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Why Do Cats Smell Your Breath

↯ Key takeaway points

  • Cats sniff their owner's breath as a way of getting information and familiarizing themselves with their environment.
  • Cats have exceptional sense of smell, with over 200 million scent receptors.
  • Cats can detect diseases and changes in the body through smell.
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
Thursday 24 August 2023
Last updated on
Thursday 24 August 2023
Why Do Cats Smell Your Breath
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Getting a whiff of their owner’s breath is a normal gesture in cats. Although it doesn’t apply to all, many cats sniff their fur parent’s mouth for several reasons. In fact, sniffing is part of a cat’s way of getting a feel of its environment. That is because a cat’s sense of smell is superior compared to humans. Cats have an estimated 45 to 200 million odor-sensitive cells in their noses, while humans only have around 4 to 6 million. Most dog breeds have more or less 100 million, except for certain hound breeds. 

Not only that, but cats also have other features that enhance their olfactory abilities. The vomeronasal organ, for example, helps cats smell pheromones. Cats are gifted with these natural attributes to help them hunt their prey. So, it’s no surprise why they snoop around by sniffing things, including awkward places like your mouth. 

9 Reasons Why Cats Smell Our Breath

Don’t worry; your cat doesn’t think you’re prey or a predator by sniffing your mouth. On the contrary, this gesture can be a sign of trust. With cats’ exceptional sense of smell, they can even distinguish the scent of certain diseases, or maybe they are just interested in your lunch.

Here are the main possible reasons why cats smell human breath.


Cats love investigating their environment. You move certain things around the house, and they will instantly notice something has changed. Because of their predatory nature, cats’ brains are hardwired to familiarize the place where they are. This helps them plan out certain attacks or escape routes. Since it’s a cat’s nature to be curious, this might be the reason why they like to sniff your mouth. 

Checking If You’re Healthy

The superb sniffing abilities of animals, such as dogs and cats, have been valuable assets in medicine. That is because they allow them to detect cancers. Like dogs, cats can detect diseases too. Cats can smell chemical and hormonal changes in the body. So, when your cat sniffs your breath, it’s just a friendly health check-up from a loyal friend who is most familiar with your normal scent. 

Gets Information

Along with checking your health, your cat may want to learn other things about you through your breath. The saliva in your mouth contains numerous scents that make you distinct, and your cat wants to breathe in the comfort this familiar scent offers. 

Grooming Behavior

The exchange of chemical scents is part of feline socialization. Cats groom each other by licking each other’s fur. This social behavior allows them to exchange scents using their saliva. It also marks them as a member of the family. So, when your cat gets the chance to get near your mouth where there is saliva, it’s normal for it to snoop and smell it.  


Cats love to imitate what they see, especially from their humans. In fact, some cats mirror the personality of their owners. So, if your cat sees you kissing your partner or your kids at home, they may follow the gesture, too. This might be why they also want to get closer to your mouth and smell your breath. 

Likes Your Food

We couldn’t miss the most obvious reason your cat is getting a whiff of your breath. They want to know the food you ate! Yes, there is no hiding and denying because your cats can smell your last food even after four hours. If your last meal smells sumptuous to your cat, he can’t help but get jealous and smell it as much as he can.

Loves the Warmth

Cats are drawn to warm and moist places. Having descended from desert animals, it’s natural for cats to seek warmth. And your mouth is the perfect match for this feline preference. Not only is your breath warm, but it is also a perfect place to explore since it’s an open body cavity. No wonder your cat will sniff your mouth when it gets near your face. 

Relieves Stress

The findings of a study at Oregon State University revealed that cats are bonded to their owners. They feel safe and secure whenever their owner is around. Their attachment to their owners is comparable to that between infants and their mothers. So, smelling your breath makes them feel secure and relaxed. This reassures them of your presence and helps relieve stress. 

Shows Trust

Smelling someone’s breath can be an odd behavior from a human standpoint. But, for cats, this is the ultimate sign of trust. Your cat smells your mouth to show confidence and maybe love for you. Think of it as your cat’s way of giving you kisses. 

Why Do Cats Smell Your Breath When Sleeping? 

You might not be aware of it, but chances are, your cat has already investigated your mouth many times while you were sleeping. Well, it’s the best time to explore. It may sound surprising but cats are more active in the evenings. So, it makes sense why they want to play detective while you sleep. 

If you also get annoyed and prevent your cat from smelling your mouth during the day, your cat may just have found the perfect time to do it. While you’re asleep, you’re perfectly still, and your mouth is probably open, too. So, your cat wouldn’t be able to resist the urge to inspect and learn from your oral cavity. 

Aside from that, the scent of your mouth may change throughout the night. So, this will spark even more curiosity in your cat. You may also wonder, do cats check if you’re breathing? Yes, especially if they don’t see you moving. In addition to checking your well-being, your cat may just be smelling your breath for comfort. Some cats feel stressed at night and would love to get some reassurance, even in the scent in your mouth. 

Smelling familiar scents like your mouth is instinctual to cats. Their reasons for making such a gesture are harmless and mostly to express their concern and even trust for you. It may be uncomfortable sometimes, but cats like to smell your breath because you are family and have a strong relationship with you. 

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