Why do cats sometimes open their mouths when they smell something?

Surely you have surprised your cat, with its mouth open , on certain occasions by smelling or licking something. It is not common, but they tend to do so when they direct their attention to the “backsides” of other cats. Also when they follow urine trails or track other types of body odours, even from humans. It is not unusual for some cats to be attracted to the smell of our clothes or our body.

Chemical receptors

And is that cats have a good sense of smell, much better than ours. Cats use it on the one hand, to locate prey or food, detect a danger, but also to  “read” chemical messages from their environment.

Vomeronasal or Jacobson’s organ

Unlike us, cats have an organ vomeronasal  also called for Jacobson at the top of the hard palate, which forms the roof of the mouth. When cats use this organ, you will notice that it is staring at a fixed point, with its mouth open, its lip drooping and its tongue turned back. This grimace (which is always funny for us to deny) is called  Flehmen’s reflection.

Why does the cat do it with its mouth open?

Because in this way of “smelling” the tongue is essential and plays a crucial role. Odours are transmitted directly from it, to the interior of the vomeronasal organ, which in turn has direct communication with the hypothalamus and amygdala. Let’s say it is a “shortcut” to capture and analyze other different ( large ) chemical molecules that provide you with much more information. Above all, to detect pheromones, which are its most important chemical language, through sensitive neurons, located in that small cavity housed in the vomer bone, with receptors housed in your palate, behind your upper incisors, and that, in addition, it is proven that they have a very important role in your sexual behaviour. Therefore, when you see your  cat with its mouth open, concentrated and looking at infinity, it is scrutinizing a world of chemical sensations, unimaginable for us, although to our eyes, it seems that it has just been surprisingly hypnotized and we cannot help but smile Has it happened to you? If you found it interesting, share it with other cat lovers.

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