Cat senses

Cats have senses that develop as they grow up: smell, touch, sight, hearing and taste.  With these different senses, they can interact with their environment.

The sense of smell is the most important sense a cat has. It is much better than the human’s sense. Thanks to smells, the kitten recognizes his mother, the other cats and even his owner!

Cat has glands with odorous secretions (pheromones) and uses them to mark his territory: urine spraying, stools, anal glands (a foul-smelling liquid) and salivary glands as well as skin secretions (through the paw pads).


Good to know

Cats are sensitive to nitrogenous odors. This faculty enables him to know if a food is eatable.


Tactile communication is very important because it allows him to collect information about his environment.

  • Vibrissae (whiskers): cat has 12 on each side of his face. It also has them above the eyes, on the cheeks and on the elbows of the two front legs. The whiskers are used to situate him in space, to move in the dark and to hunt.
  • Paw pads: they are used to define the shape of an object, its size, consistency and temperature.



Sight is a highly developed sense for cats. It is particularly adapted to night hunting activities. The shape of his pupils change with the intensity of light.

  • Miosis: the pupils are shrunken (a fine line). This indicates daytime vision, it is clear and precise.
  • Mydriasis: the pupils are dilated (a round shape). This corresponds to a vision in the dark, it is wide but blurred and not very precise. This shape is observed when a cat is under stress or if he comes out of anesthesia.


Cat’s ears are composed of muscles that allow them to rotate 180°. This organ gives it balance but also the ability to hear sound vibrations. Cat hears a very wide range of sounds, especially high-pitched ones. He recognizes some sounds of everyday life (the sound of kibble), he can detect possible dangers and locate prey in his environment.



For cats, the sense of taste is linked to the sense of smell. Indeed, the nasal cavity leads to the mouth. Tongue is the support of taste buds that allow a cat to discern different flavors. He does not react to sweetness but is able to recognize salty, bitter and acidic.


An article by Céline Taphaléchat.