Here’s Why Cats Smell Good? An Inside Look!

Last updated on December 12th, 2021

You’re back at home from the office, and having a relaxing time on your couch. Suddenly you’re drawn to the sight of your kitten licking you and herself. Sounds familiar, right?

It’s one of the common feline behavior that my cat has to constantly lick herself up, looking fresh at all times. I’ve wondered why her fur smells so good and looks so clean and tidy?

Well, it’s her habit of continually grooming herself as well as her pet owner through seemingly strange behaviors like biting and licking. This is one of the reasons why cats have a pleasurable smell most of the time.

Cats smell good because they clean themselves regularly and since they have two main types of sweat glands in the skin of their coat called the sebaceous and apocrine glands, these type of glands secrete an oily substance into their skin that contains a chemical called pheromone and by using their abrasive-like tongue, they are able to release and spread this scent all over their body which then creates fragrance-like feline odors.

why do cats smell good

To understand why your feline friend has such a delicious smell throughout the day, let’s discuss some of their cat physiology.

Why Does My Cat Smell Good?

Have you ever wondered why your feline friend licks herself so much? Is it because she is dirty the entire day?

Surprisingly, that’s not the reason! In fact, cats are never that dirty, and I can always find her well-groomed and tidy.

It’s this self-grooming ritual that makes feline creatures combat all bad odors that the body may produce. She loves to stay beautiful and keep herself visually attractive. She believes in cleanliness and hence, this constant grooming and licking.

Her regular grooming, bathing, and well-balanced diet help to keep the pet odor away. Well, if you are only a pet owner, you probably won’t feel this quite strange now.

But if you have multiple pets in your home, such as cats, dogs, guinea pigs, etc., you would be awfully surprised to see how your feline friend is always looking so neat and tidy compared to others.

And interestingly, even if your kitty has missed a bath for months, she would still manage to keep herself clean, groomed, and smelling great.

After all, what can you expect when your little four-legged family member is always licking her entire furry body to clear off the unwanted dirt and grime!

Why Do Felines Smell Better Than Dogs?

Cats smell better than dogs because they constantly bathe themselves to eliminate any nasty odor and clean out their fur whereas dogs don’t groom themselves as much as cats do. Dogs lie and play around in dirt or mud while this unpleasant scent builds up, however, a properly cared for dog will be groomed on a regular basis.

In this age-old debate, feline animals have always been the winner when it comes to smelling good.

Even if your dog just had a nice warm bath in good soap water, he would still look dirty and stinky all over again, which makes you ask, “Where did you just have a roll?”

Surprisingly enough, you’ve never had your feline companion give off a bad smell, even if you have never put her in a bath!

If you have been living with your cat for some time, you probably know why she has a natural smell that’s better than your other pets, like dogs.

It’s the natural habit of cats to groom themselves. They would spend most of the day (almost for a quarter of their total waking time) licking themselves to keep their fur neat and tidy as if getting ready for a wedding party or a business meeting!

Your dog may also lick himself, but that’s not so meticulously or methodically done as cats do.

Moreover, dogs don’t spend long hours grooming and cleaning their fur coat!

But whenever they do, it helps them to get rid of excess debris, fleas, and loose hair. If these unwanted things remain entangled within their fur coat, this will lead to infections, skin irritations, or other health hazards.

What’s Different in a Cat’s Tongue?

You may wonder whether cats have a gifted tongue with essential properties for grooming.

Felines are known for their rough, sandpaper-like tongue texture, which alone answers why it has different functionality as opposed to a dog’s smooth tongue. You may have already felt this rough texture of their tongues when your kitty licks you.

It’s the surface of the feline’s tongue that serves the essential purpose of self-cleaning and grooming. In simple terms, a cat’s tongue acts like a brush that cleans surfaces, including its own fur.

A feline’s tongue is covered in numerous scoop-shaped spines called “papillae” that are made of keratin.

These sharp tiny hooks are useful in a cat’s grooming process. However, some new research studies also show that these spiny structures also help a cat stay cool.

A cat’s sandpaper tongue has a scratchy texture at the top. It’s capable of collecting and distributing saliva when the animal grooms itself. Yes, your feline beauty queen is equipped with all the necessary grooming tools, like brushes and bristles.

New search studies have also claimed that the spiny structures (also known as papillae) in the cat’s tongue are around 2mm long and consist of a U-shaped cavity at the tip of each. On measuring the hardness of these papillae, scientists have found that they are as hard as human fingernails.

On examining closely using high-speed videography, it is found that when cats lick themselves, only the spines situated at the end of the tongue come in contact with the fur.

The spines in this location are closely packed together and are larger compared to those present near the tongue’s bottom portion.

And by putting a bit of pressure, the cat’s tongue can touch the skin easily.

Further, the U-shaped cavity found in the tip of the spines takes up saliva. These cavities work in a similar fashion to tissue or thin paper that crumbles up when immersed in water.

This deposited saliva plays an important role when it comes to cleaning the cat’s skin.

Interestingly, scientists have proven that these feline pets spend almost 2.4 hours per day grooming themselves, which becomes around a quarter of their waking time.

Now you may ask, where do all this licked-off dirt and debris go?

Don’t they cause health issues in cats when they drag them inside their mouth? The answer is simple.

Cats groom themselves very cleverly and effectively. Because the debris collected by the tongue gets dissolved with the help of special enzymes secreted by their saliva.

However, the only cat species that cannot groom themselves effectively are the domestic Persians, due to their long hair.

This is why Persian cat owners may need to take the time to groom, brush and bathe their pets appropriately to avoid skin issues and other infections.

The Cool Cat!

What’s more interesting is this frequent licking can help cats lose their body heat. While we humans lose body heat by sweating on hot days, cats do so through the small saliva cavities present in their tongue papillae.

Not all feline creatures inhabit hot and arid regions or climates, and therefore, this constant licking helps them to stay cool.

This is extremely important for cats to survive the hot summer days. Dogs cool themselves down in a similar way by panting and letting their tongue hang out to release the heat.

Should I Bathe My Kitty?

While felines have already surprised you by being a good kitty and grooming themselves, you may wonder whether you still need to bathe or brush them.

The answer to this is, yes, you can bathe your cat if you wish. In fact, it’s recommended to do so, especially if your pet loves outdoor activities.

For instance, if your pet rolls into something really dirty, a good bath and external brushing are necessary to deep-clean your pet’s fur and skin.

In such cases, even an entire day of your pet grooming themselves won’t be sufficient.

Besides, there may be other areas that your cat’s tongue can’t reach. An external cleaning and grooming process is required to help your furball stay healthy and completely groomed.

However, vets suggest not to bathe cats too frequently. Also, using shampoo would leave the skin itchy and dry.

Can I Brush My Cat?

Brushing is always a good idea, even if you don’t bathe your furry friend with soapy water, however, long-haired felines would need more brushing than short-haired ones.

The advantages of regular cat brushing include:

  • Removes excess hair (which may eventually be scattered around your house).
  • Prevents hair knots, specifically in places where your cat’s tongue can’t reach.

What Does Your Cat Smell Like?

The common things your cat may seem to be smelling like are:

  • Grass
  • Other people
  • Fresh laundry (yes, it’s that strange!)
  • Mud (if they didn’t have a litter box to poop in)

What Scents Do Cats Like?

Cats love the scent of:

  • Catnip (a plant belonging to the mint family)
  • Plastic bags!
  • Flowers
  • All spices, such as cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, fennel, etc.
  • Ginger
  • Fresh herbs like lavender and rosemary

Out of the above list, the most fascinating smell for cats is that of the catnip. My kitty also absolutely loves the mouth-watering aroma of cooking meat, such as grilling bacon. She looks adorable when she sniffs around the house with her cute little nose!

Scroll to Top