Why does my Maine Coon cat love the smell and taste of menthol, mint and camphor? When I brush my teeth, he follows me to the bathroom so he can lick my mouth to remove the toothpaste. When I apply Carmex on my lips, he proceeds to lick it off. When I rub Icy Hot on my shoulder, he attempts to lick it off as well. However, I do stop him every time.

1 Answer 1


It's fairly common for cats to try to lick at stuff like shampoo and the like. It seems like it's due to the smell, but it's mostly a mystery why these things have such an enticing smell to some cats, but we have some guesses.

The first point of course is that cats are very scent driven animals. Not only do they have quite a good sense of smell, they (along with many other mammal species) have an additional organ, known as the Jacobson's organ, for smelling heavier molecules such as certain pheromones. It is naturally advantageous for them to be highly attracted to certain smells as well, in particular, those pheromones indicating a female is in heat.

As to those particular smells, there are some possible explanations. With mint, it might be because cats are often attracted to catnip, which is in the mint family. Camphor is also derived from a plant, in the form of an essential oil. So perhaps your cat is just naturally attracted to plantish smells.

As for general hygiene products, it's often the case that they contain some sort of perfume. Perfumes often are derived from chemicals that make up animal scents, which can be very attractive to cats. For example, the perfume Calvin Klein's Obsession is known to sometimes attract big cats, most likely due to it containing civetone, a chemical that is found in scent of civets. https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/running-ponies/big-cats-and-cologne-e2809cthey-roll-and-cheek-rub-and-just-look-to-be-in-heavene2809d/

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