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Who smells it better? Cats or dogs?

Hint: Cats have a secret weapon


A cat and a dog smelling an invisible smell

We hear a lot about dog's remarkable noses and all those "receptors" they use to interpret the world. But there's more to a nose than those lopsided numbers.


The Raw Numbers


A dog smelling the air
The longer the snout, the more smell receptors

So, let's get those dog-favoring numbers out of the way. Yes, they generally have a better sense of smell than cats. A dog's nose is a veritable scent-sational tool, with up to 300 million scent receptors compared to a cat's paltry 80 million. Our dogs would tell us to end the narrative there.



But that's not the whole smell story. While dogs may win in sheer quantity, cats play the quality game. Cats have a secret weapon called the Jacobson's or vomeronasal organ, giving them an edge in detecting pheromones.


The secret weapon


Located in the roof of a cat's mouth, this organ is like a built-in scent radar, designed for detecting pheromones – those invisible chemical signals that carry messages between cats. It's the feline version of a secret handshake but in the language of smells.


It's the key to decoding the olfactory messages that shape their social interactions and enhance their feline finesse.

When a cat curls back its lips in what's known as the Flehmen response, it's not just a quirky facial expression. The cat typically curls its upper lip to expose its front teeth, opens its mouth, and inhales. Sometimes, they extend their neck or hold their head high.


Cat displaying the Flehmen response
This is the Flehmen response that directs pheromones to the cat's special smell organ

This action helps direct the pheromones to the vomeronasal organ, allowing them to unlock a whole world of information about their surroundings, other cats, and potential mates.


So, in the grand tapestry of feline biology, the vomeronasal organ is like a superpower, enabling cats to navigate the intricate web of scents in their environment. It's the key to decoding the olfactory messages that shape their social interactions and enhance their feline finesse.


The Whisker Connection


And then there are those enchanting whiskers. Much more than just decorative accessories, a cat's whiskers are finely tuned sensory tools that play a crucial role in helping them navigate their surroundings. Think of them as your kitty's built-in radar system!

Beyond mere decoration, whiskers are meticulously tuned sensors that serve as an extension of a cat's nervous system. They're not just there to make your kitty look dashing. These exquisite whiskers are vital for spatial awareness, acting as nature's GPS for your furry friend.


When your cat strolls through the living room or gracefully squeezes through tight spaces, those whiskers work overtime. They're not just measuring the width of a passage; they're calculating whether your cat can slip through without knocking over the vase. It's like having a tiny, furry engineer in the house! It's also proof that they knock things off your desk by design, not by accident.


Understanding and appreciating how our whiskered companions navigate an invisible world of scents adds a new layer to our bond. So, next time you catch your cat sniffing around with intensity, remember that they're simply reveling in a sensory symphony beyond our human comprehension.


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