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Do Cats Like The Smell Of Vanilla? Interesting Facts & FAQ

Gregory Iacono

By Gregory Iacono

Vanilla Extract

Cats, like many mammals, have an incredible sense of smell that’s approximately 14 times stronger than any human. A cat’s keen sense of smell is thanks to the 200 million odor sensors it has in its tiny little nose. Compare that to your 5 million or so odor sensors, and you immediately see why your cat’s sense of smell is so keen. That leads to many questions about what cats smell, including one in particular; do cats like the smell of vanilla?

The answer, while not definitive, is that cats don’t like or dislike the smell of vanilla. Most cats couldn’t care less about the scent of vanilla, which is not surprising when considering that they’re carnivores. Their nose can pick up the smell of vanilla with no problem; it’s simply not as interesting to them as other scents.

We’ll discuss which aromas are most tempting to cats, how their sense of smell compares to dogs, and more below.

Which Smells Are Cats Most Attracted To?

While cats might not be attracted to the smell of vanilla, plenty of other smells drive them a little wild. Some of their favorites include the following:

  • Basil
  • Cantaloupe
  • Silverine
  • Catnip
  • Valerian Root
  • Olive oil
  • Honeysuckle
  • Roses
  • Any meat or fish
basil leaves
Image Credit: kkolosov, Pixabay

Do Cats Have a Better Sense of Smell than Dogs?

Yes, cats do have a better sense of smell than dogs. One way to determine this is to look at a mammal’s scent receptor proteins. Humans, for example, have two types of scent proteins, while dogs have nine. Cats, however, have 30 scent proteins, more than triple dogs.

How Far Away Can Cats Smell Their Owners?

While there haven’t been many research studies to determine how far away your cat can smell you, there have been a couple. On a good day, your cat would likely be able to smell your scent from 1.5 to about 4 miles away. Of course, because they have a natural homing instinct, your cat doesn’t need to smell you to know where you live (and where their next good meal is coming from).

cat with pinkish nose
Image Credit: JumpStory

Do Cats Recognize You by Your Smell?

Not only do cats recognize you by your sense of smell it’s one of the primary senses they use to determine it’s you and not a stranger. You might have noticed that your cat frequently puts their face right up to yours. You might think they want to get close and give you kitten kisses, but most likely, your cat is simply determining that you’re their owner.

What’s truly fascinating is that cats who are given objects that smell like you aren’t always soothed by your scent like dogs tend to be. Indeed, in some cases, a cat may become upset that the thing in front of them has your scent but isn’t you.

Can Cats Be Around Vanilla-scented Candles and Incense?

Vanilla candles and incense aren’t harmful to your cat as long as they can’t get near them. Candles and incense, when burning, are a fire hazard. If your curious cat were to push either onto the floor, it could cause a fire. Another issue is that many candles use ingredients or parts that are toxic to cats, including paraffin wax, lead wicks, and synthetic fragrances.

In other words, while candles and incense won’t harm your cat, per se, it’s recommended to be close by and keep an eye on both if you have a cat in the house so that they don’t start a fire. Also, check any candles you purchase to ensure they don’t contain harmful or toxic chemicals and ingredients.

two lit candles in a jar
Image Credit: LNataly, Shutterstock

Which Smells Do Cats Like the Least?

While most cats don’t care about the smell of vanilla, there are many other smells they absolutely hate. Below is a list of those smells so that you can keep them away from your cat.

  • Essential oils like lavender, eucalyptus, and tea tree
  • Citrus
  • Hot peppers
  • Vinegar
  • Ground coffee
  • A filthy litter box

Final Thoughts

Cats don’t like or dislike the smell of vanilla and usually ignore it completely. Most cats would rather spend their time smelling something else, like catnip, roses, and the tuna fish salad you made for lunch. Vanilla isn’t harmful to cats and won’t make them run for the hills; it simply isn’t that interesting to a cat.

Cats, however, have a keen sense of smell that is sharper than many dog breeds. They also “see” the world through their sense of smell and can tell their owners apart by the unique scent they make. In short, although they might not dance for joy at the scent of vanilla, your average cat uses their sense of smell to navigate the world.

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Featured Image Credit: Jumpstory

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