Catster is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Why Is My Cat Suddenly Sniffing Everything? 6 Vet-Reviewed Reasons

Written by: Rachel Giordano

Last Updated on April 18, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

grey cat sniffing on house plant

Why Is My Cat Suddenly Sniffing Everything? 6 Vet-Reviewed Reasons


Dr. Maxbetter Vizelberg DVM Photo


Dr. Maxbetter Vizelberg DVM

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

Every cat owner knows that cats have an extraordinary sense of smell. They use this gift to analyze their environment and grasp their surroundings. Felines have 45–80 million (and possibly up to 200 million) olfactory receptors; we humans only have 5 million. It’s no wonder that cats sniff everything! But why do they do this? Why would your cat suddenly start sniffing everything if they haven’t done so before?

As long as your cat is not sneezing excessively or has any visible nasal discharge (which could signify a medical problem), sniffing alone does not mean there is necessarily a problem! Read on to discover the possible reasons that your cat is suddenly sniffing everything and if there’s a cause for concern.

yarn ball divider

The 6 Reasons Your Cat Is Suddenly Sniffing Everything

1. Checking Their Territory

Simply put, cats sniff to check out everything in their surroundings. Felines are not always territorial, but they do prefer certain spaces and objects to call their own. Cats will especially do this if they’re in a new place, but they will do it in a familiar place too. Newly adopted kitties will certainly sniff everything once you bring them home, in part to determine if there are other animals around.

Image Credit: jajam_e, Shutterstock

2. Determining Where to Scratch

Scratching is a completely normal behavior, and cats do it to sharpen their nails, stretch their muscles, and mark their territory. However, a cat will also scope out a possible object to scratch by sniffing to make sure the object is suitable. Sniffing the object will tell your cat what the object is made of, if it’s safe, what the texture is, and if another cat has claimed the object.

It is possible that an object, such as a particular chair or couch, has always been around, but your cat showed no interest in scratching it in the past; that could explain a sniff you’ve never witnessed before.

3. Determining Where to Mark

Your cat may decide on a certain object or toy and decide to claim it. Your cat will claim an object by sniffing it first, then rubbing their face all over the object. Your cat may also do this in a certain area of your home to claim a spot or space.

Cats have scent glands on various areas of their bodies that release pheromones, and rubbing their face on something leaves behind their own unique scent. In releasing these pheromones, they are saying, “Back off, this is mine!”

Cat smell toy
Image Credit: Magui RF, Shutterstock

4. Picking Up a Message

Smell is a cat’s main form of communication, and if you have another animal in the home, be it another cat or a dog, your cat may be communicating by sniffing. This form of communication may be telling the other animal that a certain spot or area in the home is theirs.

If you have another cat in the home, sniffing could be a form of communication, to check if your cat wants to mate with the other cat, if the other cat is ill, and what sex they are.

5. Seeing Where You’ve Been

A cat will sniff if you bring home a scent that they have never smelled before. Perhaps you’ve been to the house of a friend who has a cat, so your cat will sniff everywhere you’ve been in the home because you have left the strange scent behind. In short, if you’ve been somewhere else, your cat will sniff all around to determine where you were, what you ate, and so on.

man smells his cat
Image Credit: Magui RF, Shutterstock

6. Detecting a Mate

Remember that cats have an extraordinary sense of smell, and a male cat can detect a female from 2 miles away, especially if the male has not been neutered. As far as sniffing new areas in the home, if you were at someone’s house that has a female cat, your male could be picking up the scent and will sniff everywhere you have been. In that case, your male cat could be trying to decipher if the female is a suitable mate.


Is There a Cause for Alarm?

Sniffing is a natural behavior for cats, and they will sniff any new smells you may bring into the home from being in other places, rendering no cause for alarm.

Why Does My Cat Keep Sniffing the Air?

Cats sniff the air as a way to explore their environment. Cats have a special tool called Jacobson’s organ, or vomeronasal organ, that is located inside the nasal cavity and opens into the mouth. This organ enables smells undetectable to us to reach the cat’s brain by way of nerves. For example, suppose that a mouse is in the wall and not obviously visible. In that case, your cat can smell it using Jacobson’s organ, which ultimately serves as a secondary olfactory system. Your cat may also use this tool to sniff out a mate.

cat paw divider

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, we have eased your mind if your cat has suddenly started sniffing everything. Remember that sniffing is a completely natural action for cats, and it is just a way for them to explore their surroundings. Look at it this way: Humans will take a second look at something unfamiliar, but a cat will sniff it.

Featured Image Credit: movchanzemtsova, Shutterstock

Get Catster in your inbox!

Stay informed! Get tips and exclusive deals.
Catster Editors Choice Badge
Shopping Cart


© Pangolia Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved.