Cat’s Sense Of Smell: Don’t Like My New Cologne?

cat's sense of smellHave you ever noticed your cat grimace at a particular odor? Cat’s sense of smell is quite strong (14 times stronger than ours), they use it to get familiar with surroundings, establishing territorial lines, find a mate and even when they hunt.

Cats have an organ called the Jacobson’s Organ located inside the mouth behind the front teeth that connects to the nasal cavity.  When a cat opens his mouth slightly the Jacobson’s Organ opens up the ducts connecting to the nasal cavity. The appearance of the cat as he brings air into the Jacobson’s Organ is somewhere between a smile and a grimace.  This reaction is officially called the Flehman Response.

You will often see this response if you’re wearing a different perfume or shampoo, or if he happens upon something on the floor that catches his attention.

There are some scents we like that cats find offensive, for example, cats usually dislike citrus or spicy smells. I tested the citrus scent on my cat Marty to see his reaction.  I ate an orange and some of the scent was still on my hand.  Marty came over to me, smelled my hand and quickly walked away.

Be wary of deodorized litters, too, as the scent may irritate the cat and cause her not to use her litter box. The strong chemical smell in cleaning products can be an irritant too.

If your cat seems to shun you when you’re wearing that new cologne, he’s telling you that scent is offensive to him.  Your cat isn’t trying to hurt your feelings, he simply letting you know he’d prefer you switch to another scent, catnip perhaps?


Written by Karen


Karen is Publisher of Fully Feline. She also owns a pet care business in Overland Park, KS called Joy of Living.