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How Far Can Cats Smell

↯ Key takeaway points

  • Cats have two main organs, the olfactory epithelium and the vomeronasal organ, that work together to sense different smells and chemicals in their surroundings.
  • Cats have a high sensitivity of 126 to 154 feet regarding food sources, allowing them to smell food from a distance.
  • Cats have an excellent understanding of smell and can detect the aroma of their home from a distance of 1.5 to 4 miles away.
  • Cats rely on their acute sense of smell to detect danger, communicate with other cats, find a mate, and locate food.
  • Cats have a stronger sense of smell than humans, with 200 million olfactory receptors compared to the human nose's five to six million receptors.
A pet lover passionate about educating readers about animal health and care. Love reading studies and recent research.
Gold medalist veterinary student from UVAS Lahore writes captivating articles and is passionate about animal care.
Published on
Saturday 27 January 2024
Last updated on
Monday 30 October 2023
How Far Can Cats Smell
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Cats use their ability to smell to find their way around. When you start cooking something that smells delicious, your lazing cat may suddenly perk up and start walking around the house. But have you ever wondered how far cats can smell?

How Far Can a Cat Smell

More research is needed to determine the extent of cats’ sense of smell. However, according to the study, cats have two main organs which are the olfactory epithelium and the vomeronasal organ (Jacobson’s organ). It works together to sense different smells and chemicals in their surroundings. 

We can assume that cats share these abilities because their receptor density is so high. So, how far a cat can smell depends on the odor’s intensity. Here is a quick list of some of the most common smells that you might be curious to learn more about:


Although some foods have stronger odors than others, cats have a high sensitivity of 126 to 154 feet regarding food sources. So the next time you open a can of tuna and wonder where your cat went, remember that they probably smelled it long before you finished cracking it open.


Your cat has a homing instinct, so it will return if you let them outside. Beyond the use of their five senses, they have an innate homing ability. Based on a study, Cats have an excellent understanding of smell that allows them to detect the aroma of their home from a distance of 1.5 to 4 miles away. Finding their way back is simple if they do not venture too far from the starting point.

Litter Boxes

Many people believe that cats can smell their dirty litter boxes from a mile away. However, there needs to be more studies to support this. Depending on wind and weather, the actual distance is closer to a few hundred feet because their sense of smell is 14 times more potent than humans.

How Strong Is a Cat’s Sense of Smell Compared to Humans 

While the human nose contains five million olfactory receptors, it is significantly less active than the cat’s nose—14 times less active, to be precise. If a cat is clogged up, its sense of smell is impaired, and it will not have much of an appetite. Like humans, their sense of smell influences their perception of the flavor of food.

This shows that a cat’s sense of smell is much better than ours. “There are about five to six million olfactory receptors in a human nose, but cats have up to 200 million,” says Teri Linn Byrd, DVM, with

Also, cats are better at telling the difference between different smells. The V1R receptor is the part of your nose that lets you tell the difference between different smells. Researchers found that cats have about 30 receptors, while humans only have two.

In What Ways Do Cats Use Their Sense of Smell?

Our cats rely heavily on their sense of smell when we open a pouch of their favorite cat food. But they also use their sense of smell for many other things, such as communicating and figuring out when something is dangerous.


There is a wide range of means through which cats can communicate with one another and with humans. Our cats are constantly communicating with us, whether through their adorable meows or their deliberate blinking. They also use the pheromones they leave behind to communicate with other felines.

Detecting Danger

Cats rely on their acute sense of smell to alert them to impending danger and to help them locate potential meals. Predators and prey alike can leave pheromones that cats can pick up on. A cat’s little papilla, located behind its incisors, aids in the passage of pheromones to the Jacobson’s organ. It is where they are further processed to help the cat decide how it should behave.

Finding a Mate

While in heat, female cats release pheromones that unaltered male cats can detect. These pheromones may be detectable by a tom cat up to one mile away. It is hardly common, but a female cat in heat may spray pee to mark her territory and leave fragrance for any male cats in the area.

Looking for Food

There is no time when a cat does not employ its keen sense of smell. They use their sense of smell to locate their mother and her milk supply in the first few hours after birth. However, cats continue using their sense of smell to discover food, and they always make sure it is safe to eat before they do. 

Marking Territory

Cats’ paws, faces, and rear tails contain smell glands that secrete pheromones. This is why felines use facial rubbings as a form of territorial marking, whether on a scratching post, a toy, another cat, or a human. This is probably why kitty purrs so contentedly whenever you scratch under her chin. Some felines use sprays of urine to mark their territory.

What Is a Cat’s Strongest Sense?

Cats have many senses. They can see well in dim light, hear and smell, and feel with their whiskers. So its hard to say which sense is the strongest. However, here are some of the details of their other senses so you can compare them and decide for yourself.

Sense of Sight

A cat’s sense of smell is much keener than its sense of sight during the day. They can see simple shapes and pick up on movement, but they can not see the finer details that human eyes can. In addition, they can not see as many colors as we can. Cats also have blind spots under their noses, making it hard to see things that are too close.

Still, cats can see ultraviolet light, a wave of light that our eyes can not see. When it is dark, their pupils also get very big so that more light can get in. Also, their eyes have a layer that reflects light, which helps them use the light they get better.


A cat has a minimal ability to taste. An average human has 9,000 taste buds and there are precisely 473 on feline senses. But they make up for it with an exceptionally keen sense of smell. They react strongly to the aroma of food rather than the flavor.


Touch is one of the first ways a cat learns to love. When stroked, cats often act like kittens and start drooling or kneading. Each hair has many nerve endings that tell the nervous system what to do. Their heart rate slows, their muscles loosen up, and their body relaxes.

Whiskers are extensions of a cat’s skin designed to pick up on even the slightest changes in the environment, like air currents, air pressure, temperature, and wind direction. They are three times as deep as fur, and even the slightest touch is picked up by cells in their roots.


There are 27 muscles that work together to form the cat’s outer ear. It has a full 360-degree range of motion, allowing them to scan its surroundings or zero in on a particular sound. It has been found that cats have a higher frequency range of hearing than dogs. Cats can pinpoint the source of an auditory cue by comparing the sound’s relative loudness and arrival time at each ear.

Your cat can suffer from many diseases that affect its sense of smell. Vaccinating your cat can help prevent some of these diseases. Still, some inflammation also causes your cat to sneeze, have trouble breathing, lose the ability to smell, and loss of appetite as a result. 

Some common diseases include:


Various bacteria, viruses, and fungi can enter your cat’s airways and cause an infection or inflammation, which can lead to pneumonia. If your cat gets pneumonia, it will have respiratory problems and a lack of oxygen in its blood, which can impair its immune system.


Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis is a disease that affects domestic and wild cats. It is only infectious when the virus is reactivated, which can be caused by stress or other disorders. Some cats with the reactivated virus will exhibit symptoms. Still, some may be asymptomatic and could infect your cat even if they appear healthy.


If your cat has feline rhinitis, the lining of its nose will be inflamed. It will produce more mucus than usual, which makes it harder for it to breathe. This condition can be short-term and go away in a few weeks or it can be long-term (chronic) and last for the rest of your cat’s life. 

Damage to the lining of its nasal passages can also increase the chance of getting a second bacterial infection, which can worsen symptoms.

Cats have unique noses that allow them to smell 14 times farther than humans. This means that their world smells very different from ours. It helps them find their way around, catch food more quickly, and find the perfect place to nap. Aside from taste, all of their other senses are just as strong–which shows how truly unique cats are.

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