Cats have an extremely more developed sense of smell than people and this makes it their main means of communication with other individuals of the same species. Thanks to this sense, cats are able to detect the pheromones that other cats leave in the environment and, through these chemical substances, they can know the characteristics of the individual to which they belong.
Pheromones are messages in the form of molecules that cats leave in the environment and that will produce a reaction in another cat that detects them. These substances are capable of causing physiological changes in the animal that perceives them as reducing anxiety or stress, which makes pheromones very interesting substances for the management of feline behavior problems. If you want to know what the main feline pheromones are and what effects they have on your cat, keep reading.
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What are feline pheromones?
Feline pheromones are chemical substances produced by the cat that are released into the environment in order to communicate with other individuals of the same species or to trigger physiological or behavioral changes in the recipient cat.
These substances are released into the external environment with urine, feces, through vaginal secretions or through skin glands, and, in general, they only act on individuals of the same species, that is, a cat pheromone would only modify the behavior of other cats.
Although it is currently known that pheromones from domestic cats have an effect on other feline species, in general, we must understand the pheromone as a communication mechanism between individuals of the same species.
How do cats detect pheromones?
Pheromones in the environment are detected by cats through the sense of smell (olfactory mucosa) or the vomeronasal organ. The vast majority will be detected through the vomeronasal organ , which is a structure located on the palate.
It is made up of two tubes that communicate with the oral cavity, and inside these tubes there are receptor cells that bind to pheromone molecules and send the information received to the amygdala (in the central nervous system).
The amygdala is involved in the control of aggressive and reproductive behavior and the response to stress, which explains the influence pheromones have on certain feline behaviors.
What types of pheromones are there?
In general, there are three types of pheromones according to their mechanism of action:
- Triggering pheromones : these are the pheromones that, after being perceived, immediately trigger a change in the recipient cat. Its effect is immediate.
- Priming pheromones : these are the pheromones that do not immediately produce a change in behavior in the recipient cat, but initiate a series of physiological changes in its body (changes at the hormonal level) that, after a few days, will lead to a change in behavior . They need several days to exert their effect.
- Signal pheromones: they are molecules that transmit information about the characteristics of the cat that has produced them.
The pheromones that are most interesting for the management of feline behavior problems are the trigger hormones, although there is a signaling pheromone in the cat (Felinine) that is also of practical interest.
Main pheromones produced by cats
Some of the pheromones produced by cats are of ethological interest, since they induce changes in the behavior of felines that can be very interesting for the management of behavior problems.
This pheromone is produced through glands that are located near the breasts of cats. The function of the soothing pheromone is to reduce the anxiety of kittens that come close to the production area of these molecules when they suckle, this substance produced by their mothers calms them . Adult animals have been shown to maintain the ability to respond to this pheromone and it has an anxiolytic effect.
The cat produces this pheromone when it urinates in a spray (it stands upright and with its tail raised, so that the urine comes out under pressure as if it were a spray). Cats typically urinate this way when they want to mark their territory.
Spraying urine is very rich in felinine pheromone, and this pheromone contains high amounts of an essential amino acid called cysteine. Behavioral experts think that cats eliminate felinine to show other cats its biological quality , since, if they are capable of wasting a substance as valuable as cysteine with their urine, it is because they are in good health and are strong , and they want to transmit this message to other cats that smell their urine, being a form of deterrence so that they do not invade their territory.
Young, strong cats, not neutered and not subjected to stress , are the ones that eliminate the most felinine with their urine.
Cats, in addition to urine, also mark their territory with their facial glands, located on their chin and on their cheeks (from the base of the ear to the corner of the mouth). When we see a cat rub its head against an object or person, it is depositing this type of pheromones on them.
Cats deposit this type of pheromones on objects that they recognize as their own and on people or other cats to mark them as acquaintances and relatives. They have an anxiolytic, calming effect and inhibit other forms of marking such as spraying and scratching (marking with front nails). They also have an anti-aggressive effect.
I use feline pheromones to improve behavior
Due to the beneficial effects that facial pheromones have on the behavior of cats, these molecules have been isolated in the laboratory and synthetic analogues have been produced to be able to use them in the management of behavior problems.
There are products on the market that contain facial pheromone analogues and are used to manage certain problems such as urine marking, for anxiety problems in specific situations such as going to the vet or during transport, or to reduce stress in the face of changes from home or when introducing new family members (other animals or a baby).
These products are marketed in the form of a spray, to be sprayed on objects that we want them to recognize as their own and familiar and thus avoid marking them with urine, or in the form of an electric diffuser that is plugged in at home, having a global anti-stress effect in the environment usual of our cat.
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