Cats depend a lot on their sense of smell. They are not into sniffing the way dogs are, but a cat’s smell sense is several times more developed than that of humans.
People living with cats notice them taking a sniff of something at times, but seldom pay much attention to it. We often fail to realize cats are seeking scents all the time.
It’s one of their main ways of knowing what is going on around them.
Perhaps it isn’t obvious because cats don’t show much reaction to most of what they smell.
The classic exception to that is catnip. When cats get a whiff of that stuff they go bonkers, inhaling the aroma, rolling in it and generally acting giddy. Catnip seems to be about the only thing that really sets them off. That doesn’t mean their noses are not working. It just means they are controlling their reactions to whatever passes their noses.
Once in a while, when a strange odor appears, they may make a bit of a production out of tracking it down to find out what it is and how it might impact them.
Part of that is keeping in touch with their territory and part of it is simple kitty curiosity. We had an example of both approaches last week at our house.
For the second time, we had a squirrel fall into our fireplace. Evicting the squirrel without letting it get out of the fireplace to run rampant through the house was quite an adventure for my wife, Vivian, and a young man who helps us out of sticky situations at times.
I wasn’t home when it all took place, but Vivian gave me a blow-by-blow account later. They finally captured the critter in a coffee can.
We first became aware of the squirrel when our boy cat, Ozrow, parked in front of the fireplace and sat looking intently into it. (He was also the early warning system the first time we had a squirrel take the plunge.) He might have heard it or he might have smelled it. Either way, he knew it was in there and went on alert.
As usual when someone comes to our house, our girl cat, Skittles, ran and hid when Vivian’s help arrived. Skittles stayed out of sight until the squirrel was in the can and gone.
Ozrow hung around the edges of the action somewhat, but didn’t get directly involved like he did the first time when it was just him and me trying to get the first squirrel out and gone.
What we noticed later in the evening, was both cats performed a total sniff test of the area around the fireplace.
We could almost see them replaying the action in their little kitty minds as they followed the scent trail.
They smelled the hearth area in front of the fireplace, the floor and the corner of the coffee table nearby.
The entire story was written out for them in smells we people could not detect.
They do stuff like that a lot more than we know because scent is really a center portion of their existence. They may be tame housecats but they still carry a touch of the wild in their noses.