A bit of a story that happened a few months ago, before I ask my question with more detail:

I used to have a 2-month old kitten which me and my mum received from a school friend of mine (her older cat wasn't getting on with the kitten) sometime ago. We used to have cats long before I turned 10, but never really had to go through traumatizing experiences because the house back then was safe. So I moved to England, and moved into a new house which needed some maintenance. We were prepared to welcome in our new cat, trying to minimize the risks of our new kitten getting hurt as much as possible. After like 5 weeks of our kitten settling in, on an ordinary day, I came back home from work experience. After talking for a few minutes with my mum in the kitchen, she went to prepare the laundry for the washing machine. I went upstairs, thinking that my kitten would be playing with toys in my room. We couldn't see her for over 10 minutes which was worrying, seeing that she has a habit of stalking us. We looked into every corner, deeply worried, and then I looked at the washing machine glass door, only to notice that the kitten was spinning inside. I cried instantly, getting my mum over to the kitchen. We had no way of going into the washing machine unless we waited for the water to get sucked out. When we finally got her out, she was shaking and her belly was full of water (lungs were filled with washing chemicals as well). This was the first time we came across such a situation and we didn't know what to do. We held her upside down hoping to get some water out of her, but we didn't know whether this was painful for her. She had let go off her feces which was a sign her body was giving up. Pink liquid was coming out of her eyes, but she was still breathing (struggling, for that matter). I searched the closest vet on my phone and called several times to make sure I know where I am going. The closest vet was down the street I live at, but it was a considerably long distance. I am not especially not good at running, and my mum is too old to run, so I ran with the transporter and phone in my hands panicking like crazy. My mum said she'd follow me shortly. The kitten was taken in by the vet and they checked her situation. When my mum came, the vet announced that she had really low chances because of the water and chemicals in her lungs. The vet inserted drugs as a final method, and told us to go home instead of worrying and waiting. One hour after we got home, we were informed that she stopped breathing.

Now, ever since then, we couldn't forgive ourselves for our carelessness, my mum's friend managed to convince us that the pain and emptiness in the house can be defeated most easily through adopting two cats. And so we adopted two cats after a few days. My mum was hard to convince since she knew she was responsible, but anyway.

We tried really hard up until now to train them to not walk around dangerous things, such as the washing machine or the opening entrance door which is going fine at the moment. (We live near the main road with open staircase)

But, in a case this misfortune happens again, what can we do? Be it if one of the cats is stuck in the machine and we want to get her out as quick as possible... Or when we pull her out and try to get the water out of her lungs?

I'm looking forward to any advice and tips. Thanks in advance.

4 Answers 4


I'm sorry to hear about your experience, but my suggestion to you is, never leave possible risk areas unattended, and always double check, my cat really likes getting into the dryer once its done (cause its warm) we allow it, but we always double check when leaving to make sure she isn't there anymore(sometimes she just falls asleep there) also we always keep our laundry and dryer machine behind closed doors, inaccessible to the cat when we cannot supervise the area. So it's not about what to do when it happens but what to do so it won't happen.

  • Always doublecheck
  • Keep the area out of reach from them (close lids, doors)
  • Call the cat, or make annoying sounds around the area, if the cat is there it'll drive it away

One thing all washing machines have in common is that they need electricity. In a desperate time I would have tried to pull the power cord to stop the machine. Once the machine had stopped I would have broken the door open. This would ofcourse be expensive, but so is taken a dying kitten to the vet and then losing it.

  • Good point. Most machines are designed to latch only whole powered.
    – keshlam
    Commented May 20, 2016 at 12:33

This is too sad. Cats are explorers and, as a consequence, prone to accidents.

I am not great at first aid, but I want to recommend cat repellents. It is known that cats find some smells repulsive; as to which smells, that may be individual, but also easy to find out. Both of my cats, for example, detest the essential oils from citrus peel. We found out accidentally when trying to caress cat after peeling oranges. Here are some recipes for homemade repellents. Using repellents around areas where cat is not welcome may have immediate effect and may also help to teach cat to avoid that area. Not foolproof, so do not rely on that alone, even if it seems to work.

Apart from that, in the particular case of the washing machine, keeping the door closed at all times would solve the problem (but may be unrecommended by the manufacturer). Also, some washing machines do allow an emergency open; this dangerous and counter-intuitive operation is usually described in the manual and differs from type to type (not recommended by manufacturer, either, of course).

We own a recliner, and while our kitty was small, it would occasionally climb inside the construction and just sit there. We were scared to use the recliner as it would surely smash the kitty if used (i.e., reclined). So we adopted a simple protocol: while using the recliner, we needed to see the cat sitting safely outside.

  • 3
    NOTE Some cats are "immune" to these repellents, I know cause my cat won't be bothered by any repellent/odor we try to impose. She has good smell sense, she is just not bothered by anything. And I had the same issue with a recliner, what we did is we set up a really nice "cat fortress" in the same room as the recliner, It was far more attractive to the cat, since it had hiding and high areas.
    – Just Do It
    Commented Nov 30, 2015 at 17:02
  • +1 for the emergency open mechanism!! It is always useful to know the mechanism, that one can remember it in emergency. My machine has it in a little door, where also the pipe for let manual the water out is. Commented Dec 20, 2020 at 12:00

Sadly a washing machine does not need to be on to kill a cat. They can sadly suffocate inside. Always be mindful and keep the door shut or put the machine out of the way from pets looking for parts of the home to curl up and go for a sleep. Warnings need to be on these machines about the dangers of suffocation to many pets lost and familys traumatised

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