It's a truth universally acknowledged that our pets love our personal belongings, particularly shoes. Whether it's cats or dogs, our pets will accept the challenge of finding our shoes no matter where we put them. But why do cats like stinky shoes so much?
Our cats bring as much joy as they do confusion. A lot of cat behavior is a head-scratcher and seems incomprehensible. Cats can be mysterious, and that's probably one of the reasons we love them so, but if you've wondered why your cat seems to absolutely adore your shoes, you're not alone.
Whether you're a dog owner or cat owner, you may have noticed both types of pets love stinky things. As humans, we can't relate, but to many animals, scents, especially strong ones that we may find repugnant, are like "messages." The smellier a surface or object, the more a cat may be attracted to it. Smelly shoes, for example, may have odors, including pheromones, from other animals that cats may want to explore. According to Carlos Siracusa, a veterinarian at Penn Vet's Ryan Hospital in Philadelphia, your cat may want to "rewrite" the message or add its own unique scent profile or "signature" to your shoes, and that's why he will rub up against your smelly footwear. Moreover, your cat "may also want to exchange signals with the owner who is a member of the same social group." Besides wanting to "rewrite" the scented message on your shoes (if you think about how much you walk around and pick up scents from the ground, etc, it makes sense), cats may also simply feel comforted by your own personal scent. Yes, that means they enjoy and are calmed by the smell of your stinky or sweaty feet, but isn't it also endearing? Cats! They're...not like us. And that's what makes them so intriguing.
Why sniffing is important
Humans don't have the amazing noses of either cats or dogs. We can't quite understand what it's like to be able to smell so efficiently, for lack of a better word. For example, taking a dog on a scent walk is something that can calm them! The feline olfactory system, or sense of smell, is simply astounding -- cats have 45 to 80 million receptors in their nose, compared to a human's paltry 5 million.
Humans are more likely to explore their world through eyesight and hearing. Although, of course, cats use those senses just as much, they also rely on sense of smell to guide them, protect them, and inform them of the world around them.When a cat meets another cat, its natural instinct and inclination is to smell the other cat. Whereas humans will shake hands or nod to each other in acknowledgement, cats focus on their sense of smell to get to know other cats. Sometimes they may bump each other on the head upon meeting. This actually releases pheromones from scent glands in the face! With this information, cats can sense each other's mood, health status, and sex, among other things. They can sense if the other cat is in a calm, happy mood or feeling aggressive. In this way, cats can protect themselves, all by using their sense of smell! Not too shabby.
Cats use their sense of smell far more effectively than humans ever will. It's important to them to be able to sniff around to acquaint themselves with their environment. They both receive and send messages in this way. For now, you can remember to keep your stinky shoes hidden away. But the next time your cat rubs herself against a pair of shoes, you won't wonder why!