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Why do cats smell good? Reasons behind that comforting feline odor

Cats smell good, especially to their owners, and there are very good reasons why. However, someone else might not appreciate your cat’s odor as much as you do and there’s a perfectly simple explanation for this too.

Cats smell good because of the incredible cleansing ability of their tongues. As they groom, they remove any particles that might fester and smell. At the same time, their saliva allows odors from their environment to attach to their fur.

Your cat will smell so good to you because it smells familiar – just like home. A stranger may not appreciate your cat’s smell as much as you do because to them it won’t have the familiar smell of home.

A calico cat grooming its paw.
A cat grooming to keep it smelling good

Cats always smell good to themselves when they are coated in their own natural scent. Cat saliva contains a strong smell of a cat’s personal pheromones and makes them feel content and secure.

Of course, the faint smell of cat saliva is far more acceptable when compared to other feline odors such as those from their anal glands!

5 Reasons Why Cats Smell So Good

1. They’ve had a wash

Cats spend around 25% of their awake time fastidiously grooming. It’s no wonder they smell good.

Unlike dogs, cats have thousands of hollow rigid spine-like structures (papillae) on their tongues which help them to penetrate saliva through their fur to the skin. This ensures smelly foreign matter does not linger for long.

2. They’ve been sleeping in front of a fire

One evening, one of our cats showed up scented beautifully of wood smoke. He smelled so good! The thing was, our fire was not alight! It transpired he’d visited the neighbor and curled up in front of their fire for hours!

3. They’ve been asleep on fresh laundry

Cats are good at seeking out cozy places to sleep and what could be more comfortable than a basket full of freshly-washed linen? If your cat smells better than usual, you may find a furry patch on your clean washing!

Grey cat looking sheepish in a laundry basket

5. They’ve had a cuddle from someone wearing fragrance

I can tell when my husband has just cuddled one of the cats because it smells of his cologne. The scent lasts on a cat’s fur for ages. So if your cat smells amazing, it may have been having secret cuddles with a fragrance-wearer.

5. They’ve been sleeping in your flowerbed

Cats like beds, and not just ours. If a cat falls asleep in a flowerbed it may well come home smelling of roses or lavender or some other gorgeous smelling flowers from your garden.

Why cats need to smell good

Cats groom fastidiously to remove bodily odors that might identify them to a predator. For example, after toileting a cat has a thorough wash to remove all traces from its nether regions.

This would have been essential for our cat’s wild ancestors but is still an instinctive habit today, which is a relief because these odors are strong and would be noticeable to our nostrils.

Our pet cats use this technique of staying free of obvious cat odors to their advantage when they hunt. Being odor-free allows them to prey on unsuspecting creatures without detection.

With stray and feral cats, not having a strong scent can mean the difference between life and death. While cats are capable predators, there are larger predators that also go after cats as prey.

Can cats have a bad smell?

If your cat has bad teeth, she’ll have bad breath and probably smelly saliva too. Whilst grooming herself, this will give her coat a bad smell too. Having a cat’s teeth cleaned can help combat this type of bad odor.

A cat’s anal scent glands can give off an unpleasant, fishy, musky smell at times. If this is unbearable, a vet will help you get to the cause of the problem. Male and female cats can suffer from anal gland problems from time to time.

Don’t be tempted to apply essential oils to a smelly cat’s coat as these can be extremely harmful.

See more about bad smells further down.

Should you bathe a cat to make it smell good?

Cats like their own smell. To them, it’s a good smell. To other cats, the smell of cats is so good. You should not bathe a cat just to rid it of its natural odor because you don’t like it. Instead, you should embrace it. This is part and parcel of cat ownership.

If you bathe a cat to make it smell nice, it will probably spend the next 24 hours washing itself to restore its preferred natural odor.

Sphynx cat in tub wearing shower cap

The dangers of bathing cats to make them smell good

The biggest danger of bathing a cat is to your skin! A cat has 18 toes which equate to 18 claws. Cats who are afraid of being bathed are not afraid of using their claws as lethal weapons. So be warned – and have a supply of antiseptic lotion and plasters to hand.

Another danger when bathing a cat is that you will stress it out and make it scared of you as well as water. If you’ve built up a good bond with your cat, it’s a shame to ruin it just because you want to make your cat smell good to your nose.

As far as I’m concerned, a cat should only be bathed as a last resort such as if it has had a bad toileting accident that can’t be cleaned up with grooming wipes. Always keep some handy.

We highly recommend Pogi’s Grooming Wipes because they are hypoallergenic, Earth-friendly, and plant-based. They are also conveniently available on Amazon. Here’s a link to see the current price.

If you really have to bathe your cat, choose the best cat-friendly shampoo you can find. Earthbath Oatmeal & Aloe Shampoo in vanilla and almond will definitely make your cat smell so good you might want to eat it! This is also on Amazon and you can see the latest price here.

Regular brushing helps your cat smell good

You might wonder why brushing your cat’s fur can help it to smell nice. It’s simple! When a cat grooms itself, often it is removing loose hair. The more you brush this out of your cat, the less it will lick itself and the less it licks itself, the less it smells of lovely cat saliva.

The other bonus of grooming your cat regularly is that it is less likely to suffer from furballs. Fewer furballs equal less hairy vomit for you to clear up. It’s a no-brainer.

The more hair you remove from your cat through brushing it, the less you will have to vacuum up fur from all over your house. And you won’t have such a problem with your own clothes being coated with hair every time you leave the house.

Finally, regular brushing prevents your cat’s fur from matting. If bad mats and knots develop they are notoriously hard to remove. Every time you go near a knot it will pull painfully at your cat’s skin. You may end up having to pay for an expensive professional groom.

So as you can see there are many advantages to grooming your cat other than helping it to smell good.

Ginger Maine Coon being brushed

When cats have an unpleasant smell

These are reasons why your cat might have an unpleasant smell at times:

1. Clingons!

Cats sometimes have toilet mishaps – it happens! Feces can attach themselves to a cat’s nether regions, especially if they are particularly furry. This is not the cat’s fault but it can smell bad!

Grooming wipes should solve the problem.

2. Anal gland emissions

A cat’s anal scent glands can smell quite fishy at times. Their purpose is to scent a cat’s feces but sometimes the smell hangs around on its fur for some time afterward.

3. Bad teeth

Cat’s aren’t renowned for having sweet-smelling breath but if it’s worse than usual it’s worth having their teeth checked out by your vet.

If you have a cat who will tolerate it, brushing its teeth daily can help – a lot!

4. Peeing in the wind

One of our previous cats seemed to do this with regularity! If your cat smells of cat urine, it could have had a tousle with another cat and been sprayed on. But it also may have had a pee in the wind and been covered with its own urine.

5. Dirty paws

Just as we accidentally tread in dog mess occasionally, cats can traipse through things that don’t smell too pleasant. As they leap on our laps for a cuddle, we get a whiff of smelly paws.

We live at the edge of a horse field. I swear one of our cats used to deliberately sleep in the patches where they regularly peed!

6. Skin infections

Bad smells can be caused by skin problems. These can have all sorts of causes including infected hair follicles, eczema, scratching caused by fleas, bacterial infections, ringworm, and feline acne.

If your cat’s skin smells bad, take it to a vet for a diagnosis.

7. Outdoor cats

If your cat is free to roam, it is very possible for it to pick up a foul odor by lying in something unpleasant. Outdoor cats can come into contact with any number of odors and come home with them clinging to their fur or paws.

Cat licking its front leg

Why do cats smell good sometimes but not at others

Cat fur picks up odors quite efficiently so occasionally your cat may have an unexpectedly good aroma rising from its fur. If it has had a nap on something with a lovely scent this may well have transferred to its coat.

A freshly bathed cat may smell lovely – just like a freshly showered person does. This won’t last long as it will soon cover itself with its own natural scent from its saliva.

Cats can also sleep on unsavory smelling objects – and then they won’t smell so good!

Cats are meant to smell like cats so don’t try to change this. Accept and love your cat for what it is – sometimes this might happen to be a smelly cat.

If you are looking for an excellent way to safely remove cat and any other pet odors from your home, look no further than Lamp Berger. Find out how to use it here.

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