Life in a Cat house

Stan Johnson - Life in a Cat House

One evening last week our cat Ozrow was sniffing his way across the kitchen floor, acting much like a hound dog tracking a rabbit.

I don’t know of anything that might have dropped on the floor to attract him, but something was there. No doubt he figured it out before he wandered off to the food dish for a snack.

Sniffing and smelling and sorting scents plays a much stronger role in the lives of cats than it does with people. We might be able to smell a pie in the oven or spaghetti sauce simmering on the stove, but our ability to take in the world around us through our noses is limited.

Cats are not smelly pets, so we seldom think about how they smell to each other.  It’s seldom we’ll think about how they smell to us, mainly because they don’t carry a lot of odor. When we do smell them, it’s almost always pleasing. Sometimes, especially in the spring, our cats come in the house from a romp outdoors and they smell good, like laundry that has been hanging on a line in the yard.

I sometimes wonder what people smell like to cats. It’s well known that dogs recognize the smell the people they live with. I am sure it’s the same way with cats, even though they are not as obvious as dogs about taking in aromas. What I don’t know is if we smell good or bad to kitty noses. Do they notice the smell after we’ve washed our hair? Do our shoes leave cats feeling faint from the powerful scents they pick up? Do they notice what we’ve been eating after we get up from the table carrying the smells of supper on our bodies?

The cats don’t run away gagging when we are close them, so I assume we don’t smell totally awful. I do suspect we carry scents they smell, even if we don’t. My wife Vivian and I both shower and put on clean clothes every day. I think we smell pretty decent by human standards.

My guess is we smell mostly like the source of food to them. When they sniff our legs, I think they want to find out what kind of food we’ve been around and they try to determine the chances they might get some of it.

Some cats seem to use their noses more than others.  Our girl cat, Skittles, is a sniffer. She smells nearly everything she approaches, especially if it’s something different in the house.  It might just be a bug on the floor, but Skittles thinks it has to pass the smell test before she will get too close to it. Ozrow doesn’t smell things the way Skittles does. Either that or, if he does, he is not obvious about it. It’s hard to say if he’s lazy or if his nose is not as keen as some other cats.

Cats are smellers, which we know. Watch them closely and you can see them using their noses as they go through their daily routine. What I don’t know is exactly what they smell or what they think of the various scents that drift into their noses, especially those of people.