Talking cat - Lesson 2 Pheromones

They might be imperceptible to humans, but pheromones play a huge role in communication between cats. So what are pheromones, and how do cats use them?

Talking cat - Lesson 2 Pheromones

Pheromones are chemicals secreted by cats through glands in their skin and mucus membranes. They are produced around the face, at the sides of the paws, around the anus and also the chest area. Pheromones are also present in secretions such as urine.

These chemicals are perceptible to other cats, triggering specific behavioural or physiological responses. When a cat smells another cat’s pheromones, she has what is called a 'Flehman' response - mouth ajar, top lip curled back and small tongue movements. This rather odd behaviour helps to waft the pheromones to a special sensor (the vomeronasal organ) located at the bottom of the palate.

Pheromones vary by age, sex, physiological state, hormones and emotions. Every cat has their own unique 'smell'.

Soothing pheromones

Have you ever wondered why your cat rubs herself against things? This is how she distributes her pheromones - and spreading her pheromones contributes to her sense of well-being. For example, by rubbing against objects she can mark her territory, which helps her map and locate areas. Rubbing against you, scratching and urinating all also help her mark her presence by smell.

This behaviour helps her give her environment and those around her the same comforting scent. The odour soothes your cat and makes her feel safe. If she cannot do this she may become anxious, so allowing and encouraging her to exercise this behaviour is important to her well-being. Always ensure there is a scratching post available and an easily accessible litter box.