It struck me this week what an extraordinary sense of smell cats must have. For the first time in ages Mr & Mrs Pet Parent did a roast lamb leg last weekend. Even the mere act of unwrapping said lamb leg from its plastic jacket was enough to get Pussa & Soph up from their respective slumbers. When the carving starts, heavens above, keeping Pussa & Soph away when that’s going on is like trying to swat flies away while standing still in a sheep paddock. In the middle of summer. In outback Queensland. To add insult to injury I cut off the remaining meat from the bone and had it in a plastic container thinking that I’d let it cool down a bit more before I put it in the fridge. Knowing that Pussa was lurking with evil intent I purposely put the container in front of me while I finished the washing up. Before you could say nick off cat she jumped up, stole a huge chunk of lamb out of the container RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME. Bloody cat.
So what’s the story with this amazing sense of smell cats have?
- It’s estimated that cats have about 200 million olfactory cells resulting in their ability to detect scent being far superior to we mere mortals. We, by comparison, have a paltry 5 million
- Like many other creatures, cats have a vomeronasal organ which sits on the roof of their mouth. This also aids sense of smell and detection of pheromones
- Cats have evolved this super sense not solely for their ability to hunt prey (they also make use of their super eyesight for this job) but as a means of defence. Detection of scent allows cats to identify the proximity of another cat and even to find where home is
- Interestingly, cats have relatively few taste receptors compared to humans and so appetite is stimulated by smell rather than taste. Frankly, I think it’s got a lot to do with their sense of hearing too because as soon as the lid peels off the can, Pussa is in like Flynn.
Always present in these types of discussions is the perennial dog vs cat debate. So, the million dollar question is have cats got a better sense of smell than dogs? This time around I’m afraid the dogs have it. Consensus seems to be that dogs have in excess of 300 million olfactory cells. But hang on, wouldn’t that just be because they have bigger noses? Ahhh, yeah.
For a laugh, check out this short video.