My cat likes to smell my mouth

‘My cat likes to smell my mouth’, online websurfers tell Google. This does not apply to me personally but it does to a lot of cat owners. Although my cat does occasionally like to smell my breath and makes a positive move to do so.

Why should a domestic cat like to smell a cat owner’s mouth? Well, the first observation is that the cat is, as mentioned, smelling the person’s breath. So why should cats do this?

I can think of two reasons. Firstly, domestic cats rely a lot on scent detection and use smells as fluidly as they use their sight. Domestic cats like the scent of their owner’s breath because it is from their owner and it pleases them to smell it. It probably also reassures them that they are interacting with their owner.

I feel that domestic cats need reassurances on a regular basis. I don’t believe that they are as relaxed and as settled as many people believe. Obviously it is an individual trait. Some cats will be more relaxed than others but many cats seek reassurances and smelling their owner’s breath satisfies this desire. This is probably because (1) cats live with very large creatures (humans) and (2) regard us as surrogate mothers (3) some households are not ideal for cats due to human activities and noise.

Another reason, and the main reason why my cat smells my breath sometimes, is because I have eaten something quite strong smelling or unusual for me and it interests him. His interest is not because he necessarily likes the smell but because it is an unusual smell and curiosity means that he needs to check it out. He does this by positively smelling my breath and then stores the information in his memory.

I think it is important to emphasis that it is not necessarily a question of liking the smell. It is more about curiosity. Domestic cats also like to (1) roll around damp bath towels because they smell intensely of their owner with whom they are emotionally connected and (2) rub their cheeks against smelly shoes (3) ‘steal’ their owner’s underwear and so on. It is all scent based behavior and reminds us how important smells are and how scent exchange reassures domestic cats.

For me, based on personal experience, these are the reasons why my cat likes to smell my mouth. Do you have similar experiences?

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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