Why Do Cats Leave Their Mouths Open After Smelling?
26 January, 2018
Cats are such funny, interesting pets and they do so many things that entertain us. What’s better than seeing your cat jump like an acrobat, roll on her back with her arms up or just give you that meaningful stare! One of the most adorable and perplexing expressions is when your cat leaves her mouth open after smelling something.
The actual act is called the “flehmen recation” and occurs when your cat’s mouth opens to draw air to the Jacobson’s organ.
There are a few reasons why your cat makes this funny looking face:
Cats open their mouths to investigate their surroundings
Cats often keep their mouths hanging open to help them check out their surroundings. When cats discover an interesting scent, they open their mouths to try to identify the aroma. The cat wrinkles her nose and her upper lip pulls back, creating a funny face. As your cat considers the scent, she sucks in air and transfers it to a Jacobson’s organ, also known as the vomeronasal sac, which is behind the teeth in the roof of a cat’s mouth. This organ processes the scents and sends signals to the brain.
The inquiring sniffs or smells are usually territorial related
The intriguing smells are usually related to territoriality issues such as cats smelling urine marks left by other cats. They also kick into gear when a female cat in heat leaves scents in an area. Male cats are more likely to display flehmen, but mother cats depend on it to keep track of their kittens. The behavior may also be used to distinguish certain food they love or even catnip!
As cats’ process the smell, they look dazed as they take in all sorts of information
The reason cats look dazed for a second or two, after taking in the smell, is because they can learn a lot of information about their surroundings. They mark territory using the scent glands on their cheeks and paws. The glands secrete pheromones, which are chemical substances that stimulate a behavioral response, such as an avoidance or even an aggressive reaction. When cats “spray” it’s another way they are marking their territory.
Cats aren’t alone in investigating with their mouths
Other species perform similar acts to the flehmen, including snakes that stick their tongues out to explore their environment and elephants that reach out with their trunks. The behavior is supposedly enjoyable for mammals and some seem to go into a trance-like state during the process.
So now you know! The next time you see your cat with her mouth hanging open, look around to see if you can figure out what your cat is smelling.
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