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November 15, 2016 9:25 PM   Subscribe

Although the cat sort of looks like she’s smiling or grimacing when she takes a big whiff, the act of opening the mouth and drawing up the air to the Jacobson’s organ is called the flehmen reaction. Essentially, the cat is opening her mouth to suck in the air into the Jacobson’s organ and take a really deep sniff of the odor." [SLYT] (h/t)
posted by Room 641-A (21 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Just saw this on dlisted. This is truly what the Internet was made for.

And this piece of timeless wisdom of course.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 9:54 PM on November 15, 2016 [5 favorites]

All cats have a Jacobson's organ. All snakes have a Jacobson's organ. Therefore all cats are snakes.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 10:50 PM on November 15, 2016 [15 favorites]

OK, no offense, but I get to see this on the daily. Not sure why this video is special.
posted by ereshkigal45 at 11:18 PM on November 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Room 641-A: Keepin' MetaFilter Classy Since 2008™
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 11:19 PM on November 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

OK, no offense, but I get to see this on the daily. Not sure why this video is special.

Some of us cat owners are less familiar with this than you.
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:38 AM on November 16, 2016 [4 favorites]

Our family always calls that "making that cat face." I love seeing big jungle cats do it.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 2:06 AM on November 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Therefore all cats are snakes.

Tanith Lee pointed this out very eloquently in (I believe) Night's Master. She also pointed out that, while cats are usually very careful with the disguise, when they get angry they forget and hiss (plus you can see their snake-heads when they lay their ears back).

Cat faces for the win!
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:13 AM on November 16, 2016 [7 favorites]

We call that the "stinky face". Additionally, there's an amazingly charming Japanese comic about cats called What's Michael? in which a cat "expert" declares that anyone who sees a cat making this face will soon die. (He immediately retracts it when something's thrown at his head.) Now every time we see it, there's a melodramatic "OH NO, I'M GOING TO DIE!".

The cats don't really seem to appreciate it, but it amuses us.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 2:32 AM on November 16, 2016 [6 favorites]

I hate seeing that face in the house. Always means there's something terrible I didn't know about and have to clean up immediately before it contaminates everything.
posted by honestcoyote at 3:00 AM on November 16, 2016 [5 favorites]

We actually call that "making snake face" in our house when the cats do that. Had no idea both cats & snakes had a Jacobson's organ, Cool!
posted by pointystick at 4:15 AM on November 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

I call it "butt face" since the cats make it after smelling each other's butts or sometimes a pillow or blanket. (Cue housekeeping horrors)
posted by travertina at 4:37 AM on November 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

Oh god am I enjoying this discussion at my desk in the front office of a veterinary practice. (Shh!) I adopted a five-week-old kitten from work this fall, and seeing her make this face for the first time around week 7 (after putting her tiny nose near another cat's large anus) was priceless.
posted by juniper at 5:43 AM on November 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

Every now and again our eldest cat will smell the other cat's butt and make this face. We call this "ugh why did I do that" face.
posted by Kitteh at 6:44 AM on November 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Horses do this too.
posted by brujita at 7:47 AM on November 16, 2016 [3 favorites]

My cat peed on the bed last week and on my bedroom floor today. I think she's punishing the human race for destroying the future.
posted by latkes at 7:56 AM on November 16, 2016 [3 favorites]

My cats rarely make this face (as they're largely comatose most of the day) but I've seen tigers at the zoo doing this, and it's always hilarious.
posted by Existential Dread at 8:42 AM on November 16, 2016

As brujita mentioned, horses have the flehmen response, but they manage to look amused instead of disgusted.

Many cats appear to be disgusted by the human race. Other cats are amused.
posted by BlueHorse at 8:44 AM on November 16, 2016

We call it "lion grimace." 'Cause lions do it the best.
posted by BrashTech at 8:46 AM on November 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

I've had about a million cats over the years, and only rarely saw this behavior. But two years ago we rescued two kittens. One of them does this about 20 times a day. To everything. Shoes, cups, furniture, cat toys, humans, grass, concrete.

He does it so much we refer to it as "tasting" as a shorthand. Most things that a cat would just sniff, he tastes. He's super healthy and sees the vet regularly so I'm not concerned. I just suspect that he has a weak (or non-existent) sense of smell.
posted by peep at 9:23 AM on November 16, 2016

My cats love to sniff each others' butts and so they make this face all the time. My husband and I always respond by making the face to each other for as long as possible until one of us can no longer hold back the laughter.
posted by joan_holloway at 10:48 AM on November 16, 2016 [4 favorites]

Humans have a Jacobson's organ, too (aka vomero-nasal organ, or VNO), though it regresses in the womb (but not necessarily completely), and there are some fairly weird aspects of the way VNOs in general work:
The neurons in the VNO express receptors from three families, called V1R,[2] V2R,[3][4][5] and FPR.[6][7] The receptors are distinct from each other and from the large family of receptors in the main olfactory system.[8] Stimuli reach the VNO in liquid phase via a pumping mechanism; the primary cues for the VNO are therefore non-volatile and require direct physical contact.
which appears to somewhat contradict the linked article's assertion that the flehmen reaction draws air into the VNO since it seems to imply that the flehmen reaction pumps liquid across the VNO instead.

When humans make the flehman reaction face, it looks and feels like disgust, which raises the interesting possibility that disgust is a necessary precondition for picking up pheromonal signals, which in turn suggests that human body odors and fart gas really need to go out of their way to be disgusting.
posted by jamjam at 12:24 PM on November 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

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