats do this, they want to identify who belongs to specific groups. While the human nose can’t detect group scent, cats actively smell it and try to create it. You could call this group scent or communal scent. Communal scent announces your relationship to the cat to other cats.

A cat that can establish this will feel more confident in himself and less prone to negative behavior.

It Smells Like You

A cat will roll in dirty clothes because it smells like you. You can’t fool the nose of your cat easily. Spray on cologne, perfume or deodorant, and your cat will smell right past it. It might confuse him at first, but he’ll learn fast. They know that isn’t your true smell. The dirty laundry holds more of your true scent, which draws them to it.

Be aware of spraying strong perfumes or colognes because if you can smell it, your cat smells it even more. Cats even have a sensitivity to respiratory effects when they breathe in perfume.

Spreading His Scent

Your cat also chooses to roll in dirty clothes because it spreads his own scent around. Whenever cats roll around on something, such as rolling in dirt or in laundry, they do this because they want to claim it as part of their territory. They own this space.

The same goes for your dirty clothes.

A cat that feels confident in his own space will display better behavior, such as less meowing, no urine marking and less aggression. You want to leave him with openings for expressing this natural instinct harmlessly, or he could take to spraying and other territory-marking habits.

Your Cats Misses You?

Cats experience the world through their sense of smell. This means that if he misses you, he will head over to your clothes pile and roll in them. To your cat, this serves as the next best thing to cuddling with you when you’re not around.

Of course, in these cases, he does this, and you probably don’t see it.

Depending on the cat, some cats show no sign of separation anxiety, but other cats act offended and pretend like you don’t exist when you return.

Your cat may roll in dirty clothes at times to say that you haven’t spent enough time with him and he misses you.

Feels Like a Nest

In some cases, your cat may like to roll in dirty clothes because it resembles a nest. He may roll in them and fall asleep. In the wild, feral cats sleep in communal nests. Sometimes domestic cats will make nests out of cardboard boxes.

Ever seen a cat knead? Cats perform this action in such a manner as to soften out the materials. Keep in mind, kneading for nesting differs from when a cat does this out of joy. Their claws are usually out in a specific way when kneading for a nest.

If you’re curious about what a wild cat nest looks like, check out this video:

This can give you clues as to why cats might roll in dirty clothes while thinking of them as a type of nest. The leaves on the ground help to make it a more comfortable bedding material.

Warm and Relaxing

Cats, creatures that originally inhabited the desert, may like rolling in your dirty clothes because they feel warm and comfy. Like a nest, your cat feels relaxed on top of the dirty clothes, and it has one of his favorite smells—you. Rarely will this ever prove problematic. However, beware of substances on your clothes that may be toxic to cats.

He Likes to Play in Your Dirty Clothes

Your cat may roll around in dirty clothes for the simple fact that he likes to play in them. Piles of clothes are rich in the tactile sense, and your cat may enjoy this feeling on his back as he rolls around. Likely, this isn’t the main reason behind it, but it may explain one of the lesser reasons.

To give you an example of rich in the tactile sense, your pile of dirty clothes may have a cotton T-shirt, jeans and leather pants. This feels interesting to his paws and his body as he rolls around on them. The familiar scent in the clothes is an added bonus.

He’s Finding a Comfortable Position for Sleep

Your cat may roll around as a way of finding the perfect sleeping position before a good nap. Whether clean clothes or dirty clothes, cats love to sleep on a clothes pile. They love them. His rolling may act as a way that he can get comfortable before sleep.

Cats sleep an estimated 20 hours per day. With that said, cats can’t sleep just anywhere. It must be in a comfortable, safe and familiar place. Sleeping in the dirty clothes gives him a sense of familiar, and he enjoys it because it smells like his owner.

Doing Detective Work

Believe it or not, your cat may wonder about your whereabouts. He can use the scents in your clothes to learn if you have seen other cast or where you might have gone to. As any cat owner who took home another kitty found out, cats have a jealous side.

Fascination with Your Dirty Clothes

While this may sound hilarious, your cat may roll in dirty clothes because he feels fascinated with them. Especially sheltered indoor cats, your clothes will contain scents from the outside world that fascinate him. He can experience new aromas in your laundry that he has never smelled before.

Cats love to experience new scents, and anything associated with work, nature, the mall or a restaurant will thrill your cat at the chance to explore. Not only that, but these scents may change from time to time, so it offers him an interesting chance to experience new things.

Should You Keep Your Cat from Rolling in Your Clothes?

Unless your cat goes over to your clothes and proceeds to use them as his litterbox, your cat rolling in them won’t cause an issue. It gives him a sense of ownership.

If you dislike your cat rolling on your clothes, however, you might put them in a laundry hamper to keep kitty away from them. For someone who doesn’t have a hamper, you might consider the Cartoon Cats Kitten Laundry Hamper Basket Bucket.

Kittens and Your Dirty Clothes

We spoke on cats in general, but kittens may especially love rolling in your clothes. One, they do it because it’s fun, and two, your familiar scent provides them with a sense of security and comfort. For kittens or cats with separation anxiety, you might leave out dirty clothes as a comfort. Your kitten will feel like you’re there even when you’re not.

Why does my cat love dirty laundry? Dirty laundry has many scents, which fascinate your cat. Cats experience life through one of their most powerful senses—their sense of smell. Dirty laundry may also contain scents from the outside world, which fascinates your cat. They love new smells, such as the inside of a car or your work.

Why is my cat rolling in my clothes? Your cat’s heightened sense of smell may lead him straight to your laundry. He rolls in them as a sense of ownership and contributing to the group scent. Your familiar scent also provides a sense of comfort, and he likes to combine his scent with yours.


Hopefully, this thoroughly explains why your cat would love to roll in a pile of dirty clothes. He may have many reasons that he finds it so interesting, but it ultimately comes down to his keen sense of smell and adding his scent to yours.

I’ve also written on other subjects about cats and rolling around on things. It’s a fascinating subject, believe it or not—their reasons for rolling on different things. For example, if you’d like to learn more about why your cat rolls over and shows its belly, click here. If, on the other hand, you want to know how to stop cats from rolling in poop, click here.

I’ve put together a great collection on this that can answer all your questions.

2 thoughts on “Why Do Cats Roll in Dirty Clothes?”

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