Do cats like certain people because of their body scent?

Cat sniffing a person's hand

Whether a cat likes or dislikes a person is partly based on the person’s scent (body odour).

I have had this idea for some time. I have no science to back it up because there is none. We know how sensitive cats are to scent. Cats almost use their noses like we use our eyes. You can buy products that give off pheromones that are meant to help calm a cat down. The nose to nose greeting between cats results in the cat smelling the breath that is emitted from the nose of the other cat. It is a marker that is memorised. In a video of cats with babies I recently posted, one cat is seen smelling the breath of a sleeping baby.

Attractions between male and female people is often in part based on the scent of the opposite person. Females are automatically more attracted to the scent of men who are more genetically distant to them than related people for instance. The reason? Better propagation. There is a lot going in at the subliminal level that we are not really aware of.

When we walk into someone’s home for the first time humans can detect the scent of the person living there provided there are no overpowering odours from other sources. Body scent is a big part of animal life and we are in that category.

I am not sure but it is distinctly possible that cats prefer the body scent of some people more than the scent of other people just like people prefer the scent of certain people. Somehow the scent of a particular person communicates to the cat that the human is safe or not hostile. It may communicate a lot more than that, in fact.

The first thing I do when I meet a new cat is put the back of my hand towards the cat. The cat advances and smells it. The cat might be particularly nervous and will retreat but some will come forward. I believe that they know that I am safe, non-hostile from my scent. From this first meeting which is in cat-to-cat style, the stranger cat will eventually overcome her/his nervousness.

There is a lot of discussion about cats not liking certain people while liking others. This can sometimes occur in families. There are many possible reasons for this. I believe that one of the reasons (and I stress “one” possible reason) is that the body scent of the person that the cat dislikes gives a signal to the cat that the person is potentially unfriendly.

One distraction to this idea is that a lot women wear perfume, which masks their natural body odour or they use bathroom products and makeup (and nowadays men too) which will influence the way they smell. Also, what we eat probably has an impact on our body scent. These are variables and influences which may affect the connection with our cat if our cat is attracted to our natural body scent.

I have speculated that a person’s scent may signal friendliness or hostility. This may be a temporary state based on how we feel. Do people give off pheromones and if so perhaps some people give off more than others and these may calm a cat, thereby reducing the anxiety of meeting a person?

I wonder too if there is every any sexual attraction through scent. Certainly human body odours are connected to sexual attraction.

Well, of course, I am speculating bigtime. However, I think it is reasonable to suggest that, as scent plays a major role in communication and recognition in cat’s life, our scent plays a part in whether cats like us or not.

13 thoughts on “Do cats like certain people because of their body scent?”

  1. My sweetie Allison who is 10 years old loves everyone EXCEPT for the one time a guy came to my door looking for someone else in the neighborhood, and he had been drinking. She smelled him and ran back into my apartment and disappeared! But also I think cats have that 6th sense about people.

  2. I think cats can smell if a person is cat friendly or not and yes I agree with Dee that body language is part of whether a cat knows to trust a person or not.
    Looming over a cat is sure to alarm him, talking softly and getting down to the cat’s level, just as we do with a child, is the way to make friends.

    • My first introduction to a new cat is to speak warmly and quietly and show non-threatening body language and see if she/he will sniff my hand so we can get acquainted.

  3. I think it’s a mix of scent as well as body language that determines whether a cat will like certain people or not. I think they read us better than we read them. My Damon, the hoarder, really hasn’t been around anyone that dislikes cats; so, I can only vouch for the fact that he LOVES the smell of my hair UNWASHED. I really think he has some sort of fetish. As I have commented before, he steals anything that I use in my hair (combs, brushes, accessories). Then, he rolls around and purrs in his piles of goodies. On the nights that I put him to bed with me, he kneads my head, pulls out hair strands, drools and purrs on my head. I can only take these as signs of affection.

    I have had cats that retreat when some people are around. I’m not sure it is what they smell or vibes the people are sending out.

    • I refer to Kitty III as the armpit-fetishist. It’s most disconcerting at times. If I don’t let her finish washing my armpits she bites them.

    • Your hair is like catnip just like Sarah’s armpite are like catnip. There is something in your hair – a naturally occurring chemical – that has a similar effect to catnip. But we don’t know what it is.

      If we did we could possibly change the whole relationship between human and cat, worldwide. Bottle it and make a fortune 😉

      It maybe that this chemical is the most important substance in the world in respect of the human to cat relationship.

      I think they read us better than we read them.

      Totally agree. Cats receive a clearer message. Humans get is wrong often.

      • A couple of my menfriends have armpits that work like catnip for me 😉

        I also can’t use Feliway diffusers because I can smell them – a sort of soapy smell that makes me nauseous.

        • LOL — and you have the nose of a cat. My sense of smell and hearing is good. I wonder if that is another connecting trait? That people with sharp senses are more likely to get on with cats.

  4. Kitty II has recently taken to sticking her nose into my armpits at night when she snuggles into bed with me. And then she licks them. Thenie used to do this to a male friend of mine and acted as though his armpits were catnip. Scrapper had a thing about the soles of my feet and Kitty II loved sticking her nose in my shoes.

    Yes humans give off pheromones. I’m one of those people who can smell certain pheromones. Androstenol is spicy, like sandalwood (and is definitely a turn-on). I can detect some female pheromones too, they change throughout the menstrual cycle. It was years before I realised what it was I was detecting!

    • Graphic stuff. You’re an example of a person whose scent is very attractive to a cat, which is what I would expect.

      I’d love to analyse what the chemicals are in our scent that gets a cat going as if it is catnip.

      Some cats like catnip. Some don’t. Some cats like armpits and some don’t. I wonder if they are the same cats.

      There is something going on and we need some more work on this.

      Thanks for the comment Sarah.

      • Kitty III likes armpits but doesn’t react to catnip. Thenie liked male armpits and didn’t react to catnip, but reacted big time to valerian (the oily extract version). Almost 30 years ago, my neighbour’s cat had a thing about my armpits.


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