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Why Do Cats Smell Your Breath? 7 Reasons for This Behavior

Kathryn Copeland

By Kathryn Copeland

Cat's paw on child's face

It’s the cutest thing when cats nuzzle your face, but when they start sniffing your breath, you have to wonder why anyone would want to smell that. Cats are undoubtedly quirky creatures, and their interest in our breath can be chalked up to one of the weird behaviors that make us wonder about our cat friends.

We’re here to dispel the mystery around this odd but endearing behavior. We found seven reasons that cats love to sniff when we exhale. Below, we’ll explore the reasons and give you something to discuss at the dinner table tonight.

The 7 Reasons Why Cats Smell Your Breath

1. Curiosity

Curiosity did not kill the cat! We all know how curious cats are, and smelling our breath is just another way for them to explore something new. You can move your furniture over 2 feet, and it’s suddenly a new object worth exploring for a cat. A cat’s curiosity comes from a built-in strong survival instinct from their wild ancestors.

Cats are hardwired to plan their escape from predators and for hunting purposes. While our cats have been domesticated for centuries, their curiosity is one aspect that makes them unique, so it makes sense that they’d be curious about our breath.

cat smelling woman's chin
Image Credit: Koldunov Alexey, Shutterstock

2. Warmth

We’ve all seen our cats seek out the warmest places in the house, including the tiny patch of sun, the heating vent on the floor, or the perfect spot in front of the fireplace.

Our breath is also quite warm, and if you breathe gently on your cat, it could be an attraction to that warmth you’re seeing.


3. Scent

Cats are driven by scent. They learn about the world around them by exploring with their noses. Humans have around 6 million olfactory receptors in our noses, whereas cats have 200 million!

They use scent to figure out the sexual status of other cats, socialize, communicate, and recognize territory. Cats naturally stick their noses into everything, and that clearly includes our mouths.

orange tabby cat sniffing a man
Image Credit: Magui RF, Shutterstock

4. Food

This is probably one of the main reasons your cat is so intrigued by your breath. Like any animal, cats are food-oriented, and your breath contains several interesting scents.

If you’ve recently eaten something your cat might be drawn to—a tuna salad sandwich for lunch, for example—it’s no wonder your cat is enjoying the ambrosia of your breath so much!


5. Health

Cats can tell when their owners are going through emotional turmoil and when they are sick. They typically do this through scent. If you’re not well, your cat might smell your breath because they can detect a problem. This can also occur if you recently took medication.

You might find your cat more likely to “groom” you and become more attentive when you’re sick or stressed out. They are trying to calm you down and ease your anxiety, just as you would when your cat is stressed.

young woman holding her siberian cat
Image Credit: evrymmnt, Shutterstock

6. Information

When a cat smells your breath, they pick up information about you. They also probably enjoy your breath because it’s uniquely you, which comforts them.


7. Trust

By entering your physical space, your cat demonstrates complete love and trust for you. It’s an intimate and vulnerable act to place your face next to someone else. If your cat trusts you, smelling your breath is a lovely physical sign of this bond.

lilac burmese cat kissing womans nose
Image Credit; Julija Sulkovska, Shutterstock

Final Thoughts

Not every cat out there will smell your breath for any or none of these reasons. Some cats might do it for the smell of what you last ate, while others look for warmth and comfort.

We hope the breath-smelling sessions with your cat are done alongside gentle head bunting and you enjoy the whole process. This beautiful little creature trusts you, and you should feel honored to be your cat’s chosen one.

See also:


Featured Image Credit: Antibydni, Shutterstock

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