HomeCatsLiving With Cats12 Smells Cats Like And How You Can Use Them

12 Smells Cats Like And How You Can Use Them

While there are plenty of smells cats hate that you can use to keep them off your counters and away from the areas you don’t want them getting their paws on, there are also some they really like. 

Some of them will calm them down, others will just pique their interest, but if you are looking to give your cat some olfactory enjoyment, try some of these smells. 


Catnip is the first scent that comes to mind when you think of cats. Some people think of it as a drug and refuse to use it, while others don’t mind the effect and are happy to provide it for their pets. 

Catnip causes a chemical reaction via a compound called nepetalactone, which triggers a response in cats’ brains. It can range from hyperactivity to euphoria, but some cats can also become aggressive. 

The most common response to catnip is rolling around and rubbing against objects, which leads to zoning out. Cats can certainly appear high when on catnip. Some cats will become extremely active and refuse to let you come near them. The effect usually wears off in 10 minutes. 

Note that around 30% of cats don’t react to the smell of catnip, so yours may be completely unphased by it. 

Valerian Root

Valerian root has a smell that is exceptionally attractive to cats, and it causes a catnip-like reaction, including heightened activity and relaxation. Most cats will respond to it, even those who don’t like the smell of catnip. 

Valerian root is often used to help treat sleep issues and anxiety in humans. If you use it to relax, make sure your cat can’t get into it. 


A specific variety of honeysuckle, called Tatarian honeysuckle, is a favorite of cats. It works similarly to catnip, and makes cats more relaxed and calm. 

However, you should note that some parts of this plant are toxic to cats, so you never want to let your pet get its paws on it unattended. 


Silvervine is a plant from the kiwi family, and it grows in the mountains of Asia. The local cats have been enjoying it for its catnip-like effect for centuries. 

Even cats who don’t like catnip can feel the mellowing effect of silvervine. 


Basil is another herb cats love, as it is closely related to catnip. Since it’s non-toxic, you can even let your cat have a nibble if you are growing some in your kitchen. Make sure they don’t eat too much, as it may upset their stomach. 


It may surprise you to hear cats love the smell of roses. Since this flower is also not toxic to them, you can safely let your cat enjoy the smell when you bring a fresh bouquet home. Just make sure their noses encounter no thorns.

One of our cats used to pick up on the fact a rose was in the house the second it entered. I buy my wife a pink rose every Mother’s day, and he would go nuts. I even once went as far as hiding the rose in a cupboard while he was busy eating. As soon as he was done, he went straight for the cupboard and tried to open it. 


Some cats also love the smell of olives and olive oil. They will have reactions similar to the one they have with catnip, and you can often see them rolling around on the floor or rubbing their heads against everything in sight. 

You may notice your cat is especially euphoric if you give them tuna or sardines that have been preserved in olive oil. Olive oil is safe for cats to eat too, but make sure they never eat a lot in one go, as it’s high in fat. 


You may never think to associate the smell of cantaloupe with cats, but they do actually love it. We believe it’s because a lot of the compounds that give meat its scent are also found in this fruit, so don’t be surprised if your cat suddenly wants to join you when you are enjoying a slice.


Cats naturally love the smell of food, whether it is yours or theirs. Anything that smells of fish or meat will be an attraction, so be very careful about what they are allowed to tuck into while you are making lunch or dinner.

Cats can eat raw chicken, so you can let them have some of that. They can also eat sardines, and they can eat tuna, so an occasional fish meal will do them good too. 

Make sure your cat mostly eats cat food, as it will be the most balanced diet for them. An occasional bite of human food is okay, as long as you’ve checked it’s safe for them. 

Fresh Air

Cats who live indoors also love to get a whiff of the outdoors and enjoy some fresh air. While the air may technically not be fresh, it is certainly full of all kinds of scents they may not be able to experience indoors. 

Cats love to sit in windows, so let them enjoy all the smells, sights and sounds they can get their senses on. As long as they are not too cold up there, let them have their fun. You can also provide a scarf or blanket for them, but limit their exposure to the cold, as their fur will not be nearly as warm as the fur of cats who are allowed outside. 

Sticks and Leaves 

Cats also love the smell of logs, sticks and leaves. Anything you bring in for the fire will be of supreme interest. They will naturally want to inspect the Christmas tree too. 

To keep your cat entertained, bring them in a couple of branches to play with. You can also fill a box with dry leaves and let them run amok with them. Be prepared for the extensive cleanup afterwards though. 


Finally, your cat simply loves the smell of you. It makes them feel safe and content, and they will love to sniff you and be close to you. This is also why they love to sleep in the clothes hamper. 

You may notice your cat comes to inspect you every time there is something different about the way you smell. It could be a new product, or they may just want to check your health status. Cats do know when you are sick, as they can literally smell it on you. Don’t be surprised if their noses alert you of something being amiss. 

Wrapping It Up 

You can use these smells cats love to make them feel hyper or relaxed, and make their experiences more interesting and entertaining. Make sure they can’t overdose on any of them though, and only provide short exposure times to retain the same effect. 

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