Cat’s Sense of Smell: What’s That Perfume You’re Wearing?

Have you ever noticed your cat grimace at a particular odor, or avoiding you for an unknown reason? Cat’s sense of smell is very keen. It’s actually their strongest sense organ.

sense of smell

Why Sense of Smell Is So Important to Cats

Cats are equipped with twice as many scent receptors as humans, making feline sense of smell almost 14 times stronger than ours. This also makes cats much more sensitive to certain odors than we are.

They use their sense of smell to:

  • get familiar with surroundings,
  • determine if other cats are in the area,
  • evaluate food to be sure it’s safe to eat, and
  • locate prey when hunting

For aging or ill cats, the sense of smell may not be as keen, causing them to have less interest in eating.  Finding a food with a stronger odor, although not pleasant for us, may help stimulate a cat’s appetite.

How Cat’s Sense of Smell Works

Your cat’s grimace is actually sweeping the scent into the roof of her mouth so that she can smell and taste it. Cats have an sensory organ (the vomeronasal or Jacobson’s organ) in the roof of their mouths that help process scents.

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

Scents To Avoid

There are some scents cats find offensive, they usually dislike citrus or spicy smells. My cat Marty definitely isn’t a fan of citrus scents.  If I’m wearing citrus-based cologne, or have washed my hands with a citrus-y soap, he abruptly backs 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 isn’t spending much time with you since you bought that citrus-y cologne, she’s letting you know she’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.