Here, we have reported the sensing characteristics of CuO thin films towards volatile gases like ammonia, acetone and ethanol. The CuO films were deposited on glass substrate by RF magnetron sputtering at 350 °C and 400 °C. The characteristics of CuO thin films grown at both temperatures were analyzed using X-ray diffractometer (XRD), UV-Vis spectrometer, atomic force microscope (AFM), scanning electron microscope (SEM) and Fourier transform infrared spectrometer (FTIR). The thin films showed mesoporous morphology with average crystallite size of 78 nm and 36 nm for films grown at 350 °C and 400 °C, respectively. As the film grown at 400 °C showed better properties, it has been preferred for the gas sensing analysis. Gas sensing properties of the film towards different concentration (50-250 ppm) of ammonia, acetone and ethanol were studied in chemi-resistive mode. As expected, an increase in resistance with concentration of gases was observed due to the p-type nature of CuO thin films. Further, the film showed comparatively better sensitivity towards ethanol than other gases. © 2018 Institute of Physics Publishing. All rights reserved.