How good is a cat’s sense of smell?
You may be surprised to learn that cats and dogs have a comparable sense of smell. Cats originate from top predators in the wild that utilize their many senses to successfully hunt their prey and help them survive in the harsh environment. As cats became domesticated, their need for sharp senses may have diminished a little but they’re all still very present, including a very strong sense of smell. In fact, cats rely on their noses far more than we think. In this article, we’ve listed some interesting facts about a cat’s nose and how strong their sense of smell is!
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Can cats smell better than dogs?
Cats have senses that are far more sensitive than us humans. They can detect different stimuli more accurately and at a significantly less concentration than what our sensory organs require. This is especially true of the cat’s sense of smell.
Cats have roughly 200 million scent receptors in their nasal passages, far more than the 6 million receptors humans have in their noses. Though some breeds of dogs, like Bloodhounds, have around 600 million receptors, most canine breeds have a significantly lower number of receptors in the nasal cavity compared to cats.
Additionally, it has been found that a cat’s ability to distinguish scents is far more powerful than that of a dog. The scent receptor responsible for distinguishing between different scents, called the V1R receptor, is far greater in number in cats compared to dogs and humans. Cats have around 30 V1R receptors in their noses, while dogs only have 9 and humans have 2.
This means that cats have the most sensitive sense of smell across these species, having the ability to distinguish and detect subtle differences in what can smell like similar scents to both us humans and our canine friends.
They make use of their highly sensitive sense of smell to help them locate and track potential prey. They are also able to tell if a particular object is edible or not, distinguish between toxic and non-toxic substances, determine where other animals or individuals have been based on scent, and even help them find their way home if they get lost.
Smell as a Territory Marker
Cats are territorial creatures, and they mark their territories with urine or feces. This is observed more in cats with access to the outdoors since they feel that they need to mark their territories and keep other cats away. They use their highly sensitive olfactory (smell) senses to detect if other cats have been wandering around in their territory or know if they’re about to enter other cats’ territory.
These animals also use their sense of smell during the mating period. When female cats go into heat, they release a particular scent, called pheromones, to attract male cats for mating. Male cats can detect these pheromones at great distances because of how strong and sensitive their sense of smell is.
The highly sensitive sense of smell that cats possess can help them identify the presence of other cats in their environment. And whether they need it to protect their territories or look for a possible mate, cats relied heavily on their olfactory senses…
Cats Use Their Nose to Choose Which Food to Eat
Unlike humans that choose the food we eat based on taste, cats rely on their sense of smell in choosing their next meal. Cats have very few taste receptors and can’t even fully detect particular flavors, that’s why they have to rely on their strongest sense when choosing their food.
Their olfactory senses are cats’ primary drivers for their appetite. They tend to prefer highly aromatic food even if a meal is not as flavorful. You may have noticed it yourself, when offered a meal, cats will smell the food first before attempting to take a bite. Their appetite is highly dependent on their sense of smell.
This is also the reason why, when cats develop respiratory infections or diseases affecting their upper respiratory tract resulting in congestion, one of the most common symptoms observed is loss of appetite. When their nasal passages become blocked due to severe congestion, their sense of smell becomes compromised and significantly affects their appetite. If they are unable to smell their food, their appetite is not stimulated enough and they won’t feel hunger.
Strong Scents Can Cause Respiratory Problems in Cats
Because of their highly sensitive olfactory senses, cats tend to also be more vulnerable to developing respiratory problems when exposed to strong scents. Some odors can be repulsive to cats and they tend to react negatively to them, resulting in untoward behavior like aggressiveness.
Some scents can also be highly irritating for cats because of their strong sense of smell. Certain aerosol sprays that may seem harmless to humans can trigger a severe inflammatory reaction in the cat’s nasal passages and can result in upper respiratory problems.
Scents like disinfectant aerosol sprays, perfumes, and even strong fabric detergents and softeners can cause cats to sneeze frequently and have profuse nasal discharge. In worse cases, cats develop secondary bacterial infections which may need treatment from a vet.
Pet owners should be aware of this before deciding on getting a kitten or a cat. The use of aerosol sprays with strong scents should be limited and should only be used when cats are not in the room.
If you observe any signs of respiratory disease in your cats, it’s best to bring them to a vet immediately to determine the cause and rule out other, more serious, respiratory problems.
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