Cats and Clothes Dryers

It’s a recipe for disaster. Too many felines have been locked in.


There are no statistics on how many cats have ended up in clothes dryers unbeknownst to their owners, but if you google “cats and clothes dryers” pages of listings will come up that detail injuries and deaths to feline pets who were accidentally tumbled with the laundry.

It’s understandable that cats would want to cozy up in a clothes dryer. It’s small, tight, and dark — the perfect hiding spot. And if some warm, fluffed laundry happens to be in there, so much the better.

A cat will often sneak in when his owner carries away some, but not all of the laundry, leaving the door open. The owner then comes back and, not realizing the cat is inside, closes and locks the door for some more drying. The unfortunate irony is that heatstroke is very uncommon in cats. It usually is associated only with a cat being trapped in a dryer that is turned on. Cats suffer not only burns but also broken bones and internal injuries from all the uncontrollable jostling. Of course, if they’re left in an operating dryer for too long, their body temperature rises too much and they die. With that in mind:

  • Don’t keep your cat’s litter box in the laundry room, and restrict access to the laundry room in general, if possible.
  • Make sure your dryer door is always tightly closed before you walk away from it.
  • Always check the dryer before turning it on.
  • Be certain that all family members who do laundry are aware of the rules.

“These all seem like common sense things to do,” says Lindsey Wolko, founder of the Reston, Virginia-based Center for Pet Safety, “but we’re so busy doing chores that sometimes we forget to monitor our pets.”

Other dangerous “hot” spots

While you’re making sure your clothes dryer doesn’t contain the cat, check the washing machine, too. Although tragic accidents for cats are not as common in that appliance, they do happen. The Canadian Veterinary Journal reported on two cases of entrapment in washers. In one, an 8-year-old Himalayan recovered after being removed from the washing machine where she was agitating with the laundry for just one minute.

In the other, a 3-month-old kitten was stuck in a front-loader for an estimated 5 to 10 minutes on the hot cycle before she was discovered. Suffering from aspiration pneumonia and head trauma, she did not make it despite supportive care at the University of Saskatchewan’s Small Animal Veterinary Teaching Hospital. Cats caught in washing machines can also die from drowning.

One other place cats should be kept out of besides the laundry room is the garage. They may make their way under the hood — another cozy spot — and hide out by the engine, not being discovered until the car has been turned on and it’s too late to save them. Garages also often contain anti-freeze, which tastes good to cats but is poisonous to them.


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