Why Do Dogs Smell And Cats Don't? Reasons Explained

Why Do Dogs Smell And Cats Don’t? Reasons Explained

Dogs and cats are undoubtedly the two most demanding pets. Their adorable looks and vivid personalities never fail to make humans fall in love with them. Still, pet owners need clarification about why dogs smell and cats don’t. In that case, this article might answer all the related questions on your mind.

If you have a dog at home, you might have noticed that no matter how much you keep them clean, they tend to smell pretty fast.

On the other hand, cats, although you do not clean them, they barely smell. What is the reason behind this? Keep reading to find answers to this question.

Why do dogs smell and cats don’t? This question can be answered in several ways; however, there is a standard scientific explanation behind this question. Body odor is the cause behind dogs’ smell, and dogs have powerful natural body odors compared to cats. While cats produce only a few species of body odor, dogs have many. This is the natural cause behind the pungent odor of dogs; sill, some other reasons could also make dogs smell. To name some, dogs do not self-groom like cats, and dogs eat anything and everything; last but not least, scents are essential for dogs to go after their prey. These reasons also lead dogs to smell.

Dogs smell faster than cats, not necessarily because they are unhygienic; there are natural and inevitable reasons behind it, as mentioned above. However, sometimes unwanted behavior of dogs, for instance, eating dirt or shoving garbage cans, could also make them smelly.

You might be interested in reading – Why Are Dogs Better Than Cats? 10 Reasons Explained 

Moreover, if your dog has a skin issue, ear infection, or mouth issues, that could also make them smell unpleasant.

Notice if the smell is unbearable; if so, make sure to find out why and take the appropriate action. If it is just the typical scent, ensure that you follow a consistent grooming routine.

 Why do dogs smell and cats don’t? 5 Reasons

I own both a cat and a dog. I’ve seen my cat pretty much cleaning itself every single day. Even though cats clean themselves with salvia, a component that usually smells unpleasant, cats never smell. This is because of their natural ability to self-groom.

This does not happen the same for dogs. Unlike cats, dogs do not know to self-groom. Moreover, dog saliva and body scents naturally smell stronger than in cats.

Previously we discussed the common reasons for this, so let’s look at them elaborately.

  • Natural body odor 

Body odor is natural in any living being, including humans. However, these odors’ intensity and chemical compulsion change from one animal to another.

Humans produce body odor through sweat, but neither dogs nor cats have sweat glands; instead, these glands are located in their paws and noses.

Scientifically speaking, Sebum is the only natural body odor produced by cats, and they produce small amounts of it; contrary to that, dogs have multiple sources of body odors which is why they smell more potent than cats.

This condition is something that happens out of control, and it naturally makes dogs smell quite often. 

  • Dogs rely on scents

Another common reason for dogs to smell stronger than cats is their will to communicate through scents. You might have heard that dogs are pack animals.

Scents are one of the typical mechanisms of how pack animals communicate. Dogs want to chase after their prey; their body smells help them to make the target aware that they are under attack.

Contrarily cats do not rely on scents. Cats are also initially hunting animals but do not have pack genes; cats are solitary animals.

The hunting tactics of cats are different compared to dogs, and they attempt to hide the body odors, which helps them execute their hunting strategies better. So cats are naturally conscious of self-grooming. 

  • Dogs pant to cool off, whereas cats lick 

Cats lick themselves for grooming purposes. However, that is not the only reason why cats lick themselves. When cats feel hot, they lick their fur to deal with the heat.

The saliva helps to moisturize the skin and cool down the body temperature while keeping them clean at the same time. When it comes to dogs, what they usually do to get cool down is panting.

Panting evaporates water in their mouth and throat, which is how dogs create the cooling effect. When dogs pant, it tends to make them smell stronger than cats. 

  • Dogs can be nasty eaters

It is important to teach your dog to behave well because, most of the time, dogs tend to eat anything they find, especially when they lack training.

They simply don’t bother; even if it is something nasty, a dog would still eat it. Suppose a dog eats garbage from a garbage can; it will likely make them stink for a while.

Cats are different in this situation; they are somewhat picky about what they eat and are highly unlikely to eat greedily like dogs. This is why training dogs on what to eat and what not to is crucial.

  • Your dog is sick 

What if the smell is unusual and it is unbearable? It is true that dogs naturally smell bad compared to cats.

However, if they still smell even after cleaning them, there could be another reason behind it. Dogs can smell bad when they undergo health problems.

To elaborate, it could be a skin problem that produces excess oil and fungus, making the dog stink, an ear infection overproducing yeast, an oral infection, a gas attack, or an anal sac.

If the smell is not tolerable, notice if you can spot other signs such as flaky skin, constant scratching, and upset stomach; if so, you better take the dog to a vet. 

Why do cats clean themselves, but dogs don’t?

Cats are very considerate about their cleanliness. If you have a pet cat, I bet you have seen them licking their bodies pretty much every day.

That is a common and significant behavioral trait among cats. What makes them self-groom while dogs do not? Both cats and dogs are domestic animals; despite the significant differences, they also share similarities. So why is it only cats groom themselves?

As pointed out earlier, these animals inherit this behavior in their genes. Did you know that cats and dogs have different tongues? That might sound a little strange, but they do have different tongues, meaning cats’ tongues tend to be rough, whereas dogs’ ones are smooth.

This coarse texture of the cat’s tongue helps them to glide across their fur, acting as a comb, and it cleans their fur and keeps the body temperature down. However, dogs have smoother and moist tongues, so licking doesn’t work for dogs as same as for cats. 

Cats and dogs have predator genes, but their hunting mechanisms are not the same. Cats are solo hunters and do not chase after the prey like dogs; they attack at once, so they do not want the prey to feel their scents.

Therefore cats groom themselves to hide the scents that play a critical role for dogs in chasing their prey, so they are not bothered to hide their smell. 

Furthermore, it is naturally easier for humans to groom dogs rather than to groom cats. It is not very normal for owners to brush their teeth or trim a cat’s nails.

Generally, these are easy to do on dogs. Once you train a dog for a grooming routine, it will not attack or misbehave when you do it.

However, it is not easy to train a cat for a grooming routine, so they spontaneously do it by themselves.

Final thoughts 

This article attempted to find answers to why dogs smell, and cats don’t. The body odors are the primary reason behind this concern; dogs produce large amounts of natural scents, but cats produce minimal amounts.

Moreover, some other behavioral traits that these two animals inherit from birth could also help us understand answers to this question.

Cats and dogs are domestic animals but remember that they have their roots primarily coming from hunting backgrounds; however, the two animals use distinct hunting strategies. In this case, natural scents are vital for dogs to go after their prey.

Still, as solitary hunters, cats want to hide their natural scents. Self-grooming is very common among cats, but dogs do not groom themselves. You have to bathe, brush and clean a dog to make sure they are in good hygiene.

But you do not have to follow such a grooming routine with a cat; they do it by themselves. The natural consciousness of cats to stay clean undoubtedly make them less smelly.

So the bottom line is, unlike cats, dogs smell stronger, not necessarily because dogs are lazy to remain clean but due to their natural body odors, hunting tactics, and the texture of tongues.

Hope you find answers to your questions through this article. Stay tuned with Jack Russell Owner for more.


  • Dominic Parker

    Dominic P. is a dog behavioral researcher who graduated from the University of Surrey and holds BVMsi (Hons) in Veterinary Medicine and Science. He has been around dogs since childhood and has unconditional love for dogs. It makes him become a researcher instead of practicing as a veterinarian. Dominic enjoys his work and likes to share his findings with dog parents to give them a better understanding of dogs’ behaviors.

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