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Home > Cats > Cat Suddenly Sniffing Everything? 6 Vet Reviewed Reasons & FAQ

Cat Suddenly Sniffing Everything? 6 Vet Reviewed Reasons & FAQ

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Dr. Maxbetter Vizelberg

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Cats have an incredible olfactory system that’s around 14 times more sensitive than ours. Aside from an additional organ—Jacobson’s organ—that helps them sniff out potential mates and dangers alike from miles away, our furry feline friends have somewhere between 45 and 80 million scent receptors in their noses. For context, humans have around 5 million!

With such a heightened sense of smell, it’s no wonder our cats go around using their nose to discover everything they can about their surroundings. But making new discoveries isn’t the only reason your cat is suddenly sniffing everything. Keep reading to learn more!


The 6 Reasons Why Your Cat Is Sniffing Everything

1. Claiming New Furniture or Objects

If you’ve brought a new object (such as a new piece of furniture) into your home, your cat will probably start sniffing it. They do this to discover more about the unfamiliar object, searching for clues as to whether it belongs to another cat, what it’s made from, and if it’s safe.

After they’ve thoroughly sniffed, your cat may decide to rub their face on it to impart their pheromones and claim the object as theirs. Over the next few days, you may see them occasionally going to the same object, sniffing, and renewing their “claim” on it.

The unfamiliar object in question doesn’t have to be large or obvious. For example, it could be a blanket your cat hasn’t seen before or a coat you haven’t worn for a few months.

cat sniffing on the litter box
Image By: cheyennezj, Shutterstock

2. Monitoring Their Territory

Both male and female cats are territorial creatures. While they may not go around screaming at everybody who passes by your house, they do have an instinctive need to be aware of both animals and people who are not familiar.

With this in mind, if you’ve brought a new scent home with you, they may begin sniffing excessively, or at least more than usual—trying to determine if their territory is under threat. This may even trigger a more thorough investigation around your home, with your cat sniffing everyday objects and areas around your home before re-applying their scent.

This will be especially noticeable if you’ve been near other animals, especially cats. But more often than not, we pick up unfamiliar scents without even realizing it. Cats, though, with their supercharged noses, can identify them.

3. A New Visitor

Just as you bring new scents into your home, a visitor can do the same. Similarly, if you’ve recently hired a new cleaner, brought home a new pet, or have somebody staying over, your cat will need time to familiarize themself with the new scents.

If your cat picks up the scent of another animal through your visitors, they may begin remapping their territory by sniffing objects and reapplying their scent.

man holding cat food bowl
Image By: Jaromir Chalabala, Shutterstock

4. They Smell Food

Though it may seem obvious, if your cat can smell food but can’t see it, they may begin sniffing everywhere as they search for it.

This goes for prey, too. We don’t need to tell you that cats are excellent hunters—you’ve probably seen your kitty perform all kinds of gravity-defying leaps when playing. If your cat thinks they can smell prey, for example, a rodent, they won’t give up sniffing until they find it!

Often, when this happens, the rodent (or other prey) is hidden behind walls, in cavities, basements, and attics, and while their humans’ are blissfully unaware, a cat’s senses will kick into overdrive.

5. Sniffing for a Mate

Using their vomeronasal organ, also known as Jacobson’s organ, cats can sense the pheromones of other cats and even determine their reproductive status.

If you have a male cat, and someone has brought home the scent of a female cat, your furry friend may be sniffing around to learn more about the potential mystery suitor. Specifically, he’ll be trying to determine if she would be a suitable mate, and of course, where she might be located.

two white cats rub faces on the grass, positive associations, bonding
Image Credit: Oleg Shishkunov, Shutterstock

6. Your Cat is Just Communicating

Cats use sniffing to receive communications. From understanding another animal’s boundaries to checking on another’s health—cats understand a lot just by sniffing. For example, if you’ve been sick, you’ll be emitting new scents. The same goes for another cat in your house that might be unwell.

Sometimes, a gentle sniff of your hands or shins may be your cat’s way of saying hello. Other times, they could be expecting you to feed them, or they could just be asking for a hug!

It can take time and patience to understand these subtle gestures, but in the end, you’ll have a stronger bond with your pet.


Why is My Cat Sniffing and Acting Weird?

Although sniffing is perfectly normal feline behavior, a sudden change in your cat’s mood and daily habits may be a warning sign.

If your cat is sick, it may begin to display some of these behaviors that owners often refer to as “weird”:

  • Not eating or drinking
  • Eating more than usual
  • Suddenly drinking more
  • Vocalizing more, or a change in how their vocalization sounds
  • Not using the litter box correctly
  • Becoming clumsy/having trouble with jumping
  • Hiding

As your cat’s owner, you should be able to spot abnormal behavior quickly. If you’re concerned, call a veterinarian and schedule an appointment.

Why is My Cat Sniffing the Air?

Using their Jacobson’s organ, cats can “taste the air” for pheromones, gathering much-needed information about their rivals, potential mates, and prey.

Cats capture this information through the flehmen response. Next time you catch your cat with its chin tilted up and its mouth slightly agape, you’ll know that they’re just catching up on the day’s happenings.



If you notice other changes in your cat’s behavior aside from unusual sniffing—for example, if they stop eating or stop using their litter box, it may be best to contact a veterinarian in case there’s an underlying issue.

Usually, though, cats sniff for a variety of reasons, from discovery to hunting and mating. If your cat has suddenly started sniffing more, but they otherwise seem fine, they may just be investigating a new and unfamiliar scent.

Featured Image Credit: milivigerova, Pixabay

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