We all snicker at the images and videos of cats prying the bathroom door open or perching inside pants gathered around the ankles of the wearer when they are on the “john”.
The answer to this question may lie in who cats really are instinctively. Your cat is a predator driven by the instincts of a hunter. But because of her size, she knows that she could also be prey. As her guardian or parent substitute, she may feel vulnerable in your absence.
Cats are “micro-managers”. Everyone knows that curiosity killed the cat and when you slip into a room and always close the door, you are doing something mysterious. Your home is your cat’s territory and the bathroom is within the boundary of his sphere of influence. How dare you shut him away from his own territory? You might be hoarding resources or making friends with other cats. He can only know if he checks.
Animals must place value on resources in order to prioritize their actions. High value resources are ones that are immediately desired and strong enough to motivate an action. Animal behaviorists utilize this trait to motivate animals for training purposes, using reward systems. When there is competition for a resource, its value increases. That is what you do every time you close the bathroom door. You elevate the value of the space by choosing it for yourself and denying her access.
Vulnerability, curiosity and resource value can all be explanations, but really, everyone with a cat knows the real answer. Cats are contrarians. It is in their DNA to want what they cannot have. Let a cat in and he wants out. Fill his bowl and he is quickly bored, but let it become even partly empty and get ready to hear about it. It is a “cat thing” and we love them for their silly and fun antics. The next time you go to the “reading room”, you can ponder which of these reasons is why your cat is knocking at the door!