Why Do Cats Smell Good?

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I’ve parented two cats for over a decade, and I can attest that smelling their heads is like a drug. They smell so wonderful all the time. One of my cats has this dusty cinnamony smell that makes me want to bury my face in her fur whenever she’s around me.

I used to wonder: “Why do cats smell so good?” 

I recently did some research into the topic to find some explanation. And today, I’m going to share what I found out.

Read on to learn:

13 Possible Reasons Your Cat Smells Good

There are hundreds of reasons cats smell good. However, let’s focus only on the 13 most probable explanations.

1. They Pick up That Scent While Sleeping on Laundry or Something That Smells Good

Cats often pick up scents from their environment. If your cat likes curling up on laundry or other objects that have a pleasant fragrance, the scent from these objects can transfer to their fur, giving them a pleasant aroma.

Felines have fur that can absorb odor from their surround. Your kitty’s fur might pick up and retain some of the smell when it sleeps on objects with good smell.

And since your cat is a creature of habit and seeks comfort and security in familiar scents, it could be sleeping on these pleasant-smelling objects every day, giving it a good smell consistently

2. It Could Be That You Use Scented Cat Litter Box

No question, scented cat litter boxes are meant to control and mask odors coming from the litter box. They have fragrances that neutralize unpleasant odor associated with cat urine and faeces.

Reducing the odor at its source helps your cat smell fresher.

More importantly, cats sometimes step into their litter or get litter particles stuck to their paws. A scented cat litter box helps prevent this by encouraging your kitty to bury their waste quickly. 

Consequently, the chances of your cat coming into contact with odorous substances that might cling to its fur and give it a bad smell are reduced.

3. New kittens smell better than old cats

New kittens often have a naturally pleasant scent, much like human babies than older cats, for several reasons:

  • Natural baby scent: There is a biological component to the pleasant scent of kittens. Much like human babies have a unique and appealing scent to attract caregivers, kittens may have a similar evolutionary adaptation to draw their mother’s and human caretakers’ attention and care. 

The good smell is a natural mechanism for your kitty to get the attention from you or its mother.

  • Youthful cleanliness: Kittens are typically very meticulous when grooming and spend more time cleaning themselves than adults or senior cats. The commitment to cleanliness keeps kittens’ fur clean and odor-free.

Consequently, kittens smell better than adult or senior felines.

Some cats may not groom themselves as thoroughly or frequently as they age, leading to a less fresh scent.

  • Kitten diet: Most kittens are usually on a diet formulated for growth, development, healthier skin and coat. This food quality can contribute to a healthier coat and skin with a more pleasant scent.
  • Hormonal changes: As cats mature, they undergo hormonal changes, such as those associated with sexual maturity and aging. These changes can sometimes lead to alterations in scent glands and oils on the skin, which may affect the overall odor of an older cat.

Kittens don’t undergo most hormonal changes, helping them maintain good smell.

While kittens have a naturally pleasant scent, the scent might change as they grow and mature because of factors like diet, grooming habits, and environmental exposure.

4. Your Cat’s Diet Is Good

A cat’s diet can significantly affect its scent. 

For instance, a balanced, high-quality diet provides essential nutrients for maintaining healthy skin and a shiny coat. For example, omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids contribute to skin health and can result in a softer and more pleasant-smelling coat. 

On the other hand, a poor diet can cause your cat to smell bad in several ways:

  • Poor diet can lead to dry, flaky skin and a dull coat, which might not smell pleasant.
  • Wrong food might contain ingredients your cat’s digestive system can’t process properly. Indigestion can trigger gastrointestinal issues such as diarrhea or gas, resulting in a foul smell.
  • Inappropriate cat food can trigger dental problems such as gum disease and tooth decay, which can induce bad breath and an unpleasant scent from your cat’s mouth.

Pro tip: Sometimes, quality food can make your cat smell bad. For instance, wet food that contains fish meat, like tuna, is one of the best cat’s diet. However, it doesn’t smell good and can give your cat bad breath. A food smell can impact the smell of your kitty’s breath.

5. Constant Grooming

Cats are meticulous groomers. Regular grooming helps them keep their fur clean and free of odors. Felines use their saliva during grooming. The saliva contains enzymes that can break down and neutralize odors. If your cat grooms constantly, it’ll smell better.

Cats also have sebaceous glands in their skin that produce natural oils. During grooming, your kitty distributes this natural oil throughout its fur, contributing to a pleasant, natural scent.

Grooming also stimulates scent glands in cats. Scent glands are in different body parts, like cheeks and the base of the tail. When grooming, your feline may activate these glands and distribute scent markers. While cats use this scent to mark territory, it enhances their overall smell.

Even more, grooming helps control external body odor. If your cat comes in contact with a bad scent, constant grooming removes and controls the odor, ensuring it smells like itself instead of the scent it encountered.

6. Cats Release Natural Body Oils That Smell Good

Cats have natural oils on their skin and fur that can have a pleasant scent. While the oils serve different purposes, they contribute to a pleasant scent.

Your cat’s skin produces the oils to keep its skin moisturized and conditioned. When the skin and fur are well-hydrated and healthy, they’re less likely to develop dryness or flakiness, which can be the source of unpleasant odor.

Plus, the natural body oils your cat’s skin produces repel water, dust, and other environmental contaminants that can contribute to unpleasant smells. The oils make your cat’s skin impermeable, remaining clean and smelling better.

7. Smelling Good Is A Way of Staying Safe

Being clean and maintaining a personal scent is crucial to felines. While your kitty is in the wild anymore, it still has some wild traits wired into its DNA.

Wild felines hide their scents to camouflage themselves while on the hunt. Similarly, after hunting and eating, cats clean their coat to eliminate the smell of prey, which can attract predators. 

In the wild, if a cat smells clean and odor-free, it is less likely to attract the attention of predators or potential threats that might be sensitive to the scent of prey. That way, your cat’s ancestors reduced the likelihood of being detected by larger predators.

While your kitty isn’t in the wild, it instinctively preserves its scent. The natural scent gives it a good smell and plays a role in communication with other cats, such as conveying information about their territory, moods, and presence. The communication keeps harmony with other pets in your home.

8. Your Cat Is in a Good Mood and Has Low-Stress Levels

Cats can emit different scents based on their mood and stress levels. Your kitty will smell good when in a good mood and low stress. When your cat is relaxed, content, and secure, it emits scents associated with well-being, calmness, and positivity.

Your cat has a specialized scent gland that can release pheromones associated with a relaxed and content state. These pheromones communicate to other cats and animals in the household that the cat isn’t a threat and is in a harmonious state. 

Pheromone scents are pleasant and give the impression that your cat smells good.

When your cat is anxious or stressed, it may emit a different scent that signals its emotional state. If your cat’s stress levels are low, it’s less likely to produce these stress-related scents, resulting in a more positive overall scent.

9. Your Cat Feels Loved, Comfortable, and Safe

Your cat might smell good if it feels loved, comfortable, and safe because a cat’s emotional state affects the way it smells.

When your kitty feels loved and secure, it tends to be more relaxed and content, releasing calming pheromones that can contribute to a pleasant scent. 

Plus, your cat is more likely to engage in grooming behavior when comfortable. Grooming keeps your cat’s fur clean and helps distribute its natural body oils, which can contribute to a pleasant scent.

10. They Smell Like Your Home/Environment

While your cats groom themselves and get their pheromones all over their coat, it will also smell like you and home.

I’ve heard many cat parents reporting that when they smell someone else’s cat, it doesn’t smell as good as theirs. The most probable explanation is that the foreign cat doesn’t smell like them or their home. There isn’t a sense of familiarity with the strange cat.

After all, many people can’t even detect a smell at home, explaining why your cat smells almost neutral yet comforting.

Your cat will smell like your home or the environment it resides in. Your cat spends much time close to things in its environment, and its fur can absorb the fragrance of items surrounding it.

11. Cat Paws Secret Hormones When It’s Marking Territories (Kneading)

Cats have scent glands in their paws that release hormones when marking territories, which can contribute to their overall scent. 

Many cat owners say their kitty’s paws smell like corn chips. Maybe that is how your kitty plans to take over territories in your home, and it’s an admirable quality.

When felines mark territories, their paws release territory-marking hormones pheromones. Your cat will knead on objects and even you with their paws to claim ownership. 

Kneading activates the glands in their paw pads and releases pheromones that combine with the yeasty smell bacteria to create a pleasant smell.

12. It Might Be A Perception

Your emotional connection with your pet can influence your perception of your cat’s scent. If you associate your cat with affection, love, and care, your brain may interpret their scent as more pleasant.

The human brain has a remarkable ability to link positive emotions and experiences with sensory inputs. That way, your cat’s good smell might be a slight bias about how much you enjoy your cat’s scent. 

Your sense of smell can bring up associations and memories with loved ones, and it’s possible that you enjoy smelling your cat because you love it.

13. Suffering From Diabetes Mellitus (Giving the Cat a Fruity Smell)

One concerning reason your cat might be smelling good might be diabetes mellitus. The condition sometimes results in a fruity or sweet-smelling odor, like nail polish remover.

Where does this smell come from?

A diabetic cat cannot effectively use glucose for energy due to insufficient insulin or insulin resistance. Consequently, the body starts to break down fats for energy, leading to ketone production.

Ketones have a distinct fruity smell. When the ketones level in your cat gets elevated, the odor becomes noticeable in your cat’s breath and sometimes urine, which might contribute to your kitty’s good smell.

The condition can become life-threatening if the ketone production imbalances the body’s pH levels. The fruity smell is often a prominent symptom of advanced diabetes millitus.

Different Cat Smells Cat Owners Report Their Cats Smell Like

A healthy cat has no distinctive smell. However, cat owners describe different smells for their cats. Some are good, others aren’t. 

While there are hundreds of smells cat owners associate their cats with, we want to focus only on the 13 most common ones.

  1. Grass: If your cat spends time outdoors or has access to grass, it might sometimes carry a grass scent on their fur. The smell sticks to their hair as the cat rubs against or rolls in the grass while exploring or playing outside.
  1. Dust: Cats that enjoy digging or scratching in dusty areas such as litter boxes might smell dust. The dust particles can stick to their fur, especially when clumping cat litter.
  1. Poo: Some cats smell poo. The scenario is common when feces stick on your cat’s behind after using the litter box.
  1. The Vet’s office: Some cat parents report that their cats smell like the vet’s office. The vet’s office isn’t a pleasant smell, but when your kitty returns from the vet, they smell like that.
  1. Cat Food: The scent of cat food can linger on a cat’s breath and fur, especially after meals. Wet food might leave a more noticeable odor than dry food.
  1. Fritos: Some cat owners have described their cats as having a Fritos-like scent. The smell could be related to the natural scent of a cat’s paws, which can sometimes have a faint corn chip or popcorn aroma.
  1. Sweetness: Some felines have a sweet, candy-like smell. The odor is a combination of different factors, such as grooming habits, diet, and overall health. If your cat smells sweet, you’re lucky because the scent is rare.
  1. Human Fragrance: Cats may occasionally pick up scents from their human family members, such as fragrances from perfumes, lotions, or other products. This is because your cat’s fur can soak up smell like a sponge soaks up water.
  1. Laundry: Most cats love to sit on top of a pile of warm laundry. If your cat does so, it not only gets warmth but will likely smell like the laundry. Your kitty may faintly smell laundry detergent or fabric softener if they frequently cuddle in or sleep on freshly laundered clothes or bedding.
  1. Bliss: Some cat parents cannot describe their cat’s exact smell but say it smells like bliss. When a cat is content and relaxed, their scent may be associated with a sense of happiness and tranquility.
  1. Maple syrup: Maple syrup is not a typical scent associated with cats. If a cat’s fur smells like maple syrup, it could be due to unusual environmental factors or interactions.
  1. Cardboard: Cats may sometimes rub against or nest in cardboard boxes, and this can transfer a faint cardboard scent to their fur.
  1. Chocolate: Chocolate is not a scent typically associated with cats. If a cat’s fur smells like chocolate, it may be coincidental or related to environmental factors.

Pro tip: You should be concerned if your cat has been smelling good all along, then a day or two passes when she smells bad. The foul smell can be a sign of an underlying issue.

Why Do Cats Smell Good: Conclusion

Cats smell good for different reasons, but the main one is that they are meticulous groomers, keeping their fur clean and in excellent condition. Consistent grooming allows your cat to release a natural scent, which most cat owners find pleasant.


When should I be concerned about my cat’s smell? When is it time to consult with my vet?

If your cat smells different than usual, visit your vet to rule out the underlying cause. Sudden odor changes could be a sign of an underlying health issue. Sometimes, the odor might be accompanied by a change in skin condition, such as redness, rash, hair loss, or lumps and bumps. 
Other times, a sweet smell can be a sign of diabetes mellitus. Consult your vet if the cat shows signs like increased thirst, urination, weight loss, and fruity odor on the breath.

When should you bath your cat?

You should bathe your cat at least once every 4-6 weeks, depending on how often it grooms itself and the environment it’s usually in. However, some situations might warrant immediate or more frequent bathes such as:
* Foul odor
* Sticky or solid fur
* Skin conditions that require medicated shampoo

What if your cat doesn’t smell so good?

When your cat doesn’t smell so good, you need to rule out any immediate cause, such as:
* Rolling in something unpleasant
* Eating dead carcasses
* Playing in the litter box
* Dental problem causing bad breath
* Ear infection
* Anal gland issues
If there isn’t any immediate cause of the unpleasant odor, consult your vet for an examination of any underlying condition causing the smell.

Is there a parasite that can make you think your cat smells good?

According to a study by The National Library of Medicine, toxoplasma parasites can change a person’s brain, so they lose their innate fear of cat urine. A person infected with toxoplasma is more likely to think the odor of high doses of cat urine is more pleasant.

My cat smells good, but her breath stinks. What do I do?

If your cat’s body scent is pleasant, but her breath smells bad, your kitty might be having dental issues or other underlying issues. Foul breath in cats is often associated with dental problems, such as gum disease or dental infections, but it can also be linked to other medical conditions.
Consult your vet to identify what makes your cat’s breath stink and get the best recommendation.

About Laura Martin

I'm Laura Martin. I get excited about all things cat related. I love my two cats - Dom and Kitty. When I'm not playing with my two feline friends, you can probably find me hiking. And yes, I have a 9 to 5 job. Although if you asked me I'd rather spend my time blogging and educating other cat moms and dads about what it takes to raise a healthy cat.

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