How Do Cats Smell Mice?

Cats have an enormous amount of smell receptors in their noses, but that’s not the only thing that makes your fluffy feline a total mouse-hunting machine.

Did you know that cats can smell the difference between plain water and slightly salted water? We humans can’t. By: tommyhj

Right after a kitten is born, she uses her smelling sense to find her mother’s milk. After that is accomplished, a kitty’s sense of smell leads her to all kinds of food — in all kinds of locations.

A cat’s sense of smell is much stronger than that of people — 14 times stronger, to be exact. This is because cats have nearly 70,000 “smell receptors” tucked away in their nasal area — humans have only 20,000. Cats’ noses allows them to sniff out food, mates and enemies, as well as their own territory, which they have previously marked.

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I also discovered through research that a cat can smell the difference between a gallon of plain water and a gallon of water with a little salt in it. (To humans, salt does not have a smell.)

Jacobson’s Organ

Cats can even “taste” smells, as they have a set of sensory organs at the back of their mouths. If your kitten seems to gulp in air when she is investigating something, no need to worry; that’s just Jacobson’s organ kicking in.

Besides their unique sense of smell, cats also rely on other senses to enhance their mouse-hunting skills. A cat’s eyesight and hearing are a big help with their natural hunting and chasing instincts. All of these senses allow felines to pinpoint the location of mice and other rodents, making them a high-alert, patient, nearly perfect predator of mice.

Get this: A cat’s whiskers can even detect motion created by air movement (such as a tiny mouse scurrying around in total darkness).

Noses Are a Small Part of the Total Package

Cats’ noses aren’t the only thing involved in “the hunt.” In fact, noses are just a small part. It’s the total package — a sense of smell, a sense of hearing, a sense of taste, very sensitive whiskers and an instinct for “the chase” — that makes your fluffy kitty cat a well-oiled mouse-hunting machine.

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Thinking back to my childhood years, I can remember my grandmother always having at least 2 cats around. Of course, my cousins and I loved trying to cuddle those kittens. We enjoyed playing with them, dangling a string in front of them and watching as they pawed at the string, trying to catch it.


Watch this adorable cat react to a different smell — his human’s feet:

As I got older, I learned more about feline traits, and research along the way has given me a little better understanding of the “cat versus rat” motivation.

If my grandmother were alive today, I would definitely commend her on her cost-effective technique of mouse-proofing her home.

Gayle Hickman

View posts by Gayle Hickman
Gayle Hickman has been researching and writing about pet behaviors since 2011. In addition to Petful, her articles have appeared on Reader's Digest, Yahoo Shine and WebVet, to name a few.

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