If you are a cat owner, you may be used to the peculiar ways your cat interacts with you. Even if you are used to their strange behaviors, you still may be left wondering why. This may be especially true when it comes to cats sniffing your eyes.
Your cat sniffs your eye because it may use the smell of your eye to identify you or show you love and affection. It may also be attempting to groom and care for you, or it may simply enjoy the salty smell that can come from the eyes, especially with tears.
In the rest of this article, we will look more closely at each of these potential explanations for why your cat is sniffing your eye. We will see the consensus in the cat owner community as well as explore the sensitivity of your cat’s sense of smell.
Cats Use Their Sense Of Smell For Identification
Cats are able to use their senses of smell to identify the people and animals in their lives.
Your cat knows your particular smell and may be looking to check to make sure it’s really you when you arrive home. The eye is a particularly vulnerable part of the face, and your cat may be able to get a good whiff of your scent from it.
You may notice an increase in this behavior if you have been away from home for a while. It may be eager to check in with the human who has just arrived home and confirm that it’s you.
Your scent may be a great comfort for your cat. Especially if you have been together for a while and have a deep bond, your cat may be eager to experience your scent to feel calm and secure.
It Is Expressing Love For You
While it’s hard to explain exactly how cats show their love and affection to their owners, eye sniffing is one potential source. Cat owners know how strange cats can be when it comes to expressing themselves. Although it might not follow human logic, your cat may be sniffing your eye simply because it loves you.
Grooming Instincts Kick In For Your Eyes
If you have observed a mother cat with her kittens, you may have seen her lick her kitten’s eyes to clean them. Kittens can experience a buildup of gunk in their eyes, and their mom will make sure to clean them thoroughly.
This act will also help protect them from infection and disease.
Cats are able to promote the healing of their wounds when they groom themselves.
If you have a female cat who is sniffing your eye, she could be acting on this same motherly instinct. She may be checking to make sure you are clean and healthy and aren’t in need of her eye-licking assistance.
If you are experiencing any sort of eye infection, you may find your cat particularly interested in your eyes. Cats are very sensitive to your physical and emotional health, and your cat may be wanting to help you in any way that it can.
Your Eyes Have a Salty Scent
Cats tend to enjoy salty smells, and your eyes can be a prime source of this preferred scent. Particularly if you have recently produced tears, the scent will be stronger, and your cat may be tempted to come closer to get a better smell.
A Cat’s Sense of Smell
You may be used to your cat sniffing around outside, investigating the scents of other animals who have passed through the area. However, you may still be wondering what exactly is going on with your cat when it starts sniffing your facial features.
Cats have a keenly perceptive sense of smell.
While it is not quite as sensitive as a dog’s sense of smell, it is still an important tool they use to gather information about the world. To get an idea of how much more powerful a cat’s sense of smell is than a human’s sense, we can look at the number of scent receptors.
A cat has approximately 200 million of these receptors, while humans have about 5 million. That means a cat’s sense of smell is about forty times more powerful than that of a human.
Additionally, the size of the olfactory epithelium that contains these receptors is physically much larger in cats. This area in cats is approximately 20 sq. cm (3.10 sq in), while it is only 2-4 sq cm (0.31-0.62 sq in) in the average human.
But why do cats have that many receptors? Let’s take a look at a couple of reasons now.
In addition to their smelling and tasting senses, cats have another way they are able to pick up on chemical messages in the world. Cats have something called a vomeronasal organ, which is located between the nose’s nostrils and the mouth’s roof.
Cats tend to use this organ to understand the smells of other cats more accurately.
You may have noticed your cat occasionally opening its mouth when it comes in contact with an interesting smell. At this moment, your cat is letting the smell dissolve in its saliva and then be carried up to the vomeronasal organ.
Let’s take a closer look at what is happening when your cat is engaged in this information-gathering moment, known as the Flehmen Response.
If you were unfamiliar with this response in cats, you might have thought your cat was giving you the “stink face” when it opens its mouth, curls up its lips, and holds the position.
This move is officially known as the Flehmen Response and is in no way a sign of disdain or aggression. When your cat is engaged in this action, it has come across a smell it is looking to gather more information.
You will most commonly see this response activated for social purposes, like when they come across the scents of other cats.
The Flehmen Response is used specifically when your cat comes into contact with pheromones. These are scent hormones that provide cats with detailed information about each other and can be released in several ways.
If your cat rubs its mouth across your hand, it is actually releasing its own pheromones on you to mark its territory.
Pheromones are also released when a cat releases urine to mark territory as its own. If your cat comes across a spot where another cat has released pheromones, you will likely see them engage in the Flehmen response in order to gather as much information as possible.
Although we can’t know for sure, the sensitivity of your cat’s sense of smell likely gives it an unimaginable load of detailed information about where the smell is coming from. Your cat can also store information about this smell in its memory to be accessed later if it encounters the same smell again.
For an informative video that explains how cats navigate the world with their sense of smell, you can check out this Youtube video:
When it comes to your cat sniffing your eye, this strange behavior can have several potential explanations. If you have been away from home, your cat may be eager to confirm that it’s really you by getting a strong dose of your scent.
Your presence and scent can be very calming for your cat.
Additionally, your cat may be expressing its love to you in its own unique way. It could also be acting on its grooming and healing instincts, particularly if it is a female cat. Finally, your cat may just be enjoying the scent of your salty tears.
- Animal Path: Why Does My Cat Smell My Eye?
- Epic Pet Club: Why Does My Cat Sniff My Eye?
- Pawsome: Why Does My Cat Smell My Eyes?
- The Spruce Pets: What is the Flehmen Response in Cats?
- University of Illinois: Special Senses
- VetStreet: Why Does My Cat Lick Her Wounds?
- Youtube: How Cats Smell
- VCA: Why Cats Sniff Rear Ends
Pam is a self-confessed cat lover and has experience of working with cats and owning cats for as long as she can remember. This website is where she gets to share her knowledge and interact with other cat lovers.