What do cats smell like? Nice! This is, actually, a reasonable question. From the cat’s perspective how we smell is important. We know that our cat may sniff us from time to time and I allow my cat to sniff my face and lick it. When I encounter a new cat the first thing that I do is to let her sniff the back of my hand because I believe that is what she would like to do. For a cat it is a way of identifying someone and I wonder if a cat can detect whether a person is friendly or hostile by the scent that they have.
There is precious little on the Internet about the scent of a healthy cat. Clearly people do not consider it important. However, one may be able to detect an illness from the smell of a cat. Although, I know little on that particular topic except for the smell of cat breath, for example, which can indicate whether a cat has some gum disease or not.
The scent of a cat would appear to vary over the body of the cat. This probably is because there are glands at various points which give off scent and perhaps in those areas she will smell differently.
One thing is for sure. All cats smell nice. I don’t think anybody can deny that. The general body odour of the cat is pleasant. I have found that for Charlie, my cat, his scent is less strong on the top of his head that over the sides of his body.
It is hard to describe the smell but it is quite faint and neutral and very much in line with the scent of a human being in terms of strength. I would expect the smell to be similar in many ways to ours because we are, after all, animals, mammals, with very similar anatomies at a fundamental level.
Apparently, the fragrance (I’m dictating this and the word “fragrance” is understood far more easily than the word “scent”) that we give off is in chemicals in the skin, saliva, sweat and urine. The chemical that I am referring to is a pheromone. We know how important these are in respect of liking a person and indeed being turned-on, sexually, by a person.
I will have to presume that the smell given off by a cat is from chemicals in the saliva of the cat, scent glands in her body at various points, and pheromones given off by the cat. Pheromones help the cat find a mate and are excreted by cats as they rub the sides of their face against objects. Pheromones are very important with respect to cat behaviour.
So when we smell our cat (perhaps we are simply kissing her or giving her a cuddle) we are probably smelling the pheromones given off by her. Perhaps this is the common denominator between people and cats: their pheromones. I do not know exactly what pheromones smell like but apparently one of the constituent smells is the smell of musk. The smell of musk is sometimes created artificially and put into perfumes. Perhaps, when we smell our cat, we are picking up a very faint smell of musk amongst the other scents emitted by our cat’s body.
As mentioned, the sort of smell that we should not detect are the smell of bad breath. I can add the smell of the presence of ear mites, which apparently is a nasty odour, and another medical condition that causes a bad odour is stud tale which is caused by an over secretion of the sebaceous glands. You may see an accumulation of waxy brown material at the base of the tail and the hair becomes matted and greasy. There is a rancid odour.
I’m sure that there are other medical conditions that produce an odour that is not as fresh as the natural odour of a cat and therefore when we smell a cat it may give us some clues as to whether our cat is healthy. We should enjoy the smell of our cat: it is pleasant and I believe that it is an indicator of health.