How do cats smell?

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A cat’s nose is about 14 times more sensitive than a human’s, making a feline’s sense of smell one of his most important survival tools. Cats rely on scent as a means of finding food, but also for detecting potential mates, discerning friends from foes, and avoiding territorial disputes.

Kittens are born with their eyes closed and immediately use their sense of smell to find their mother’s teats to get their first meal. No matter a cat’s age, if he cannot smell his food, he will not eat, which often necessitates feeding sick or aged cats something strong smelling like sardines – or slightly warming their food to emit more aroma.

Male cats seeking a mate can smell sexual pheromones at great distances, and males also use their own urine as well as the glands in their feet and faces to mark territory. The alert behavior of a cat in new territory indicates he’s literally sniffing “the wind” to find out if he’s in someone else’s space.

The sense of smell is so crucial to a cat’s perception of his world that he actually has a second set of “nostrils” at his disposal. Located on the roof of the mouth just behind the front teeth, the two openings known as Jacobson’s organ allow a cat to essentially “taste” a smell.

When used in concert with his sharp ears and eyes and sensitive whiskers, a cat’s nose ensures that very little happens in his immediate environment of which Fluffy is unaware.

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