Have you ever heard of "pheromones"? Your dog or cat certainly knows what they are. Pheromones are substances produced by animals that act as a form of chemical communication. Some of these substances are designed to attract a mate and provide information about reproductive status, while others are used to mark trails, define boundaries, signal territories, or promote a sense of familiarity.
Animals receiving these chemical signals will react with certain behaviors. For example, a pheromone may provoke reproductive responses or encourage an animal to leave a defended territory. Pheromones are a natural form of communication that your pet uses to leave a message that will remain when it is not around – a calling card, of sorts.
Felines and Pheromones
Some of your cat's most endearing behaviors derive from its ways of attempting to communicate chemically. Don't you love it when your cat comes to you and strokes and rubs you with her chin? In fact, this is an instinctive behavior that leaves behind a pheromone produced by glands on the face and chin. This facial pheromone has a calming effect on your cat and reminds her that she is in a safe and friendly environment. But in marking you she is also, in effect, claiming you as her own.
Your cat uses other pheromones to mark her territory. Pheromones contained in urine, when deposited in strategic locations, establish your cat's territory and confirm her boundaries. This may be in response to a new individual, object, or pet in the home, or because your cat senses the presence of another animals outside the home. This urine marking is often the source of great concern for cat owners, whose pets may be marking carpets, furniture, draperies, and walls with their pungent-smelling urine.
Synthetic sprays that mimic the effects of natural facial pheromones are used when cats are marking or eliminating inappropriately. Such spray can reduce or eliminate the incidence of urine marking because the chemicals have a calming effect on your cat. If you have a pet that has been eliminating outside the litter box, a thorough veterinary exam should be performed to rule out medical causes. If the urine marking is the issue, ask your veterinarian about pheromone sprays.
Another use for pheromone sprays is to calm your cat in strange surroundings. Many veterinary clinics and boarding facilities use pheromone sprays to calm and reassure an anxious or nervous cat. By spraying some of the pheromone on a towel and placing the towel in the cat's cage, the demeanor of the cat often changes for the better.