Why Does My Cat Smell My Eyes?

By John Martin - May 12, 2021

Cats make for curious and interesting pets. Just as a newborn baby, a cat will constantly do things that may surprise you and engage in behavior that may not always be explainable.

There are several things that cats do that may be downright strange and sometimes even spooky. Ever woken up in the middle of the night to your cat sitting on your chest, staring into your eyes? Yes, that should jolt you right up! So why does your cat insist on smelling your eyes?

Showing Affection

One of the possible reasons for this peculiar behavior could be a way for your cat to show affection. Cats have a reputation for being aloof and not always friendly. So when they do show affection, it is often in peculiar ways.

Some cat owners find that their pet likes to snuggle in their neck, others like to boop their noses, and some like to sniff their eyes, perhaps even lick them.

While the cat-owning community does not seem to have arrived at a consensus on why this happens, some say that it could be a way for them to show you they like you. Notice that they do not do it to everyone and only to a select few. So this could be a very plausible reason for this behavior.


If your cat is a female, this could be a way for them to channel their motherly instincts. Cats often lick their offspring’s eyelids to remove dirt and gunk, keeping their eyes free from infection.

By licking their babies’ eyelids they put in place a bonding ritual and also ensure that their babies are healthy and fit. No cat with gunk in their eyes is going to be able to hunt (though they are color blind).

If your cat is doing this to you, they may be attempting to groom you similarly. Again, it is a display of affection and is a way for them to take care of you and make sure your eyes are clean.

Well, since you are obviously not your cat’s offspring, this behavior can seem odd. But it is still a sweet moment to bond with your cat. But in the absence of a baby, a female cat may indulge in this behavior with their pet parent.

Some pet parents have even said their cats do not confine themselves to the eyelids but have also licked their eyeballs directly. The prickly tongue of a cat in your pupils is certainly not a pleasant feeling but is just something cat owners must deal with.

Looking for Scent Glands

Not just cats, you may find all animals sniffing parts of another animal’s body to assess what they are all about. You would have seen dogs sniffing another dog’s behind or even a human being’s posterior in a moment that is embarrassing for everyone else around!

The same goes for cats. By sniffing a person or another animal, a cat can assess whether the other creature is worthy of trust. This is a test to see whether they can be more friendly or if they should retreat.

Animals also respond to different types of pheromones which may trigger certain kinds of behavior. For example, some pheromones come as warning signs, others that indicate where an animal may find food and most importantly, a mate.

While the evidence of human beings secreting pheromones is not conclusive, your cat may still come searching for it out of instinct. Many animals have scent glands in their faces, so your cat’s instinct may be to look for a certain scent in your face.


Your eyes have a higher amount of salinity because of the production of tears. Cats tend to have a preference for certain kinds of smells, and some cats are attracted to the smell of salt. That could explain why your cat is interested in smelling your eyes.

Cats are adept at picking up all kinds of scents and have extremely strong olfactory senses. So even if you never considered how your eyes smell, there may be something your feline friend is picking up on.

Other Strange Cat Behaviors

Eye sniffing is not the only weird thing a cat might do. Cat owners report all kinds of strange things their pets do. Some may be a pattern that can be found in other cats as well, while others may be behaviors specific to a certain cat.

The following are a few examples of other strange things cats have reportedly done or do so you can tick them off your list if your eye-sniffing cat is also doing any of these things.


Kneading, quite literally, looks like the action of kneading dough. This is a behavior little kittens practice when they are nursing. The kneading action is a way to regulate milk flow from the mother cat’s mammary glands.

Even after the nursing phase, this behavior may continue among most cats. It could be a way for cats to relax and is a repetitive behavior they may find calming.

The paws also have scent glands so they may be using this activity to mark you with their scent. Make no mistake, your cat is the master of you, not the other way round!

Howling in the Middle of the Night

This is a very common thing for cats to do, regardless of whether they are domesticated or out in the open. Cats typically feel lazy and sleep through the day, making them the most active during dawn and dusk.

This is when cats are on the prowl. Actually, cats need to eat several small meals through the day and night so they may be looking for prey even in the middle of the night, despite being fed.

If at some point you have woken up to feed your cat just so they can stop making that awful sound, they have figured out that this works! Instead of waking up every night to feed them, you could hide treats for them to find so they can stay engaged while you are asleep.

Mouth Open and Staring

This is one of the stranger things a cat may do, but it is very common among all cats. You may have noticed them staring at something with their mouth open. If you were to personify your cat, that expression would look like disgust at a bad odor.

But it is something known as the Flehmen response. The cat has opened its mouth to allow a certain scent to reach the vomeronasal organ on their palate. This is a way for them to identify certain scents better than simply sniffing them.

Twitching Tail

A twitching tail is a sign that your cat is feeling unhappy about something. The faster twitching of the tail usually implies that the cat is feeling impatient and something is getting on its nerves, irritating him.

A leisurely swaying of the tail indicating pleasure could quickly switch to the tail twitching in an annoyed way. Look out for this change and save yourself some scratches.


In conclusion, cats are strange and peculiar creatures we may never fully be able to figure out. There is no clarity as to why your cat may be sniffing your eyes, but it is certainly not a behavior you need to worry about.

All theories about your cat sniffing your eyes come from affection or interest. So let them get a good sniff and enjoy the moment of bonding, except in rare, unfortunate cases.