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Why Do Cats Smell So Good? Cleaning Feline Habits & Facts

Written by: Kristin Hitchcock

Last Updated on February 9, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

person smelling cat

Why Do Cats Smell So Good? Cleaning Feline Habits & Facts

There’s nothing better than picking your cat up for a cuddle and breathing in the scent from their soft fur. But exactly why do our cats smell so good? There are a few reasons, with the fact that cats spend between 30-50% of their waking hours grooming themselves being one of them. Let’s find out exactly what those are, and see which one fits your cat best!


Cats Groom Themselves Frequently

Cats spend between 30-50% of their waking hours grooming themselves, so it’s no surprise that your cat smells clean. Unlike dogs (who we love too, by the way!), cats are fastidious about keeping their fur as clean as possible, all the time! If you ever see your cat get a bit of food on their face or step in mud, you’ll notice that they’ll be focusing on cleaning that off ASAP.

cat licking the nose of the woman
Image Credit: ECOSY, Shutterstock

They Have a Special Tongue

When your cat licks your skin, it’s easy to feel that their tongues are quite rough. This is because they’re covered in tiny sharp spines. The scientific name for these is papillae. These little spines lift dirt and dust off your cat’s coat, as well as remove shedding hair. Cats basically have a tiny brush on their tongues, making it easy for them to keep their coat shiny and clean at all times.

Cats in the Wild Need to Stay Clean to Survive

Wild cats are predators, but they’re also prey for larger species. One way that cats in the wild can avoid attracting predators is to keep themselves scrupulously clean. After eating, cats will spend plenty of time making sure they remove every last trace of food from their face and whiskers.

This is the same reason that cats bury their waste, so their scents are much harder to detect.

Cats also ambush their prey, so if they smell anything other than “neutral,” their scent will likely get picked up and their prey will run for the hills.

white cat licking itself
Image Credit: Pixabay

They Fell Asleep on Fresh Laundry or Something Else That Smells Good

Cats do not naturally produce much body odor, so while you might think that it’s your cat that smells good, it might be something that they’ve been sitting or lying on.

Cats love to curl up in warmth, so if you’ve just taken a fresh load of laundry out of the dryer, don’t be surprised to find your cat curled up on top of the warm clothes. When you scoop up your cat, they might smell faintly of washing powder or fabric conditioner.

Many cats might seem to have their own scent, but this usually has more to do with where they hang out. One cat might love to sleep in the flower bed and smell of earth and grass. Another could curl up on your daughter’s bed and end up smelling of her perfume. Some cats love the familiarity and comfort of being close to the smell of their humans when you’re away from home, which is super adorable!

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What About Cats’ Paws?

Have you ever sniffed your cat’s toes? We have, so we won’t judge! Many cat owners and vets agree that cat’s paws smell a little like corn chips.

That sounds a little strange, but there’s a good explanation for it. Cat’s paws have scent glands on them that release pheromones. Combined with this, they also sweat through their paws. This can lead to the build-up of natural bacteria and yeast, which combine to form a subtle smell that’s not unlike corn chips. Many cat lovers don’t mind this at all.

If your cat’s paws start to smell musty or unpleasant, though, that can be a sign of an infection, which you’ll want your vet to check out.

cat lying while reaching its paw up
Photo Credit: Pixabay

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What if Your Cat Doesn’t Smell So Good?

Sometimes cats end up getting covered in something that they shouldn’t, whether that’s motor oil from a neighbor’s car or spray from a skunk that they got too close to.

Whenever a cat gets something on their fur, they want to remove it quickly so they can feel clean again. But sometimes, you might need to give your cat a helping hand getting a particularly stubborn scent off their fur.

In this case, a quick bath can help, especially in the case of oil or skunk spray, which will need more than just a grooming session to remove.

As cats get older, they can develop dementia. This can result in them forgetting to groom themselves. If your older cat’s coat is starting to look dull, flaky, or tangled, then it might be time to take them to the vet for a check-up. You can help them by making sure to brush their coat every day.

Combating pet smells begins with eliminating them from the source! Bathing your cat may not always be the answer and luckily, there are products out there that can help keep your pet and home smelling fresh. Our favorite product is the Hepper Pet Cologne in the light Cucumber and Aloe scent. A few spritzes to their coat will help remove lingering odors, smooth and detangle their fur and leave your feline smelling delightful. This vet-approved formula is created with pet-friendly ingredients, free of harsh chemicals and additives. Learn more about it here. 

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At Catster, we’ve admired Hepper for many years and decided to take a controlling ownership interest so that we could benefit from the outstanding designs of this cool cat company!

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There are a few reasons why cats smell so good, but mostly, it’s just because they’re such fastidious groomers that feel like they must be clean at all times. What does your cat smell like? Let us know in the comments!

Featured Image Credit: Pixabay

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