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How cats use scent to communicate

 by james on 18 Nov 2022 |
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Dogs have a keen sense of smell, but cats also use scent to understand their surroundings. Here’s how Kitty uses his nose in everyday life.

How cats use scent to communicate

We all know that dogs have a keen sense of smell, but many pet parents don’t realize scent plays a big role in their feline companions’ lives, too. From determining the sex of an unfamiliar animal to generating feelings of safety and security, your cat’s sense of smell is essential to his understanding of the world. Here’s how Kitty’s nose guides his interactions with his surroundings and other animals.
Cats have roughly 40 times more scent receptors in their noses than humans do. This gives your pet a keen talent for gathering information about his surroundings simply by using his sense of smell. Cats use scent to determine social cues, such as the sex and reproductive status of other felines nearby—useful when seeking a nearby mate—but they also use scent to generate feelings of security. When your cat rubs his cheeks across a surface, for example, he is spreading his own, comforting scent from glands under his skin. Cat have similar scent-producing glands on their paws, sides and tail, allowing them to “mark” spaces with chemical signals known as pheromones.

Pheromones are scent communicators that relay important information from one cat to another. The ability to read social cues without physically interacting allows cats to “meet” an unfamiliar animal without physically interacting. This is important in avoiding fights, as cats can glean information about the location of other animals’ territories, and can help your pet determine when a potential mate is nearby. When your cat rubs his scent-producing glands across a surface, he is marking that object as his own, creating a scent that is comforting and stress-relieving to him. Cats also spread their scent through more aggressive means such as spraying, which typically only occurs when they are feeling stressed or over-stimulated.

With so many hidden meanings behind your cat’s sense of smell, it is important to understand what Kitty is trying to communicate. If your pet begins spraying, it may be a sign of stress resulting from a change in his environment, such as introduction of a new pet or baby to the household. However, spraying can also be a symptom of a medical problem such as a urinary tract infection, so keep a close eye on your pet for other signals something is wrong, such as meowing and spraying directly in front of you. Cats also mark their space by scratching, which releases scent from glands in their paws, so be sure to provide Kitty with a scratching post to prevent any destructive behavior. Finally, if your cat is rubbing his face or sides against you, it is a sign he is marking you as his own—a sure sign of affection from your feline companion. When cats rub against other felines, it helps create bonds, which your cat is sharing with you through this behavior.


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