Cats have a very intense sense of smell. Most of their senses, in fact, are at least double our own capabilities.
A cat’s brain receives and interprets different smells of all kinds that are picked up by two different organs. The first (and most obvious) being the nose. A feline’s nose contains twice as many cells that recognize smells as we do. The other organ that detectsa variety of smells is actually found inside the cat’s mouth. This organ is known as the Jacobson’s organ, and it is locatedin the top (or roof) of the feline’s mouth. The Jacobson’s organ is not able to be seen upon observation.
Most feline experts will state that the most important sense for a cat is their sense of smell. This is likely due to how many smells they are able to pick up including food, prey, safe and non-safe foods, potential dangers as well as their way home should they get lost.
However, the Jacobson’s organ is essential for the cat to analyze various feline scents (i.e. pheromones and urine). The organ detects and analyzes these scents which then acts as a “get to know you” in the feline world.
For example, if a female cat that is in heat were to “spray” or urinate on a log outside then she would be leaving a message to other cats that she is looking for a mate. If another cat were to walk up to the log and sniff the urine message, then you would likely see him open his mouth a little and stare. This is his Jacobson’s organ at work! With his mouth open, the organ’s cells are interpreting the urine message and telling him that there is a female nearby looking for a mate. This particular scent organ is also found in reptiles and amphibians as well as a variety of mammals.
Now that we understand the intensity and the importance of the feline sense of smell let’s figure out what smells cats are attracted to as well as which ones turn them off!
1. Tea tree oil
First of all, tea tree oil is safe for our pets to be around. The smell of it will not harm them. In fact, small amounts of tea tree oil are being added to certain pet-safe products. Some people have even been known to add a couple of drops to the flea shampoo as it seems to be an excellent flea killer and repellent. However, tea tree oil (especially 100% tea tree oil) has a very potent smell which is twice as powerful for our furry friends. They may not like the smell, but they sure do like its health benefits!
2. Oranges, lemons, tomatoes and other citrus-type foods
This may seem unusual to you since most people find the smell of oranges or lemons to be a pleasant smell (which is likely why it is found in many household cleaners). However, the feline sense of smell is greatly repulsed by these scents probably because they are so potent. Remember, these scents are powerful to our senses, so just imagine if you were to double or triple it! You probably wouldn’t find it so appealing either!
As a side note, since we do find these scents to be pleasant and our furry friends do not, it is commonly suggested that owners use them to train their felines to stay away from certain places in the home.
3. A Dirty Litter Box
This one may seem quite obvious because who in their right mind would find this smell to be pleasing?
Imagine if you went to the bathroom, but you didn’t flush. Sure it may not be terribly overwhelming at first, but then you (or someone else in the home) uses the bathroom. And again the toilet goes unflushed.
Now, imagine this happening for a day or two. With our limited sense of smell, we would certainly be repulsed by the odors coming from the toilet, and we may even decide not to use it anymore. This is what your feline is going through every time the litter box goes unscooped! Except for him, it is made worse by him having to walk through it and also because his sense of smell is twice as good as our own!
If you own more than one cat, you will also have to factor in that each of them detects each other’s “scentmessages” every time they need to relieve themselves!
4. A Clean Litter Box
You may be contemplating how on earth the smell of a clean litter box could be displeasing after reading about the dirty litter box. Many cat owners would do anything to cover up the awful smell coming from their cat’s box. This could include placing air fresheners near them, loading them up with baking soda or even purchasing a scented cat litter.
Scented cat litters are typically too intense for our cats’ scent receptors which often leads to the cat refusing to use it. When a cat is unable to or refuses to use his litter box,he will find a different place in the home to relieve himself. Owners will then punish the cat or even get rid of him when the problem could have been avoided by keeping the box clean and unscented.
5. Anything that is dangerous for him to consume such as rotten meat, onions or garlic
As mentioned earlier, a cat will rely on his sense of smell for most aspects of his day to day life. This includes deciphering what is safe for him and what is not.
Foods such as rotten meat (or anything rotten), onions and garlic are incredibly harmful to our feline friends, and luckily they are not attracted to their scent! However, this method does not always work. Unfortunately, some smells are both pleasing and deadly to the cat. Antifreeze for cars, for example, gives off a sweet aroma to animals. Many of them are so attracted to it that they may not realize it is fatal to ingest it until it is too late.
What Smells Do Cats Love?
1. Cooking food (especially meat)
Finally! A scent category that we understand! Who doesn’t love the smell of a home cooked meal (especially when that meal includes bacon)! It is entirely understandable why our felines come running into the kitchen when they smell something delicious cooking in the oven! However, just because they are drawn to the smell does not mean that they get a plate of it, as well.
You may be thinking “household cleaners were already placed in the ‘dislike’ group.” You would be correct! It is true that cats dislike most household cleaner scents. The exception, however, seems to be bleach and chlorine! Most felines will react to these pungent smells similarly to catnip!
3. Feline pheromones
Similar to humans, some cats are attracted to certain “natural scents” or pheromones that are given off by a particular individual. Also like humans, not all cats will be drawn to all pheromones. However, a male cat will not likely hunt down a female in heat if he is not attracted to her scent (or vice versa).
The smell of catnip does not have the same effect on all felines. In fact, some of them are not fazedby it in the least. However, the greater majority of kitties that are near catnip will have a reaction. Some will find themselves full of energy and start running around the house like a wild cat. Some will feel calm and may even enjoy a nice nap.
5. Plastic bags
Plastic bags do not appear to have a scent, or at least they do not have one that we can detect. Some cats, however, have been known to dig their faces into the side of a plastic bag (with or without items inside). It is also common that some of these plastic-loving felines will lick or suck on the plastic bag as well. The reason behind this remains unclear.
Another seemingly obvious pleasing scent for kitties is fish. Most cats love the smell so much that they bound into the kitchen before the can of tuna is even open! Unlike some humans, cats are firm believers in the smellier the fish, the better!