14 Animals That Smell Like Snack Foods

A woolly brown bearcat lays on tree trunks in a forest
This bearcat smells like popcorn. Hot buttered popcorn.

Songsak Pandet / Shutterstock

The animal kingdom is full of appetizing smells. While most of the time animals smell a bit on the musty or musky side, some produce scents that will make your mouth water. Here is a collection of animals who emit smells that will make you think you're in the kitchen rather than the great outdoors.

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Yellow Ants = Lemon

three yellow ants walking on small stones

Hamik / Shutterstock

Yellow ants are also called citronella ants, thanks to the verbena-lemon scent they create when they spray in self-defense. Most people notice the scent when they dig in the garden and uncover a colony, or crush worker ants underfoot. So if you're planting in your yard and suddenly get a strong whiff of lemons but there's no lemon tree in sight, look for these little yellow guys running around.

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Spadefoot Toad = Peanut Butter

spadefoot toad sitting on fungus covered rocks

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Several species of spadefoot toad have a scent you'd be unlikely to associate with frogs. When they're stressed, they exude a secretion that smells like peanut butter and helps them ward off predators. It might seem alluring at first whiff, but these same secretions are an irritant that can cause wheezing, sneezing, and burning eyes for anyone who comes in contact with it.

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Binturong = Popcorn

a binturong draped over a painted green arch


Of all the things that the bodily fluids of a binturong (also known as a bearcat) could smell like, perhaps the last thing you’d expect would be hot buttered popcorn. But if you walk past a binturong, that’s precisely the scent you’ll notice.

The urine of these unusual Southeast Asian mammals smells uncannily like this favorite movie theater treat. When a binturong urinates, it spreads the scent around with its feet and tail in order to leave little scented notes for other binturongs. Why exactly does this animal smell so much like popcorn? Because the urine of a binturong actually shares a chemical compound with popcorn, 2-AP.

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Peppermint Stick Insects = Peppermint

a peppermint stick insect is practically invisible laying on a long green leaf.

Anna Gardiner / Flickr / Public Domain

A peppermint stick that's alive? When disturbed, this green stick insect sprays a fine milky mist that smells strongly of peppermint and irritates whatever predator might be trying to make a meal of it.

They have great aim with this mist, so don't try to get in close for a sniff. You might get a spray in the face. As the video shows, this insect is skilled at using peppermint mist as a defense mechanism.

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Copperhead = Cucumber

A copperhead snake with his tongue extended laying on top of dried leaves

Dennis W. Donohue / Shutterstock

If you're close enough to a copperhead to verify its scent, you might be too close. While some experts counter that the smell copperheads emit when threatened or scared is more musk-like than cucumber-like, the important message here is don't try to scare a copperhead. According to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, most copperhead bites occur when someone inadvertently steps on or accidentally touches a snake. Fortunately, the bites are rarely fatal.

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Delta Smelt = Cucumber

A single smelt on an open human hand.

USFWS / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Have you ever smelled a smelt? It's a species of fish that smells like peeled cucumber. The only problem is trying to find one. They went from a plentiful species to critically endangered and the population has continued to decline. Loss of habitat due to freshwater outflows, toxic substances, and competition with predators for food have all contributed to the decreasing smelt population. But there is some evidence that the smelt may be staging a small comeback. A 2019 study revealed an increase in healthy juvenile Delta smelt in a region that provided a protective habitat for these small creatures.

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Kakapo = Honey

A kakapo sitting amongst green foliage on the forest floor.

Department of Conservation / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-2.0

This flightless nocturnal parrot has a strong odor that, unfortunately, makes it easy for introduced predators to find it. Some say it has a sweet, musky smell like honey. Others, like biologist Jim Briskie of Canterbury University in Christchurch, believes they smell like musty violin cases. While smell is subjective, it has also been one factor in the precipitous decline of the kakapo since the introduction of rats, cats, and stoats to their island homes.

The critically endangered kakapo has so much trouble with strong-smelling nests that biologists are considering using a deodorant around their nests to better hide chicks and eggs from predators.

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Bed Bugs = Coriander

a closeup of a single bedbug from above.

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The relaxing scent of lavender is a good smell to have in your bedroom, as is the calming scent of sandalwood, or perhaps sage. What is not a good smell to have in your bedroom is coriander. If you catch a whiff of this spice, it's time to call an exterminator. If you have a large concentration of bed bugs, the smell can move beyond coriander and into the realm of musty gym shoes.

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Grey Kangaroo = Curry

Western male grey kangaroo standing in a field.

Lea Scaddan / Getty Images 

There are several differences between male and female western grey kangaroos. Males are larger, have more muscle mass, and consume more grass than their female counterparts. However, the most unique difference between the two is the unusual scent that only the male of this species can claim: curry. This spicy scent has given the male western grey kangaroo his own special nickname as well, stinker.

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Honey Bees = Bananas

A view of a group of honeybees from above on a blue surface.

Igor Podgorny / Shutterstock

Honey bees, including Africanized honey bees, release an alarm pheromone that smells like bananas. And if you're close enough to a bee to smell this, you might be in a spot of trouble. The pheromone attracts other bees to respond to the potential danger. If you're stung by a honey bee, you definitely need to wash your clothes because the pheromone can stay on clothing.

In other words, if you're near bees and smell bananas, it's time to put yourself on alert as well.

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Crested Auklet = Tangerines

A group of six crested auklets gathered together on tope of a large, moss covered rock.

tryton2011 / Shutterstock

Crested auklets give off a strong smell of a favorite citrus fruit, the tangerine. According to Hector Douglas, Ph.D., who studied crested auklets with the University of Alaska Fairbanks Institute of Marine Science, the birds emit a compound that is also found in tangerines: octanal. Research further reveals that the monogamous birds emit the tangerine scent during courtship. Crested auklets are well known for their "ruff-sniff" mating ritual in which both partners press their bill and face into the feathers of their mate.

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Yellow-spotted Millipede = Cherry Cola

A black and yellow millipede on a bright green leaf.

teekaygee / Shutterstock

Millipedes are truly creepy critters, but they also have a sweet smell. Except that smell comes from a toxin. The yellow-spotted millipede (Harpaphe haydeniana) is also known as the almond-scented millipede, the cherry millipede, and the cyanide millipede because of the smell of hydrogen cyanide it exudes as a defense. This chemical smells just like almonds or, to some, cherry cola. The secretion is foul tasting and allows the millipede to escape from predators when they wise up and spit the bug out.

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Beaver = Vanilla

A beaver laying near the water's edge.

Daniel Rose / Shutterstock

From a scent gland called castor sacs located under its tail, beavers make a molasses-like goo called castoreum that they use to mark their territory. But this goo also smells a lot like vanilla. So much so that it has historically been collected for food flavoring and perfume scents. While still approved by the FDA, most manufacturers no longer use castoreum in vanilla extract; it is, however, still used by some perfume makers.

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Dogs = Fritos

A dog laying face up in a doggie bed with one paw up in a wave.

Anna Hoychuk / Shutterstock

One last snack-food smelling creature might be living in your very own home with you: the humble and much loved domestic dog. The paws of domestic dogs are often noted to smell like Fritos. According to veterinarians, the cause of this phenomenon is harmless bacteria naturally present in our environment.

If the smell is particularly strong or foul, it may indicate an infection or other medical issue, so have your dog's pungent paws checked out by a professional.