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Why Do Cats Smell Good? 5 Reasons for This Phenomenon

Cat grooming self on concrete floor

How much do you love burying your nose into your cat’s soft fur? If you thought you were the only one who loves smelling your cat, you’re not alone.

Dogs have that distinctive doggy smell that usually requires the occasional bath, yet we never need to give our cats a bath. What exactly is going on here?

We’ve uncovered five reasons for this unusual phenomenon, and why we have the urge to inhale that scent.

hepper single cat paw divider

1. All That Grooming

Did you know that cats spend about 30 to 50% of their day just grooming?

Your cat’s tongue is covered in minuscule, little spines called “papillae,” which have hollow tips and are curved. It’s these tiny “hooks” that make your cat’s tongue feel like sandpaper. But they also prove to be exceptionally effective at keeping your cat’s coat clean and relatively tangle-free.

What seems like almost constant grooming keeps your cat’s coat and skin clean, which also helps keep them odor-free.

2. It’s a Question of Survival

For a cat’s wild ancestors and for stray and feral cats, not having a strong scent can mean the difference between life and death. While cats are capable predators, there are larger predators that go after cats as prey.

This is also why cats prefer high places and smaller, cave-like enclosed spaces (like your brand-new bag).

Cats can’t have a strong smell coming from their bodies because this will draw predators to them, and it could also warn their next meal that there’s a cat in the vicinity.

Cats are good at hiding, stalking, and pouncing when they are hunting, and the last thing that they want is to give away their presence with their strong odor. This is also why cats bury their waste.

Cats are also solitary, particularly when they hunt, so having a strong scent to identify themselves to other cats just isn’t necessary.

3. Cats Love to Sleep

grey cat sleeping on couch
Image Credit: Vidar H. Andersen, Pixabay

Our cats spend so much time sleeping, and they might be sleeping on something that smells quite nice — hopefully not your freshly washed and dried clothing! But we all pick up scents from where we live, particularly our hair.

So, if your cat is sleeping on your clean sheets or another sweet-smelling surface, this could be another reason that you enjoy your cat’s scent.

4. Cats Smell Familiar

While cats groom themselves and get their own pheromones all over their coats, they also smell like you and your home.

Many cat owners report that when they smell someone else’s cat, that cat somehow smells “wrong.” This might be because the cat doesn’t smell like you and your home. There isn’t any sense of familiarity with this strange cat.

Most people can’t even detect a smell when at home, and this can help explain why your cat smells almost neutral yet comforting.

Related Read: Why Do Cats Leave Their Mouths Open After Smelling? 5 Reasons for This Behaviour

5. It’s All About the Bond

woman in chair with cat on lap sleeping by tree
Image credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

As a cat owner, you have a strong bond with your cat. Perhaps this can mean there’s a slight bias about how much you enjoy your cat’s scent. It’s just like how the smell of lilacs might remind you of your mother or an apple pie baking in the oven will make you think of your grandfather.

Our sense of smell can bring up strong memories and associations with loved ones, and it’s quite likely that we enjoy smelling our cats because of our love for them.

Should You Give Your Cat a Bath?


Not usually, but there are certain circumstances that merit a bath. For the most part, cats groom themselves quite well. This also helps distribute the cat’s natural oils throughout their coat, which helps waterproof their fur and keep their skin and coat healthy. Bathing a cat can strip these natural oils, which can also dry their skin out.

However, as cats age, they will have more difficulty with grooming, particularly if they’re arthritic or obese. Sometimes, your cat might have parasites or have gotten into something particularly sticky and messy. There are certain substances that you won’t want your cat to lick because they might be toxic.

You want to use a medicated shampoo that your vet recommends if your cat has parasites or other skin issues. Or you can use a shampoo specially formulated for cats so you know that it won’t dry out the skin or leave behind residue that will be unhealthy for your cat to lick off. If it’s just a mess that needs cleaning up on the fur, try grooming wipes.


Now you know that you’re not the only cat person out there that loves smelling their cat (we do it too!), your cat likely smells like you, and you probably smell like your cat.

You can help your cat by regularly grooming and brushing that lovely coat. This will help keep tangles and mats away, which can be quite painful for your cat. This way, you can spend more time bonding, and it gives you the opportunity to sniff the top of your cat’s head! This sounds like a lovely way to spend an afternoon.

Featured Image Credit: user32212, Pixabay