As a cat owner, you know the feeling. Your cat comes over for a “cuddle” and the next thing you know you have buried your face in them.
Why? Let’s be honest, cats do indeed smell good to cat lovers.
The combination of feeling the fur on your face and that bland yet distinctive smell is very intoxicating.
Sure, you do usually end up also with a face full of cat hair and your cat might squirm away, but it is always worth the price, and you do find yourself doing this several times a day.
Why Do Cats Smell Good?
Cats actually have no real scent. However, as cats have few sweat glands, have dry skin and fur, and aren’t that active, they smell good. The bond and affection they have with their humans also make them produce pheromones. But, a good-smelling cat can also mean it has toxoplasmosis.
5 Reasons Cats Smell Good
Cats actually have no real scent. This is a protective mechanism in the wild where they are not only predators but also can be prey.
Feral cats are in danger of becoming prey and hunting does not need scents that alert the prey.
Unlike dogs, cats are still considered apex predators, and they only have sweat glands in hairless spots, not under their fur as most wild predators do.
Cats also are fastidious animals and routinely groom themselves constantly all day long. They remove dirt and dust themselves this way.
Add to this the fact that cats do not roll in the dirt, debris, or even their own feces, as many dogs sometimes do.
Cats can not just groom themselves but other cats with whom they live and even you!
Grooming also shows affection and leaves a subtle scent that signals that other cats and you are part of their “clowder” which is the term for a group of cats that face the world together.
While there is a scent left in a clowder group, it is not a smell that is noticeable to humans or other animals, only to other cats.
1. Cats have Few Sweat Glands Under their Fur
Cats also groom a lot and avoid dirt at all costs. Even when using a litter box cats will cover up their urine and defecation as all dirt and smells are offensive to them.
Fastidiousness is the number one reason cats do seem to smell good. There actually is no smell detectable to a human’s nose.
You may notice that even in high heat your cat will seek warmth and unlike other mammals will not feel sweaty to the touch when picked up.
2. Cats Have Dry Skin and Fur
Cats unlike other household pets can have very dry skin. Not only do they not possess many sweat glands but they also do not possess a lot of sebaceous glands.
Sebaceous glands do produce oil and without these even a feral cat, one that is living outdoors will not hold odors on its skin.
While some sebaceous glands are present, they are mainly in the face, the chin, and the tail.
The body of a cat does not generally have a lot of sebaceous glands although there can be exceptions of course in some unique breeds.
There are hairless cat breeds that develop dermatological problems as can all cat breeds as the sebaceous glands in cats do get blocked as oil does not emit in any routine fashion.
The constant grooming can also drive dirt into the skin and cats can develop blocked pores.
3. Cats Can Have Toxoplasmosis
Toxoplasma gondii is a parasite that, believe it or not, researchers have found makes cat owners simply love the scent of their cat.
Studies abound on this, and it is because of this parasite that pregnant women are told to stay away from their cats and the litter box while they are pregnant.
Emery University in GA has been studying this link between cats and owners who press their faces into cat fur for years.
Feral cats are more prone to toxoplasmosis.
This parasite has been termed by researchers as the “Fatal Attraction Parasite” as it makes owners believe that a cat smells good.
It is a parasite found in a cat’s defecation and anyone who cannot stop sniffing their cat all day long should take their cat to a vet promptly.
4. Cats are Not Active Much
When awake cats can be a ball of energy but the reality is that after kittenhood, cats do tend to sleep almost eighteen hours a day.
With that much “downtime” it would be difficult to get dirty and/or sweaty!
According to the Animal Sleep Foundation, (yes, there IS one), cats sleep between 12 and 16 hours per day.
Horses are only 7 to 9 hours like humans so cats actually run out of time to get dirty and smelly.
When awake cats can spend half that time grooming too so that formula does not lead to a messy, stinky pet!
5. Cats Bond with Humans and Affection Gives Off Pheromones
The fact that cats really have no scent to humans and yet are viewed as smelling good might be due to the pheromones we release ourselves during affectionate play and cuddling with our cats.
Humans and animals all release pheromones during pleasurable activities.
Frequently Asked Questions Why Cats Smell Good
How can I tell if my cat has toxoplasmosis?
Your cat probably won’t show symptoms. However, if you feel a compelling need to constantly smell your cat, a vet checkup is in order as you can be infected without knowing it as this disease is harmful to humans. Pregnant women must be very careful around their cats because of toxoplasmosis.
Is bathing still needed in cats?
Cats have loose fur that can cause hairballs, hence, brushing and bathing are still necessary even though cats groom themselves incessantly. Cats also should become used to bathing as when they age they groom less and can have urine and feces in their fur, as well as to prevent fleas and ticks.
If my cat has an odor is something wrong?
Cats can smell as they can have mouth odors indicating digestive problems or bad teeth. Cats also can have odors from their ears when dirt and ear mites are present due to the bacteria these mites create. If a cat smells like urine or feces, it could mean kidney, bladder, or digestive issues.
Conclusion On Why Cats Smell Good
Cats’ general makeup allows them to avoid odors and also not emit odors because of their fur and their skin.
The survival mechanism for living in the wild still exists in cats and therefore scents are not emitted as protection against predators.
You are not imagining it if you believe your cat smells good as quite frankly, they do not give off a rank smell like other mammals unless ill.
You also probably enjoy the smell because you are bonded to your cat.
Caution is needed though as any bad smells should incur a vet visit, and of course, if you are displaying too much scent pleasure yourself, toxoplasmosis might be the culprit.
Sniff all you want but be wary too!