The smell in cats: knowing everything, understanding everything

Smell is an essential sense for cat survival. Used on a daily basis, it is used to communicate and perceive the information that surrounds it. Inseparable from taste, this sense is particularly developed in felines, slightly more than in dogs and up to 40 times more than in humans! Find out everything you need to know about smell in cats with our complete file.

Cat’s truffle: a complex organ

If we talk about a nose for the man, we are talking about truffles for the cat, as for the dog. The cat’s sense of smell is connected to the sense of taste. Indeed, the cat needs to smell the dishes and objects around it to know if he can eat them or if they represent a danger. It is thus a safety device that comforts the cat when the smell felt suits him. As a result, any odour he doesn’t like pushes him away.

The cat’s truffle contains a multitude of Bowman glands. These produce secretions when necessary, just like our sweat glands. The mucus produces moistens the cat’s truffle and helps it better perceive the odors that surround it. Thus, if your cat has a wet truffle, it is in no way related to his state of health, contrary to what is tended to believe. It is moist when it is looking for food and is therefore on alert, hungry or detecting a pleasant smell in its immediate environment. On the other hand, when his truffle is dry, he is still healthy. It just means that he is sleeping, relaxing or digesting his meal; it is therefore not stimulated in an olfactory way.

The importance of smell in cats

Smell is a very important meaning for the cat, in his daily life. Its truffle is used to communicate, to indicate a preference, to delineate its territory and that of others, to detect danger, to identify an enemy or prey, to find a female in heat, etc.

How does the cat use his sense of smell?

The cat has a much more developed sense of smell than that of humans and dogs. It has nearly 200 million olfactory cells, compared to 150 million for dogs and only 5 million for humans. Combined with Bowman’s glands, these olfactory cells allow the cat to perceive olfactory stimuli that we do not have the ability to feel. Thanks to the mucus secreted at the level of his truffle, he can perceive the smells that surround him 50 to 100 times better than us!

Jacobson’s organ, or vomero-nasal, located in the arch of the palate, in the naso-palatin canal of the cat, also participates in this outpouring of scents; it concentrates the odors in two small pockets located at the nasal cavities of the cat in order to better analyze them, which is why your kitty can sometimes roll up his lips. This action allows him to direct the odors of his nose towards his mouth to better interpret them.

What is the use of his sense of smell?

If the sense of smell is so developed in cats, it is because it is a sense related to its survival. The main tool for communicating and understanding the world around him, smell allows him to identify what he can eat. As a result, a cat that loses its sense of smell, totally or partially, may become anorexic because it will no longer be able to identify its food.


Smells have a special meaning for the cat. Thus, if certain scents tend to soothe it or on the contrary to irritate or push it to play, the animal is also able to detect atmospheric changes or the presence of disease or ill-being in humans.

Cats with a flat snout are generally at a disadvantage when it comes to smell and this is often much less developed. It can even sometimes be very attenuated. However, these cats are still able to perceive olfactory stimuli and odors that are imperceptible to humans.

What are the smells the cat likes? Who is attacking his sense of smell?

Like humans, cats appreciate some smells and don’t like others. As we have mentioned, smells affect the behaviour of the cat who can feel as happy, calm, serene as excited, playful or irritated.

The smells appreciated by cats

  • The smells of good humour: cats particularly smell the smell of cat grass, or catnip, more or less euphoric about their character. Some are particularly excited just by humant it for a few moments.
  • The smells of play and interaction: cats generally appreciate mineral and vegetable odors. Scents such as olive, mint or nutmeg tend to please him and encourage him to play.
  • The smells of serenity and tranquillity: lavender and vanilla are known to soothe the cat.
  • The smells of the marking of territory: certain species such as thyme or rosemary encourage the cat to mark its territory by scratching the supports or chewing the objects within its reach.
  • The smells of good health: as in humans, eucalyptus is known for its sharking virtues in cats. It helps her breathe better and withstand cold snaps.

The hated smells of cats

  • The smells of aggression: the cat does not appreciate the strong smells of orange and citrus fruits in general. These tend to irritate his sense of smell and make him aggressive. Avoid all citrus essential oils and lemon or orange-flavoured cleaning products. However, lemon is very handy to prevent your cat from urinating where it should not do and going where it should not go. A practical natural repellent!
  • The smells of bad mood: strong or tangy smells such as vinegar, or onions or toothpaste are unbearable for your pet. Avoid contact, as you may keep them away from you.

How to take care of the truffle and the smell of his cat?

Smell is an essential sense of survival for a cat, which is why it is important to take care of it, especially with age, as it tends to deteriorate.


If the cat does its daily grooming on its own, it may need help cleaning its snout, which tends to clog easily. Its nostrils have the role of filtering the air it breathes and retaining dust and impurities present in the environment. Cleaning them regularly facilitates the good breathing of the cat and promotes its good health.

Your cat’s nose should be cleaned gently, using suitable products. A soft cotton and physiological serum are enough to remove conventional natural flows. However, if you detect abnormal discharge or obstruction of the nostrils, consult the veterinarian to prescribe appropriate treatment.

As part of the conventional cleaning, do not apply any products to your cat’s nose or push any cotton swabs into it. Simply wipe off the dirt that protrudes in a gentle gesture. Get used to it from an early age, the procedure will be much easier.