We all know how amazing a dog's nose is. Their ability to distinguish a particular scent in an ocean of smells allows them to have jobs like sniffing out drugs, bomb residue, illness or even tracking down a missing person. But did you know that cats also have an amazing sense of smell? It turns out that smells can play a huge part in increasing or decreasing stress and anxiety in a cat's environment.
Cats rely on their noses to detect prey, distinguish if a food is edible or toxic, and help find their way home. Through scent they are aware of other cats or predators in their territory. This can save their life! Not only do cats have a much better sense of smell than humans, but their ability to smell is linked to stimulating appetite. This is the reason many cats with respiratory issues or blockages won’t eat. If they cannot smell their food then their appetite is not stimulated and they do not eat.
The odors in a cat's environment are directly related to a cat's sense of wellbeing. Smells can increase or decrease stress and anxiety. Stress and anxiety can have a detrimental effect on the cat's health. Strong or unpleasant odors to a cat can be overwhelming or even painful. For example, scented litter may smell pleasant to us but can be overwhelming to your cat. It can cause behavior changes which can lead to health problems or relinquishment to a shelter.
When cats rub their faces and bodies on objects or scratch on scratching posts, they are putting their scent onto the object to create a safe personal space. While it is tempting to wash bedding frequently or clean oily marks from corners, these scent marks give cats a sense of security and comfort. This is very important for all cats, especially for those in multi-pet homes, shelters or even when going to the veterinarian. This is one of the reasons that we at Animal Hospital of North Asheville recommend placing a towel with your cat's scent over their carrier. We also recommend placing a towel or bed with your cat's personal scent on it in the carrier while traveling, especially to the animal hospital. This will help create a cocoon of personal space using smells to help decrease stress in your cat, which can help create a better visit for all. In addition to these familiar scents, Feliway is a synthetic pheromone that mimics the comforting scent of facial rubbing. We use Feliway in all of the cat areas of the hospital to help enhance cats’ sense of comfort and safety.