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Nathalie Sari - Tiertraining & Verhaltensberatung

This article was written by TOBALIE in cooperation with Nathalie Sari - Tiertraining & Verhaltensberatung

Have you ever wondered if cats sense of smell is as good as dogs? They clearly have a nose length ahead of humans in the detection of smells, but dogs are clearly inferior to them. What’s the difference between them?  

Cat nose

For cats the sense of smell is less important, since they use their sense of touch, sharp hearing and sight primarily for the hunt. These senses are more pronounced in cats. As already mentioned above, the cat nose is much more pronounced than the human nose. In comparison, humans possess about 5 to a maximum of 20 million olfactory cells, cats up to 100 million.

The sense of smell with cats serves the capture of conspecifics. It is not only used to draw conclusions about sex, genes and the presence of possible rivals, but the willingness of another cat to mate is also analysed on the basis of the released pheromones. That’s why they rub against objects to mark them. And of course, the sense of smell in cats also serves to find food.  

How does a cat smell?

The scent molecules contained in the air are absorbed via the nostrils, transported further into the nasal cavity and the paranasal sinuses and subsequently encounter the so-called olfactory receptors. The information is then sent via the olfactory nerve to the brain, where the odours are processed. The smelling surface in the cats nose turns out clearly bigger, than the humans. Cats and dogs have the so-called Jacobson’s organ, which enables the dog or cat to smell emotions by emitting various pheromones. This is where fleming comes in. The cat opens its mouth easily and wrinkles its nose. This allows the fragrances to reach the Jacobson´schen organ better. The olfactory cells in the organ transmit the olfactory information to the hypothalamus in the brain, which is associated with the sexual and social behaviour of a cat, among other things.  

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What smells do cats like?

There are smells of which cats literally get high. For example, the smell of catnip is particularly beguiling for our cats. It is an herb that belongs to the hallucinogens, but is harmless for a cat. Cats love to smell it, lick it, roll around in it, chew it and some cats even eat it. The released essential oils of the mint bring the cat up to 15 minutes into intoxicating spheres, has a calming and stress-relieving effect.

Cats are also very fond of the scent of valerian. In the vernacular valerian is also called cat’s herb and also has a calming effect on the cat. For others it has a paradoxical effect and makes them active, many get their “foolish 5 minutes”. Here one should be careful that the cat does not eat too much, this could have a harmful effect on the liver.  

Cats react very sensitively to all kinds of smells, which is why you should handle cleaning agents, scented oils, smoke, … carefully in the household!

An indicator of health

The cat’s nose can also give information about the state of health. First of all: No, a warm, dry nose does not have to be a sign of disease. If, however, the following signs are added, it is better to consult a veterinarian:

  • The cat’s nose feels brittle and cracked.
  • The color’s changing.
  • Blood and/or increased (discoloured) nasal secretion emerges from the nose.
  • Crusts form on the cat’s nose.  
  • The cat has to sneeze more and the eyes tear more.
  • Your cat refuses to eat. Cats taste very bad, they smell if the food meets their expectations.  
  • Attention: bright noses tend to sunburn.
Katzennase riecht Blume


Cats have a strong sense of smell, which is essential for their social abilities and food intake. Impairments therefore have a strong effect on the quality of life of our darlings. They react strongly to fragrances which are pleasant for your cat and which are less, try them out. Just remember that everything smells much more intense for your cat than it does for you.