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Why Is My Cat Sniffing My Face? 7 Interesting Reasons


Apr 11, 2023
cat licks on the nose of a young man


cat licks on the nose of a young man

Cats have a highly effective sense of smell, especially compared to us humans. Humans have 5 million odor sensors to rely on, but felines have 200 million1! Cats rely on their sense of smell to figure out their surroundings and find things like food and the litter box. So, we shouldn’t be surprised to see our felines sniffing things around the house.

What might seem weird, though, is when your cat keeps sniffing your face and you can’t figure out why. You may be wondering, “Is my cat trying to smell my breath?” but they wouldn’t have to get so up close and personal just to do that! There are a few reasons that your cat might be sniffing your face.


The 7 Reasons Why My Cat Is Sniffing My Face

1. They’re Learning Your Scent

If your cat is a new member of the family, they may spend a great deal of time sniffing your face for a while to understand your unique scent. This will help them identify you by smell, even when they cannot see you due to darkness or you being in another room of the house. By getting to know your pheromones and scent, they can tell where you have been, like on the couch or in the laundry room.

woman owner petting and playing with her cat at home
Image Credit: Stokkete, Shutterstock

2. They’re Just Saying Hello

Another reason your cat might sniff your face is that they are saying hello and trying to bond with you. You might notice that your cat sniffs your face whenever you come home or when you wake up in the morning. You may notice that they sniff the faces of other people and animals that live in your household for the same reason.

man and cat
Image Credit: Piqsels

3. They’re Marking Their Territory

Cats like to spread their scent, especially to people, places, and things that they want to “own.” Some cats try to mark their human companions as their territory because they don’t want other animals to take over their bonds. This isn’t to say that they’ll fight other household pets when they try to bond with you. They just don’t want to be forgotten about by you or any other animals.

cat looking man's chin
Image Credit: Magui RF, Shutterstock

4. They Are Checking on Your Wellbeing

Your hormones and other elements within your body, like your pH levels, can change for various reasons. You might be entering a different phase of life, you may have changed your diet and lifestyle, or maybe you are dealing with an illness. Whatever the reason for your body changes, it can affect your pheromones and scent. When scent changes happen, your cat will pick up on it. This could drive them to sniff your face in an effort to check on your well-being and to determine what’s going on.

cat owner talking to his pet
Image Credit: Piqsels

5. They’re Trying to Get Your Attention

Sometimes, a cat just wants extra attention from their human companion. They know that getting up in your face is an excellent way to get that attention. You might find that your kitty tries to wake you up by sniffing your face or that they sniff your face to take your attention away from the book that you’re reading or movie that you’re watching.

cat putting his paw on owner
Image Credit: antibydni

6. They Need to Relieve Stress

A cat may do various things to relieve any stress that they are feeling, including rubbing up against you and sniffing your face. Getting close to you and taking in a familiar scent that makes them feel safe can help reduce their stress levels so they can feel more content in their day. It’s an honor and a responsibility to be trusted enough that your cat relies on your scent to relax and de-stress.

Woman holding up a ginger cat
Image Credit: Marlia Boiko, Shutterstock

7. They’re Feeling Playful

If a cat is feeling playful, they might take the time to sniff your face to get an idea of what kind of mood you are in. If they sense that you’re in good spirits, they may try swiping at your hand or rolling around in front of you to entice you into gameplay. Grabbing a toy and spending a few minutes playing should provide your kitty with the satisfaction that they are looking for.

cat playing with owner
Image Credit: Dora Zett, Shutterstock



With so many reasons for a cat to sniff their owner’s face, it can be fun to try to figure out the specific reason that your kitty is expressing this behavior. You might find that your cat acts in this way for just one reason or for several. Learning why your cat sniffs your face can also help you better communicate and bond with them as time goes on.

Featured Image Credit: Julija Sulkovska, Shutterstock

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