Cat in the Bathroom

Q: Our cats will not leave us alone — they are always following us into the bathroom and watching us while we do our business or take a shower. Even if we close the door, there’s always a paw stuck beneath it, attached to a cat wondering if he can slide beneath the door. Cats are supposed to be such private animals, but aren’t we humans entitled to a little privacy as well?

A: I’m pretty sure that cats are governed by a constitution, just like we are. And its first amendment, rather than guaranteeing freedom of speech, press and religion, protects their right to privacy. Theirs, not yours.

We all know that cats treasure their right to walk alone, eat alone, poop alone. That’s why they love climbing into boxes, cabinets and paper bags.

Privacy, Please (but Only for Your Cat)

With the exception of lions, who live in groups called prides, the various cat species tend to be solitary creatures. Their fathers are traveling men, gone before they’re born. Their mothers teach kittens or cubs all they can about hunting, hiding and surviving, and then send them on their way. Those lessons in survival depend heavily on the ability to hide themselves and any signs of their presence.

Leopards drag their kills into trees, so they can dine in solitary — and safe — splendor, free of the attentions of lions or hyenas who might want to horn in on their meal. Cheetahs are vulnerable when they eat, too. Even the biggest of cats, the lions and tigers, don’t want to share their meals with uninvited guests — at least not until they’ve had all the best bits themselves.

Our domestic cats have the teeth and claws and spirit of predators, but their small size — relative to their big cat cousins — makes them prey as well. They are happiest when they can eat separately from one another, even if they are pals. Feeding cats separately — with their own bowls and even, sometimes, their own rooms — helps them to feel comfortable that no other animal is going to steal their food.

The feline desire for privacy also comes into play during urination and defecation. I mean, how much more vulnerable can you be? Cats seek out private areas to do their business. They look for places where no one can sneak up on them and where they can bury their feces to hide any sign that they were there.

You can see why placement of a cat’s litterbox is such an art. It can’t just be plopped down in any old out-of-the-way spot that’s convenient for you. The area has to be attractive to the cat as well. Think easily accessible, easy to escape from and not near anything that might startle the cat. In other words, if you’re going to put it in the laundry room, be sure you can silence the buzzers alerting you that a load is done, or your cat won’t want to drop a load in his box.

The bad news for you is that the feline constitution doesn’t protect your right to privacy. Cats always want to know what’s going on in their territory, and they probably want to make sure you don’t do anything that might attract predators. So I’m afraid the answer to your question is no. Where cats are concerned, the right to privacy goes only one way. Theirs.

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