Why do cats sniff each other's butts?

Why Do Cats Smell Other Cats’ Butts?

Cats are usually such graceful and delicate creatures, so it can come as a real surprise when they suddenly lean over to a fellow cat and get a good whiff of their rear. Why do cats do this?

It seems pretty weird, especially considering how humans communicate, but it’s actually an important part of feline behavior. Here’s why.

Butt sniffing is a very natural, instinctual, and basic form of cat-to-cat communication. Strangely enough, it is how cats greet and get to know each other, along with sniffing of the chest and neck. Even cats that know each other well will sniff butts to “see what’s new” and reinforce their bond and communication.

The cat butt sniff is the feline equivalent of “Hello, how do you do?” and similar to how humans use a handshake when meeting and being introduced to someone. Cats communicate with each other using their strong sense of smell and detect signals in the chemicals in oil from the anal glands.

What a Sniff Can Reveal

To understand what a sniff can tell a cat, it is important to understand how cats are different. There are four main differences between the way cats communicate and humans communication:

What You Should Do During Butt Sniffing

Behaviorists suggest that because the butt sniffing routine is a normal part of cat behavior, it’s best not to interrupt it if the cats seem friendly. Interrupting this behavior is equivalent to you stopping a friend from shaking hands with someone they are meeting: it can annoy or upset the friend and can make the introduction awkward. In fact, lack of this butt sniffing communication between cats can create stress between the cats.

With that being said, some cats are more aggressive “sniffers” than others and not every cat that meets will actually like each other. If the sniffing gets intense and you notice any other signs of aggression, then it is appropriate to pull your cat away from the other.