Have you ever noticed sometimes your cats seem to get into a state of hypnosis after they have sniffed something really intently? When this occurs, their mouth is slightly open, lips are curled back and nose is tensing up. This disposition is especially pronounced when they smell something from the outdoors. If you routinely walk your cats, you probably have seen it.
What does it mean when cats make such a funny looking face?
Cats are not the only animals that display this type of response to smells. Many mammals such as lions, horses and bats also demonstrate similar instinct to certain scents. Cats have an extraordinary olfactory sense. Their nose is their strongest apparatus to help them distinguish objects and decode and trace scents. However, their nose is not the only organ that makes them an excellent inspector. Jacobson's organ or the vomeronasal organ is another powerful odor detecting instrument that cats often use to analyze scents.
This organ, located in the roof of the mouth, packs the suspicious odor in its sac and sends signals to the brain for deciphering. This type of response is called the Flehmen response. Flehmen response happens mostly when cats smell urine.
Cats use their Flehmen response to figure out the status of the animal that left the scent. It can be the type of species, gender, health, reproductive status and so forth. Their ability to drill down the information of the animal can go very far. All it takes is one good sniff of the scent. Animals that exhibit the Flehmen response, use this ability to communicate via aromatic means.
Comparing to the sniffing ability of a dog, I have a feeling that cats are probably more adept with their sense of smell. The only reason that dogs are more commonly used in investigation is because they do tasks on command, whereas cats do tasks to fulfill their own desires.