cat and flowers

Why Do Cats Smell Good?

Anyone who owns both a cat and a dog (like me) will be able to testify that cats smell a whole lot better than dogs and indeed other animals, but why is this?

This is because cats groom their bodies several times a day, removing bad smells on their coats.

Being as scent-free as possible also used to help wild cats not to be discovered by prey or larger predators. 

How much time does your cat spend grooming her body?

Cats tend to sleep a lot, typically around 16 hours per day.

That doesn’t leave them a lot of time to be awake, so you might think that they’d prefer action and play rather than grooming themselves.

Well, think again. There are 24 hours in a day, but most cats spend about 4-5 hours grooming their bodies. 

cat grooming

Add that to the average of 16 hours they spend sleeping, and they’re pretty busy for over 20-21 hours each day. 

Grooming is great for cleaning their bodies, but most cats actually seem to be ‘allergic’ to anything that might get them dirty. 

If you’ve ever dropped a piece of food on your cat’s body or tried to convince them to eat something and accidentally got one of their paws or a side of their face dirty, you know how long your pet will spend grooming herself after this. 

Their tongue is also extremely good at removing dirt from their bodies, especially since it is equipped with special papillae, which look like small and sharp spines. 

The downside is that your cat risks swallowing a lot of fur while grooming her body, so you have to make sure that you brush your pet at least once or twice a week to minimise hairballs.  

Can cats smell different depending on their diet?


However, there are two main ways in which you can tell that your cat’s diet influences her scent.

Their faeces might smell differently when you change their kibble or start feeding her a new brand of canned food. 

eating moist cat food

Your cat’s breath can also change depending on what you feed her.

Various pet diets can cause slight changes in the pH inside a cat’s oral cavity. 

If your pet tends to come and sit on your lap or right on your chest as you rest in bed, chances are you’re going to notice if she has bad breath. 

We’d like to note that while it is a pain for most cat owners, brushing your cat’s teeth or at least using a water additive (often sold as a ‘cat mouthwash’) can decrease the amount of tartar and plaque that builds up on your cat’s teeth. 

Maintaining great oral hygiene is extremely important when it comes to preventing periodontal disease, which, in your cat’s senior years, could lead to the loss of all her teeth. 

Cats and their scent glands

Another reason your cat smells good is that she has scent glands in several areas of her body. 

Most are located in their cheeks, on their paw pads, lips, forehead, flanks, but there are even some in their tail.

cat paw pads

You might not know this, but like dogs, cats have two small anal glands located on either side of their rectum.

The purpose of these two glands is to apply a strong-smelling scent to the faeces so that the cat marks her territory. 

Besides helping them to mark their territory, anal glands can also help a slightly constipated cat go potty.

Firm faeces actually put pressure on the rectum, therefore making these glands release the oils collected in them. 

Do cats smell better than dogs?

Anyone who’s ever owned both a cat and a dog knows just how clean cats can be compared to dogs.

Their grooming habits are obviously the main reason for this, but their behaviour is, too. 

For instance, while dogs tend to throw themselves into puddles, lakes, and everywhere they might have a bit of fun, regardless of whether that might make them dirty or not, cats do not exhibit the same behaviour. 

They are much calmer and more inquisitive, and they first have to find out as much as they can about their new surroundings before engaging in any kind of play. 

Also, dogs are more likely to get into trash cans, especially if you’ve denied them any table scraps. 

By contrast, cats will stick to their regular cat food and beg for food only on occasion or if you’ve set a routine where you give them pouches every morning, for example. 

Food intolerances also make cats less likely to get into trash bins as they aren’t as interested in anything that contains milk or cream or anything that could be heavily seasoned. 

Should you bathe your cat?

Cats don’t really have to be given baths as they do such a great job of cleaning their own bodies. 

However, if you really have to bathe your cat then we advise you to use cat-specific shampoo and be careful about the whole procedure. 

siberian cat having a bath

No water (especially soapy water) should go into your cat’s eyes or ears, let alone her mouth. 

If you’re thinking of bathing your cat to get rid of external parasites such as fleas, we recommend using a topical flea treatment instead.

You will just apply it to your cat’s back of the neck so that she doesn’t ingest any, and you’ll be done. 

Final thoughts

Cats can smell like themselves, or they can smell like their owners, fresh laundry, or grass (if they were recently outside). 

Yet the biggest reason cats tend to smell good is that they clean their bodies for up to five hours per day. 

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