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Why Do Cats Always Smell Good

↯ Key takeaway points

  • Cats spend 30-50% of their waking hours grooming themselves, using their spiky tongues to clean their fur.
  • Cats have a naturally odorless scent to help them hide from predators and be inconspicuous while hunting.
  • Cats' diets, which consist mainly of protein, contribute to their pleasant smell.
  • Cats in clean homes and with a strong bond to their owners may have a more pleasant scent.
  • Cats generally don't need frequent bathing, but there are instances when they may require a bath, such as if they have parasites or have gotten into something sticky.
A pet lover passionate about educating readers about animal health and care. Love reading studies and recent research.
Zoo and wildlife doctor in veterinary medicine passionate about animal welfare and preventive medicine.
Published on
Wednesday 3 January 2024
Last updated on
Monday 30 October 2023
Why Do Cats Always Smell Good
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If there’s one thing cat owners can’t get enough of, it’s their cat’s scent. These pet parents will agree that their feline pals’ smell is irresistibly good. Compared to dogs, cats can keep a fresh smell even in the absence of bathing. But, why do cats always smell good? Read further and discover the answer! 

Why Does My Cat Always Smell Good? 

There are different reasons why it’s always a delight to smell your cat. It may seem effortless, but your cat does a lot of work to maintain an appealing scent at all times. Along with this, nature also contributes to the reasons why kitties always smell good. The environment where the cat lives can be a factor, too. 

Many cat owners, especially those with dogs at home, always ask the question “why does my cat smell good?”. In the animal world, scents are more than just good or bad. Smelling can be a means of communication. Through scents, animals can track prey or fend off predators, mark territory, or find a potential mate. 

The olfactory system of humans is not at par with that of our pets. That is why we can’t smell pheromones like cats, or other chemicals like dogs. However, we are still lucky as we can distinguish which pets smell good, and cats definitely top the list. How do cats maintain their fresh smell all the time? Here are the reasons why cats consistently smell good

Grooming a Lot 

You’ve probably noticed your cat licking its fur every now and then. But do you know how much time it spends doing it in a day? You’d be surprised by the answer! Cats spend 30 to 50% of their waking hours grooming themselves. That is equivalent to 2 to 5 hours a day. Cats lick their fur not only to get rid of dirt but also clear out knots or tangles. Thanks to their spiky tongues, cats have a natural “comb” to keep their fur smooth and clean always. 

These backward-facing spikes on a cat’s tongue are called papillae. One study used 3D printing to duplicate these natural phenomena and understand the mechanism of feline grooming. Cat’s rough tongues help wick saliva into their fur, therefore cleaning them. It may look simple, but there is science behind your cat’s grooming abilities. Now you may also ask, “why do kittens smell good?”. Even though kittens aren’t that great at grooming yet, their mother does it for them. It’s their mother’s way of showing love and care.

Important for Cat’s Survival  

Some animals are naturally smelly. A skunk, for example, is hard to ignore when threatened as it releases a stinky smell. Some dog breeds are also inherently stinky, like the Basset Hound. But with cats, they seem to be naturally odorless. Why don’t cats smell? Well, they need to hide their accent to survive in the wild. Although cats are skilled predators, they can also be prey to larger animals. Some predators are good at tracking prey through scent. Cats even bury their feces to get rid of any possible tracks that may lead to where they are.

Additionally, the lack of a stinky smell also helps cats when hunting. Felines are solitary hunters and they ambush their prey alone. So, their presence must be inconspicuous to their prey for the hunt to be successful. 

Their Diet Helps Them Smell Good

We often hear the saying, “you are what you eat”. Looks like the same adage applies to cats in the form of scents. Cats are obligate carnivores, which means their bodies need more proteins to function well. This explains why cats tend to be picky eaters compared to dogs. Cats prefer meat and cat food consists mostly of protein, unlike dog food. Cats’ digestive systems are also designed to handle meat well. 

Pet cats at home are usually well-fed. Cat owners also make sure they offer high-quality and nutritious food for their pets. So, this could be one factor why cats always smell good. Cats will rarely rummage through dirty garbage bins if they have good food all the time. 

Clean Home

The scent of your kitty can also be the reflection of your home. Your cat smells fresh all day because it had been lying for hours on your newly-changed sheets or your fragrant couch. Cats can sleep up to 16 hours a day. So, no wonder your cat smells like your sheets, too. This is typical in indoor cats who rarely go outside. Since they have a litter box inside the home, they don’t need to go out to pee or poop. So, they aren’t as exposed to dirt as dogs. 

Given their great grooming skills, cats keep themselves clean at all times. With that said, it wouldn’t be a surprise if they’ll easily pick up the scents you have in your home, too. 

Strong Bond with Owners

The smell of your cat could probably just be neutral to an outsider. Maybe there isn’t really anything unique about your kitty’s scent. But because you have bonded closely to your pet, you have developed a bias in favor of its scent. A familiar scent usually brings memories. In fact, one study revealed that our sense of smell is related to a certain part of our brains that triggers memories. 

So, since you have built a strong relationship with your cat, its scent gives you a good feeling. Thus, you tend to smell them again and again appreciating their lovely familiar scent every time.

Should You Bathe Your Cat? 

Cats don’t need frequent bathing. Giving cats constant baths may strip their skin of their natural oils, thus, drying out their skin. The natural oils also help waterproof their fur and keep their coat healthy. Plus, they are good at grooming and keeping themselves clean, so we can depend on them in that aspect. 

However, there are instances when cats may need bathing. Here are some of them:

  • Your cat has parasites such as fleas. This may need the use of a medicated shampoo as treatment. It may also need a certain frequency for it to be effective in getting rid of the parasites.
  • Your cat has gotten into something sticky. Given the curious nature of cats, they may get sticky substances on their skin. They may have a hard time cleaning it up through plain grooming and may need a bath. 
  • The same goes for toxic substances. These may endanger your cat if it licks its fur. So, you’ll need to wash it off immediately and completely with soap and water. 
  • Your cat has limited mobility. This applies to senior cats or those with disabilities which may hinder them from grooming themselves. So, they’ll need some help from you. 

Given that they don’t need a lot of bathing, there are still steps that you can do to take care of your cat. One is brushing their coat regularly. Not only will this help keep tangles at bay, but it’s a good bonding session, too. You can also keep grooming wipes ready in case there are little messes you can easily manage. 

Why Do Cats Always Smell Good: FAQs

Now we have tackled the answers to your question, “why do cats smell so good”. Let’s dig further and go through the answers to the frequently asked questions about why cats always smell good. 

Why does my cat smell so sweet?

The scent may smell good for us, but cats that smell sweet may be suffering from diabetes mellitus. This happens when a cat is unable to regulate its blood sugar levels. As a result, its breath or mouth would smell sweet, similar to a fruity scent. If you notice this on your cat, visit the vet immediately for advice.  

Why do cats not stink?

Cats don’t stink because they spend a good amount of time grooming themselves daily. It is also inherent among cats to ensure they have no traceable scent. This is an instinctual habit to help them survive in the wild since they are solitary hunters who can also be prey to other animals. 

Why do cat owners like to smell their cats?

Cat owners love to smell their kitties because they have created a strong bond with them. Their cat’s scent has become a familiar and delightful scent. Smelling their cats usually releases happy hormones, too.  

Why do cats smell so much better than dogs?

Cats smell way better than dogs because cats are good at self-grooming. Cats are endowed with spikey tongues to help clean their fur. Dogs, on the other hand, have smooth tongues so they won’t be as good as cats at wicking dirt out. Dogs also need to keep their individual scent as they need this when socializing with other dogs. They are also pack animals, so they hunt in groups. Thus, they don’t need to hide or mask their scent in the wild for survival, unlike cats.

Are cats cleaner than dogs?

Yes, cats are cleaner than dogs because of their capability to self-groom. Dogs aren’t as flexible as cats, so they can’t groom their entire body. Dogs’ tongues are also not spikey, so they can’t clean themselves effectively by just licking their fur. 

We can’t blame cat owners for constantly smelling their lovable pets. Well, cats, indeed, smell good all the time because they work hard in keeping it that way. This makes cats even better as pets to some, since they need lesser effort from the owners on the grooming aspect. 

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