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Why does my cat sniff my eyeball?

Why does my cat sniff my eyeball?

September 15, 2023

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Have you ever wondered why your cat insists on sniffing your eyeball? It may seem like a strange behavior, but there’s actually a fascinating explanation behind it. In this article, we’ll delve into the intricacies of feline behavior and explore why cats are drawn to the scent of our eyes. Understanding this behavior can deepen our bond with our feline friends and shed light on their unique instincts.

The Mysterious World of Feline Behavior

Why does my cat sniff my eyeball?

Cats have long been an enigma to humans, captivating us with their independent nature and peculiar behaviors. While some of these behaviors are well-documented and understood, others continue to puzzle even the most experienced cat owners. One such behavior is the act of sniffing our eyeballs.

The Power of Scent

Scent plays a crucial role in the life of a cat. These creatures possess an incredibly powerful sense of smell, which is estimated to be between 9,000 and 16,000 times more sensitive than that of humans (1). Their olfactory system is finely tuned, allowing them to detect subtle changes in their environment and pick up on scents that are imperceptible to us.

When a cat sniffs your eyeball, it’s not just being curious or trying to annoy you. It is actually engaging in a form of communication. Cats have scent glands located around their face, including near their eyes. By sniffing your eyes, they are gathering information about you and marking you with their own scent.

Marking Territory

Cats are territorial animals by nature, and marking their territory is an important part of their social behavior. They use scent marking as a way to establish boundaries and communicate with other cats (2). When a cat sniffs your eyeball, it is essentially marking you as part of its territory.

By leaving their scent on you, cats are not only claiming you as their own but also creating a familiar scent that can help them feel secure. This behavior is particularly common in cats that have a strong bond with their owners.

The Science Behind the Behavior

While the act of sniffing eyeballs may seem odd to us, it actually makes perfect sense from a feline perspective. Cats have specialized scent receptors called vomeronasal organs, also known as Jacobson’s organs, located in the roof of their mouth (3). These organs allow them to process pheromones, which are chemical signals that convey information about other cats and their environment.

When a cat sniffs your eyes, it is likely using its vomeronasal organs to analyze the pheromones present on your skin. This behavior provides valuable information about your mood, health, and even your recent activities. It’s their way of getting to know you better and maintaining a strong bond.

Cat Care and Behavior Tips

Now that we understand why cats sniff our eyeballs, let’s explore some practical tips for cat care and behavior:

1. Allow Your Cat to Sniff

  • Don’t discourage your cat from sniffing your eyeballs. It is a natural behavior that helps them feel connected to you.
  • However, if you find it uncomfortable or bothersome, gently redirect their attention to another part of your body by offering a hand or a finger for them to sniff instead.

2. Maintain Good Eye Hygiene

  • Ensure that your eyes are clean and free from any irritants or infections that may be causing your cat to show excessive interest.
  • If you have any concerns about your eye health, consult with a healthcare professional.

3. Provide Enrichment Opportunities

  • Cats have a natural need for mental and physical stimulation. Make sure to provide them with plenty of toys, scratching posts, and interactive playtime to keep them engaged and satisfied.

4. Use Pheromone Sprays

  • If your cat’s sniffing behavior becomes excessive or problematic, consider using pheromone sprays or diffusers in your home. These products release synthetic pheromones that can help calm and comfort your cat.
  • Consult with a veterinarian to determine the best pheromone product for your specific situation.

In Conclusion

While the behavior of cats sniffing our eyeballs may seem peculiar at first, it is actually a natural instinct driven by their powerful sense of smell and their need to mark territory. By understanding this behavior, we can deepen our bond with our feline companions and provide them with the care they need.

Remember to embrace your cat’s unique behaviors and use them as an opportunity to strengthen the connection between you and your furry friend. So the next time your cat sniffs your eyeball, know that it’s their way of saying, “You’re mine, and I love you.”


  1. Bradshaw, J., & Ellis, S. (2012). The sensory world of the domestic cat. Journal of Comparative Physiology A: Neuroethology, Sensory, Neural, and Behavioral Physiology, 198(6), 397-406.
  2. Hart, B. L., & Hart, L. A. (1992). The behavior of domestic cats. In The Behavior of Domestic Animals (pp. 111-128). Springer, Boston, MA.
  3. Houpt, K. A., & Houpt, T. R. (2018). Domestic Animal Behavior for Veterinarians and Animal Scientists. John Wiley & Sons.
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