What Is Scent Enrichment for Cats?

Lisa Selvaggio
by Lisa Selvaggio

Your cat has a powerful sense of smell that she uses to navigate her surroundings and make decisions, so it’s important to consider your kitty when using scented products around the house and maintaining a litter box that doesn’t have offensive odors.

In addition to considering the fragrances that can be off-putting to your kitty, you can also enrich your cat’s environment and make her daily life more fun with scent. Below are some tips on how to use scent enrichment to keep your furbaby happy.

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Scent Enrichment for Cats: What Is It?

Also known as olfactory enrichment, scent enrichment for cats can be used to prevent boredom, entice your kitty to play, and help her relax. Put simply, you incorporate different smells into your cat’s daily life through her environment, toys, treats, etc.

There are various scent enrichment tools and strategies that you can use on a regular basis for your cat. And you may find that giving your kitty different scents keeps her interested, so consider rotating the products you use rather than always giving your pet the same scent all the time.

Scent Enrichment Tips

Because there are so many easy and creative ways to provide your cat with scent enrichment, you can find the strategies that work best for you and your pet. Below are a few ideas to help you get started:


Catnip is a classic, and obvious, choice when it comes to scent enrichment for felines. Many kitties go nuts for this plant, and there are a host of products that make it simple to give your cat some catnip that will make her feel elated in no time.

You can purchase pre-filled catnip toys that have a strong smell and can immediately attract your cat and get her excited to exercise. Or, you can buy dried catnip and add some to your cat’s environment, such as on her favorite scratching post. Refillable catnip toys are also a great option because you can continually add fresh catnip to keep the scent strong enough for your kitty.

Alternatives to Catnip

You’ve likely noticed that, after a little while, your cat doesn’t react to catnip like she did when she first smelled it. Taking breaks from it and reintroducing it after a day or two may get her interested in it again. Whether you want to give your kitty more than just catnip for some much-needed variety, or your cat isn’t the type to react to catnip, you can opt for alternatives like silvervine and valerian.

You can use these plants just like you would use catnip, so this is another way to encourage your pet to stay active. For instance, you can purchase the Meowijuana Kalico Kush - Valerian Root & Catnip Blend and add it to toys for scent enrichment and play.  

Also check out the TwinCritters Silvervine Wine Bottles - Plush Catnip Toy if you want to see how your cat will react to silvervine (many kitties get in a playful mood immediately). These toys are large enough for your feline to grab, kick, and bite. And they’re durable, soft, and filled with natural silvervine. Plus, they’re refillable, so you can add fresh silvervine to make each toy like new again.

Outdoor Scents

Opening your windows will let fresh air into your house, and this can benefit everyone in your family but it’s also a great way to provide scent enrichment to your feline companion. Just make sure your cat will be secure and won’t be able to get out while gazing out the window – a window screen will let plenty of air in while keeping your kitty safe inside. You can even set up a window perch so your cat can comfortably sit or lie down while taking in the variety of scents that float in on the breeze.   

Another way to safely let your cat gain exposure to the outdoors and all of its scents is by setting up a catio or putting your kitty in an outdoor enclosure in your backyard. Remember, it’s best to be there to supervise to ensure your pet won’t escape or get hurt.

Or, if your kitty is adventurous and up for walking on a leash or sitting in a stroller, these are other ways to get her outside safely so she can smell all of the intriguing odors in the air and environment.    

Plants and Herbs

Although there are many plants that are toxic to cats, there are those that your pet can be exposed to safely. Bringing non-toxic, cat-friendly plants into your home and letting your companion smell them can be yet another way to provide scent enrichment. Or, you could stick with cat grass, which your kitty can sniff and chew on safely.

The same is true when it comes to herbs – some are safe for cats while others aren’t, so do your research before using these for scent enrichment. To take the guesswork out, check out the Meowy Janes Herbal Scent Enrichment Kit, which contains 13 natural herbs that are safe for cats and can promote calm or increase energy.

Make Sure Scent Enrichment Is Done Right

There are plenty of ways to introduce your kitty to new smells, and once you find her favorites, you’ll be able to rotate between them to provide scent enrichment. Always be sure you do so safely, though. Avoid any essential oils, artificial fragrances, plants, etc. that can be toxic or harmful to cats. And if you have questions, consult your veterinarian.

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Lisa Selvaggio
Lisa Selvaggio

Lisa Selvaggio is a freelance writer and editor, and our resident cats-pert, with certifications in pet nutrition and pet first aid. She enjoys producing content that helps people understand animals better so they can give their pets a safe and happy home.

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