Why Does My Cat Do the "Mouth Thing"?

Cats are mysterious creatures, so much so sometimes that when you walk in and they’re on top of the kitchen cabinets with a slice of bread you just assume that they’re right in the middle of something important and you leave them to it.


Cat Busy Stuff 



But sometimes our cats do things that baffle our minds, so we take to the internet to find out...

This week’s question: Why do cats do the mouth thing?

We’ve all seen it, the moment that your cat has been sniffing something incredibly interesting (such as a sock) where they raise their head afterwards and their mouth is wide open, as though in shock.


Cat Smell Flehmen 


It turns out that “stinky face” or the flehmen response to use the scientific term, is a cat’s way of analysing scent.




What is the Flehmen Response in Cats?


This response lets the scent travel along the roof of the mouth, where the vomeronasal organ is.

Also known as Jacobson’s organ, this is a group of sensory cells located in the olfactory system of certain animals. 


Vomeronasal Organ Cat


Why Do Cats Do The Flehmen Response?


Although it might look like your cat is recoiling in disgust, it’s actually just pulling back its upper lip, in order to suck air in and filter it through the vomeronasal region.

Scientists reckon that the sensory information is somewhere in between taste and smell, only in HD.


Cat smell flehmen response


Other animals that have these receptors include big cats such as lions and tigers, rhinos, giraffes, goats, tapirs and also dogs, although they have two thirds less.

Science shows that at one point humans had these receptors too, but we lost them somewhere along our evolutionary line (probably for the best…)


Anthony Hopkins Hannibal Lecter Silence of the Lambs 



Sometimes, a cat seems to forget to pop its tongue back in (see: blep), this is again a way of using their advanced senses to “smell” its environment and is also linked to the flehmen response.


Cat blep tongue



The flehmen response is most often seen in males who use it mostly to determine compatibility and timing for mating, but females also use it to keep tabs on their kittens. 





So next time your cat looks up in seemingly abject horror after sniffing your shoes, you need not be offended, they are just using their own brand of smell-o-vision to find out what you’ve been up to...


Cat Suspicious Gif



Because cats can smell on a whole new level, we don’t add any fragrances to our litter, just the natural aroma of the recycled wood by-products, resulting in a fresh smelling litter tray without the need for anything artificial. 

Discover sustainable cat litter for yourself today!

27/08/2020 by NatuTeam

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