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Sense of Smell of a Cat

Sense of Smell of a Cat

by Michael
(London, UK)

Quinn (left) and Zak (right) - photo by Helmi Flick

The sense of smell of a cat is firmly fixed in the memory. It is a something that goes into the data bank of a cat's brain as a means of recognition of another cat or in my case a person.

We know that cats spray markers in their territory. This tells other cats if and when the cat is around and to steer clear. Thus avoiding fights, which affect survival. Cats also like to exchange scent. They rub against us to deposit their sense on us. They also rub against objects to deposit their scent. This makes the place more friendly for the cat.


Zak on my bed rolling in my smell!

When time share cats come through my cat flap they check the scent on the cat flap and surrounding area to get a clear impression what is going on in the area. Cats almost see with their sense of smell. They are much more reliant on it than us. Whereas we rely on what a person looks like as the primary source of remembering that person, a cat's first sense in recognizing a person is their sense of smell.


Zak next to my computer

I had first hand experience of this when I went to stay at the home of the Flicks for the week, in Bedford, Texas. The time before that I was at their home was November 2008, some 6 months beforehand.

The Flicks have 4 cats, Zak (Maine Coon), Quin (Maine Coon), Sky (British Shorthair) and Nox (British Shorthair). Within a short time, having had a good sniff of me they settled down rapidly and clearly remembered the way I smelled. It is a kind of signature, as sure as a finger print and they all got it, retrieving the information from their smell database.

Zak loves to play and I just hold the back of my hand out for him to smell. The look on his face changes as if to say, "Yup, I know that, lets play". I love to be accepted by a cat that I last saw months ago. And it was the first and only previous time that I met these great cats.

The sense of smell of a cat is perhaps the primary sense, other than hearing for the cat. Smell is the first sense that a cat develops. The newborn kitten picks up the smell of his or her mother's mammary glands at birth and within a short time reacts to offensive smells. One such smell is mothballs. Mothballs can kill cats and some do not recognise the smell as offensive it seems (see please: We Lost Four Cats In One Week To Mothball Posioning).

A cat's nose leather or pad is unique to the cat as is our fingerprint.

The cat's olfactory bulb (a structure of the vertebrate forebrain involved in olfaction, the perception of odors) contains 67 million cells. This is 15 million more than us. The sense of smell of a cat is much superior to ours and more important to the cat.

A young kitten that is removed from its litter will crawl to the smell of its former "home".

Apparently, the smell of nutmeg for a cat makes it less bored. Smells generally help to alleviate boredom for a cat (ideas for play there perhaps).

Associated pages:

Bengal Nose

Cat Dry Nose Illness

Sense of Smell of a Cat to Cat Facts

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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