Cats rely far more on their nose and ears than their eyesight. This means that cats use scent to recognize people and places. A cat’s smell is also a calling card. Many felines leave their scent on inanimate objects to mark their territory.
A cat with a twitching nose is perfectly normal. If your pet shows no interest in sniffing its environment, it’s far more concerning. We’ll now look more closely at why cats sniff everything.
- 1 Do Cats Have a Good Sense of Smell?
- 2 Why is My Cat Sniffing Me?
- 3 What Smells Do Cats Love?
- 4 What Smells Do Cats Hate?
Do Cats Have a Good Sense of Smell?
A cat’s nose is one of the most sensitive organs in their body. According to Cat’s International, felines have up to 40 times more scent receptors than humans. This means that cats obtain incredible amounts of information from smelling objects, people, and other animals.
This sense of smell makes up for other sensory shortfalls. Cats have comparatively poor eyesight, for example. Also, they cannot tell humans apart by sight. Your distinct aroma, however, sets you apart from anybody or anything else.
Your cat’s nose can cut through any artificial or temporary scents. It doesn’t matter if you’re wearing strong perfume, or have changed soap. The oils of your skin give off a distinct scent that is uniquely attributed to you.
How Far Can Cats Smell?
The distance that a cat can smell depends on many factors. Wind will always have a big impact. In blustery conditions, scents will be carried far and wide. If there’s nothing more than a gentle breeze in the air, a scent can easily vanish.
Additionally, a cat will pay particular attention to a smell that’s important to them. A housecat will easily be able to smell food from behind a closed door, for example.
Your pet will also smell you in such a circumstance. This is one of the reasons why your cat meows and claws at doors. They know you’re in there, no matter how quiet you’re being.
The smell of a female cat in heat will travel furthest to an unfixed male. Male cats can detect these pheromones from around 100 yards. This explains why you’ll find any number of unfamiliar cats on your doorstep during the breeding season.
On the plus side, your cat can also smell danger from a similar distance. If your cat is aware of an unfriendly feline neighbor, they’ll be able to avoid them.
How Do Cats Use Their Sense of Smell?
Felines use scent to identify something and determine whether it’s a threat. Cats detect pheromones within humans and other animals, and quickly realize whether they’re friend or foe.
This is why cats sniff each other upon meeting. After assessing the other feline’s body language, and receiving an invitation to do so, sniffing commences. If both cats are friendly, they’ll rub faces to transfer cent to one another.
Your cat will know if another cat has been in the area through scent. As felines are territorial, they claim anything they come into contact with as their own. This can become problematic if one of the cats in question has not been socialized.
The concept of sharing doesn’t come naturally to cats, and must be taught. Once a feral cat claims territory, they’ll guard it jealously and aggressively from wandering pets.
A cat marks its scent in various ways. Most often, they will rub their face or body on an object. However, urinating and spraying is also common. Your cat will pick up these aromas.
If it’s a familiar smell, a cat will consider adding their own. This is to mingle the scents, and suggest that the two felines are friendly. If it’s an unfamiliar odor. However, your cat will likely move on. A scent that your cat doesn’t recognize is the equivalent of a “private property” sign.
My Cat is Sniffing Everything All of a Sudden
Most cats will sniff anything that there nose encounters. It’s how they experience the world, after all. If your cat seems to be sniffing more than usual, however, there will be a reason.
Take furniture as an example. Cats are creatures of routine, and do not enjoy the change. If you move furniture, your cat will sniff the sofa to ensure it’s the same item.
If you have washed the cushions, your cat will wonder what happened to the familiar smell. As a result, your cat will likely rub their face and paws all over the furniture. This releases a scent, and sets your cat’s mind at rest. They have claimed this item as their own all over again.
You may also have a new arrival in the home. This can be very stressful to cats, until they come to terms with it. If you have a houseguest, or a new baby, your pet will be innately suspicious.
They’ll adapt eventually, but until such a time, their nose will be on high alert. The scents left behind by these infiltrators will be thoroughly investigated during this time.
Your cat may also have developed a new sense of adventure. If they have been outside, they will have been exposed to a new world of smells. They will now be testing to see if they can replicate the scent in the home.
This could be why your cat is sniffing your clothing. They now link certain smells with particular locations. Your cat will want to know if you’ve been visiting certain places without them.
You should check whether your cat’s other senses are failing. Felines rely very heavily on their sense of smell at the best of times. If they are struggling to see or hear, however, they’ll grow increasingly dependent on their nose. Have your cat seen by a vet if you think they are going blind or deaf.
Test if Your Cat is Losing Its Sight
- Shine a small torch in your cat’s eyes. If they don’t squint, look away or react, they clearly cannot see the light.
- Drop a small, light item such as a feather within your cat’s field of vision. If your cat sees this, hunting instincts will kick in, and they’ll attempt to catch it.
- Create a small, comparatively harmless obstacle course in a familiar room. If your cat cannot see, they’ll take their usual route from memory and bump into things.
- Place your cat on a surface slightly above floor level, and watch how they get down. If your cat is nervous, feeling the air with their feet, they’re likely unable to see.
It’s often a result of degeneration caused by old age, but sickness may be to blame. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a common explanation.
Test if Your Cat is Losing Its Hearing
- Hold a piece of paper above their head, and tear it suddenly. This will always get a reaction from a cat if they can hear.
- Remain out your cat’s field of vision, and make a hissing sound. This is the universal sound of danger for felines, and they should respond. However, if they can smell you, they may know it’s you and remains nonplussed.
- Make a light, jangling noise with a bunch of keys. Trying tapping on a cardboard box to test hearing at the lower frequency.
If your cat is sleeping deeply, that’s another sign of hearing loss. Felines are always on a state of high alert, even while dozing. If they do not rouse at any sound, it suggests that your cat is struggling to hear. As Pet Health Network explains, however, this may not be a permanent affliction.
These experiments are not failsafe. If you have any doubts at all, speak to a vet. Professionals will run formal tests, and provide an official diagnosis.
It’s not the end of the world if you cat loses their hearing or vision. With appropriate adjustments, they can still live a full and enriching life. As long as a cat still has their trusty nose, they can make their way around.
Why is My Cat Sniffing Me?
If your cat has taken to sniffing you, your body may be undergoing some changes. Some people believe that cats can smell illness in humans, though this remains unproven by science. Cats will gravitate toward sniffing certain parts o human anatomy for a reason.
Why Does My Cat My Cat Sniff My Face?
When you next observe your cat interacting with a feline friend, watch carefully. You’ll notice that the two animals sniff, and then rub, each other’s faces. This is a sign of affection between cats. They are mingling their scents, and confirming a bond.
When your cat sniffs your face, they are doing the same. Remember, your pet thinks that you’re another cat. This means that they’ll follow the same approach. Once they sniff, and confirm that your scent is associated with happiness and contentment, rubbing follows.
One exception may be if your cat is sniffing around your mouth. How is your oral health? Have you been experiencing any dental pain?
Your cat may be picking up on the subtle aromas of mouth ulcers or gum disease. It may be worth stepping up your tooth care routine, and checking your dental insurance.
Why Does My Cat My Cat Sniff My Ear?
Earwax is pretty unpleasant to humans, but for cats, it’s bizarrely appetizing. This because human earwax is filled with protein. This creates a very intense smell.
If your cat seems keen to keep sniffing your ears, you probably have a wax build-up. Even if you can’t see or feel it, your cat can smell it. This is likely if they start to lick your ear afterward.
Your cat will not be harmed by eating human earwax. Despite this, it’s not a habit that you should encourage. Keep your ears clean, and treat any sniffing as a sign to do so.
Why Does My Cat My Cat Sniff My Nose?
When it comes to the face, your nose is also the first thing that your cat will encounter. This means that they’ll gravitate toward sniffing this first, as a precaution.
Until they can be sure that your intentions are good, they won’t risk getting closer. A cat that is within range of your teeth could be bitten, after all.
If your cat sniffs your nose and then licks or rubs against it, you’re a lucky soul. This is a mark of feline approval, and suggests the cat considers you to be family.
Why Does My Cat My Cat Sniff My Feet?
Cat sniffing at the feet of their owners is easily explained. As our pets are typically based at foot-level, that’s the smell they associate most with us.
Once a cat memorizes the scent of your feet, they’ll always be able to smell you coming. Also, your cat likely finds that your shoes carry many fascinating aromas.
Wherever you have been, you will bring home a souvenir in the form of scent. Your cat will want to explore these scents in detail, and find out exactly what you’ve been doing without them.
Why Does My Cat My Cat Sniff My Hands?
If you’re looking to pet your cat, you should always wash your hands first. If you don’t, you may find that your pet is suspicious of any scent they carry.
This is especially likely to be the case if you have been handling other animals. Stroking the dog and then grabbing your cat is a quick way to lose some fingers.
Hands and fingers are a great way for a cat to capture a human’s scent, though. If you are meeting a cat for the first time, hold out a hand and let them sniff it. This way, the feline will be more willing to accept future petting.
What Smells Do Cats Love?
It’s no secret that catnip has an irresistible scent to felines. This plant is not the only smell that cats find tempting, though. BMC Veterinary Research has found that silver vine, Tatarian honeysuckle, and valerian root are equally enticing.
Lavender is also calming for cats, though it is toxic if ingested directly. Cats also love the aroma of chamomile, basil and olive oil. Your pet may even be attracted to fresh fruit due to the scent.
Cat tongues cannot taste sweetness, but that doesn’t make the smell less appealing. If you leave strawberries in your kitchen, you may find your cat rolling around in them.
A vase of freshly-cut flowers will also be enticing to your cat. This can be dangerous, however. Your pet may knock the vase over. As well as being messy, this may leave broken glass that can cut delicate paws. Some flowers are also toxic to felines.
What Smells Do Cats Hate?
With such potent noses, cats are always likely to encounter aromas they don’t care for. Citrus is the most common. Felines loathe the smell of lemon and lime. This makes the peel of these fruits impactful as cat repellents.
If a neighbor’s pet keeps soiling your garden or plant pots, liberally sprinkle some lemon peel. Bananas are no fun for a cat either. This means that you could rub a banana peel on areas that cats are not welcome. Just remember that you’ll experience that unique rotting banana smell yourself.
Cats are not crazy about spicy scents, so cayenne pepper will always deter them. You’ll have to be careful here, though. Cats that dig around in pepper often end up ingesting it after licking their paws. This can lead to very painful bladder infections.
Perhaps the worst smell of all for a cat is that of a dirty litter box. That’s no picnic for humans, either. As meticulously clean animals, however, felines loathe the idea of litter that hasn’t been changed.
Your pet may decide to eliminate elsewhere if their litter box has not been cleaned. For everybody’s sake, check the contents at least once a day.
A cat smells everything around them to experience the world. As their noses are so sensitive, felines receive much more information through scent than sight.
The only time to show concern is when they appear to struggle with their other senses. Even then, however, a cat’s strong sense of scent will see them through a difficult time.