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What are Cat Pheromones?

By: Dr. Debra Primovic

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What are Cat Pheromones?

You might have heard the word "pheromone" used to describe chemicals that cats use to communicate. Understanding pheromones can help you understand you cat's behavior.

Pheromones are chemical substances produced by animals to serve as a form of chemical communication. In cats, several different pheromones are secreted by different regions of the body. In addition to pheromones cats use a variety of methods to mark their territory such as scratching, rubbing against things, and leaving their feces uncovered.

Spraying is the most common method of distributing pheromones. Intact males are the most likely to mark, as much territorial behavior is driven by testosterone. However, even neutered males may spray to mark their territory. Despite what most people think, female cats can and do mark their territory with urine (although most squat rather than "spray" as males do).

Pheromone combinations are unique, like human fingerprints, and their deposition acts as a calling card of sorts. Some cats even urine mark as a way to show that all is well and calm.

In some cases, pheromones can also be used to curb inappropriate behavior. Commercial synthetic pheromones such as Feliway® can calm anxious animals and provide a reassurance of safety to animals otherwise driven to inappropriate marking.

I hope this article has helped you understand the purpose behind urine marking or "spraying" in cats.

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