Pet-offensive odors: What their nose knows, and yours doesn’t

Brewing coffee. A summer campfire. Fresh-cut flowers. Scents like these are
a huge part of our lives. They’re linked to our memories, our routines, our
preferences and our environment. Unfortunately, most of us never stop to
consider the fact that our pets’ ultra-sensitive olfactory senses may not
always agree with our own favorite fragrances - many of which are found in
the homes we share with our animals. Help your clients understand what
scents are a major turn-off for cats and dogs and how to keep everyone
happy.
 

*Biology basics*

Most of us know that dogs and cats have keen senses of smell. But did you
know that dogs have between 150 and 300 million olfactory cells compared to
a human’s mere 5 million? Or that a cat’s sense of smell is actually 14
times stronger than ours? With larger and more sophisticated olfactory
systems, our animals are able to pick up on all sorts of information about
their environment. Cats can stay on alert about other cats in the area and
make up for their poor taste buds with smell, while dogs can use smells to
identify everything from their owners to drugs, and even diseases like
cancer.
 

*The smells that repel*

With their super sniffers always on full alert, many seemingly benign
household scents can actually agonize our beloved pets. Here’s the rundown
on the odors that irk cats and dogs the most.
 

*Dogs despise*

  • Citrus: Most of us love the smell of citrus. It’s fresh and bright andcan mask other odors we deem unpleasant. But because citrus is so strong, it can irritate a dog’s respiratory tract. Citrus essential oils can beeven more bothersome because of their high concentration and intensity.
  • Vinegar: This is another standard household item that is strong andalmost unbearable to dogs. While apple cider vinegar can be beneficial in cleaning up smelly dogs, make sure to mix it with a pet-friendly shampoo and keep it away from their sensitive noses.
  • Chili pepper: The capsaicinoids that make chilis hot can cause itching and irritation in a dog’s nose. At dinnertime, keep human chow made with chili away from their food bowl!
  • Alcohol: This strong antiseptic can be too much even for our noses sometimes, which is why it’s best to keep disinfectants, and even alcoholic beverages, out of a dog’s vicinity.
  • Nail polish: Acetate, formaldehyde, nitrocellulose — there are some strong chemicals in that little bottle. Dogs hate the smell and equally despise nail polisher remover, especially the kind made with acetone.
  • Chlorine and cleaning products: Besides their nasty smell, these chemicals can be potentially toxic if ingested, so it’s important to keep cleaning products out of reach of dogs and all pets. Always be careful to keep pets away from freshly-cleaned surfaces until they’re safely dry.
 

*Cats can’t stand*

  • Citrus: Just like their canine counterparts, cats hate oranges, lemons, limes and the like. Some cat repellents even use these smells to help keep cats away.
  • Banana: We know the peels can be pungent and cats find this to be especially true. Leaving one out is a sure way to keep a cat out of the room.
  • Dirty litter box: Here’s where we can agree with our feline friends — there’s nothing welcoming about a foul-smelling bathroom! Cats won’t go near a dirty box, so make sure to scoop and replace litter in a timely fashion.
  • Pepper: Spices and seasonings don’t mesh well with cats’ noses, so keep the curry out of reach!
  • Soaps and deodorants: Be careful about cleaning your cat’s food bowls, toys or bedding with anything too fragrant. Cats just don’t care for it.
  • Eucalyptus: Like other foliage they instinctively know may be toxic, cats will give eucalyptus plants a wide berth. Be sure to avoid essential oils (including eucalyptus, tea tree, peppermint and more) because they are known to be especially harmful to cats.
 

While it may be hard for our human senses to understand why dogs would
rather roll in the muck and cats want to sleep on stinky shoes, deciphering
what odors makes pets want to run and hide is important in reducing animal
stress and increasing overall happiness at home.