People ask, “Why do cats smell your breath?”. The answer is a simple one. Cats smell your breath because they smell everything. If your breath has a particular scent because, for example, you’ve just eaten something, they will sniff the air out of curiosity. The cat is gathering information and interpreting it. ‘For about the first two weeks of their lives kittens define the world through smell and touch’ (Cat Sense by Dr Bradshaw).
If you burp and your cat is on your lap she will smell your breath. If you fart your cat will smell the air. If she walks up to your feet and you’re wearing your smelly slippers she will smell them.
When you put food down for her she will smell the food before she eats it. If you open a kitchen cupboard she’ll smell inside and go in. She’s just checking and her sense of smell is finely tuned and super sensitive. A cat’s sense of smell is a great collector of information about objects.
Cats sniff almost everything when they approach it. It is almost as if they are using their sense of smell as a form of close range sight. Domestic cats don’t have great eyesight for close range and therefore rely on their sense of smell to understand what is right before them.
Whenever my cat is on my lap he’ll smell my breath if I have just burped after a meal (M&S Luxury muesli). As I just said, it’s because there is a smell in the air and domestic cats will pick up the smells even when they’re very faint and try to interpret them. It’s about curiosity and a desire to know what is happening around them. This is in the interests of survival ultimately.