What are pheromones and how are they used on our cats? Here is what was discovered about these famous biochemicals.
What are pheromones? What effect do they have on the behavior of the cat that ‘receives’ them and how are they perceived? This article will try to answer these questions, without claiming to be a veterinary treatise. Pheromones are biochemical substances, produced by exocrine glands, and used by living beings to send signals and communicate with other specimens of the same species. In the following we will clarify how cats secrete these substances and what the effects are on their peers.
Pheromones in cats: what they are
These are chemicals of biological origin, mainly composed of fatty acids, which have effects on the social and reproductive behavior of animals. These secretions are released and spread into the air. It is not a prerogative of dogs and cats, but very frequent also among insects, while they do not exist in the world of birds, and not very frequent among crustaceans and molluscs.
They are odorous substances that trigger some particular behaviors in mammals, especially to signal danger or sexual arousal, but also a communication system between the members of the same species. Where are pheromones found? In the urine and feces of the cat to ‘mark’ the territory and constitute a marking system.
They are produced by certain glands, located in different parts of the body: on the chin, cheeks, lips and paws. Have you ever noticed the cat when it rubs against its owner’s leg? It is precisely a marking system on a person or an object. In this way it releases a familiar smell on it and ‘appropriates’ it. Even through the scratches the feline indicates a ‘possession’ to be made clear to the other animals of the house.
Cat pheromones: what they are for
Other felines receive pheromones through a sense organ located in the palate, the vomeronasal organ. They therefore serve to mark the territory but also to promote communication, attract potential partners for mating. Scientific studies have shown the effect of pheromones on animal behavior: they have a relaxing, calming effect. In fact, it is no coincidence that on the market there are collars and sprays that, by releasing themselves, treat the aggression of animals and help the cat to relax in stressful situations such as a trip with your cat.
When the ‘recipient’ cat sniffs a substance that contains pheromones, it expresses its mood with a particular mimic expression called flehmen. It is a pose of the face that recalls the neighing of the horse: the upper lip rises, the mouth is slightly open and the tongue moves.
Pheromones of cats: types
There are various signals sent by these pheromonal substances and also in cats they each have a specific function. The main ones include pheromones of contentment, fear, alarm, general and sexual arousal.
Cats use these secretions as a very effective and complex means of communication for cats, which serves not only to communicate but also to collect information about the surrounding environment.
Cat pheromones: when you leave them at home
When the cat ‘claws’ it releases pheromones on objects in the house, but also a visual mark. In some uncomfortable situations they can also be alarm pheromones, such as when your fingertips sweat at the vet. In fact, when the cat releases pheromones in its carrier, it is necessary to wash it with warm water and neutral soap. But is it right to clean thoroughly by erasing the traces of pheromones in the house?
Actually no, because completely eliminating their traces could destabilize our cat: this would instigate him not only to emit others but also to do it with more incisiveness and frequency. Pheromones deposited on pre-existing ones would start to be stronger.
Pheromones for cats: types on the market
Studies on pheromones never stop and, after discovering the calming effect it has on felines, a specific production is activated. You can buy them in the form of a diffuser or as a spray. The first is a container of a liquid that contains the cat’s synthetic pheromones, which is inserted into the electrical socket of the house as a diffuser for rooms. They can be a valid help to get the cat accustomed to a new environment, in stressful situations such as moving or traveling.
They also serve to overcome trauma or stress, always if accompanied by the right behavioral and ethological therapy. It is wrong to use them as absolute tranquilizers!