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What Is Cat Huffing? Facts & FAQ

Chantelle Fowler

By Chantelle Fowler

woman hugging a cat

Cats exhibit many strange behaviors that baffle us, but as their owners, we’re not much better, are we? When was the last time you became overwhelmed by your pet’s adorable face, that cuteness aggression took over, and it took every ounce of strength in your body not to smother that little sweetie pie in your arms.

But it’s not just the urge to squeeze and squish our cats that makes us strange. I know I’m not the only one who has given in to the overwhelming compulsion to stick my nose in my cat’s fur and sniff it. This peculiar behavior is so common among cat owners that it has a name: cat huffing.

Read on to learn more about this bizarre habit if only to help you know you’re not alone.

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What Is Cat Huffing?

Cat huffing involves burying your entire face into a furry place on your cat’s body and deeply inhaling her scent until the cat loses patience. Most cat owners that engage in huffing have a particular area they like to sniff, be it their feline friend’s tummy or the scruff of their neck.

happy cat with closed eyes hug owner
Image Credit: Veera, Shutterstock

hepper cat paw dividerWhy Do We Cat Huff?

The reason we cat huff will vary from owner to owner.

They Smell Good

Some people love the sweet, musky scent of their cat’s fur. Cats are fastidious groomers, spending much of their waking hours cleaning themselves. This is often because of the self-preservation instinct their wild ancestors passed on that enabled them to evade any predators by staying as clean and scent-free as possible.

We Love Them

Your cat may smell good to you because of the deep love you have for her. Let’s look at this from a scientific standpoint. Oxytocin is a hormone that plays an important role in bonding and trust between mothers and their infants. This powerful hormone, sometimes known as “the love hormone,” may be traditionally associated with nurturing your human offspring, but it also plays a part in how we interact with our pets.

One study with dogs found that when they look into our eyes, they activate the same hormonal response that bonds us to our human children1. A similar study was done with cats, showing we can experience an increase of as much as 12% in oxytocin levels after interacting with our cats2.

little boy hugging his cat
Image Credit: Markus Lehmann, Pixabay

It’s Soothing

Have you ever gotten a whiff of something that sends you straight back to your childhood? Maybe you visited an Italian restaurant recently and were welcomed by the wafting scent of simmering pasta sauce that took you back to your younger years, watching your grandma make spaghetti sauce over the stove. Our sense of smell is our most powerful sense and is the one most often associated with our memories.

Scent and memory are closely linked because of our brain’s anatomy. This may be because our brain’s anatomy allows olfactory (scent) signals to reach our limbic system quickly. Odors take a direct route to our amygdala and hippocampus, the brain regions related to emotions and memory.

You may like huffing your kitty because its scent reminds you of your childhood pets and the beautiful memories you created with them.

It’s a Healthy Coping Mechanism

People deal with stress in many ways, some healthier than others. Instead of reaching for a cigarette or digging into an entire tub of ice cream the next time you’re feeling frazzled, give your kitty’s tummy a big ol’ whiff instead! Interacting with your cats is scientifically proven to relieve stress and anxiety, so you may be huffing your kitty to help alleviate your worries.

man hugging a tabby cat
Image Credit: Chewy, Unsplash

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Humans enjoy cat huffing for many different reasons, but it may surprise you that your kitty might enjoy it, too. Of course, cats aren’t afraid of telling their humans when they aren’t particularly fond of their attention, so you’ll never be left guessing if your pet enjoys the fur huffing as much as you do.

Featured Image Credit: Uschi_Du, Pixabay

Chantelle Fowler

Authored by

Chantelle is passionate about two things in her life – writing and animals. She grew up on the prairies in Canada surrounded by animals. As an adult, she chooses to share her home with five cats, two guinea pigs, and a bearded dragon. Chantelle, her husband, and their child take great pride in being THOSE kind of animal parents - the ones who spend a thousand dollars on wall-mounted cat shelves so that their cats can ha...Read more

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