What Are Cat Pheromones?

From body language to vocalization, your cat uses lots of signs and signals to communicate. Though humans may not be able to detect them, cat pheromones are one of the most important methods!

Pheromones are a type of chemical communication that all cats use to interact with each other and the world around them. The "messages" are released from special glands around their bodies.  All cats, big and small, produce a wide range of pheromones.  Different pheromones send different "messages" to other cats and influence behaviors. All cats will understand these pheromone signals, no matter how old they are!

Cats have lots of different glands that release pheromones. There are many concentrated around their face, on the chin, lower ears, forehead, cheeks and around the mouth. There are also glands located in your pet’s paw pads and around nipples of female cats.

To share or deposit their pheromone messages, your cat will engage in a range of behaviors. For example, you may have seen your pet:

  • Rub their head on objects around the house
  • Scratch or claw at items
  • Bump heads with other cats (or you!)
  • Rub their bodies on objects and surfaces
  • Spray (urine) mark territorial areas

Does your cat have a favorite place to scratch? Or are they particular best friends with a certain other cat or member of the family? It’s all due to messages sent by pheromones!

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Understanding Cats and Pheromones

Did you know that your cat’s facial pheromone secretions contain up to 40 different chemicals? Your cat will know exactly what each means. The relationship between cats and pheromones is complicated!

So how do cats understand what different pheromone messages tell them?

All cats use a special organ called the vomeronasal organ (VNO) to recognise pheromone messages in their environment. It is in the roof of their mouth. When detecting pheromones, your cat will slightly open their mouth and pull back their lips (known as a flehmen response).

The pheromone messages enter the VNO through an opening on the roof your cat’s mouth. You may have seen this opening yourself and not realized it. It looks like a small ‘bump’ just behind their teeth, on the roof of their mouth.

If you’ve ever seen your pet stand still and appear to make a strange expression, you may have seen them detecting these special messages!

Pheromones are very safe, they are a natural message cats use. Pheromones are not a drug and do not enter your pet's bloodstream. Since pheromones don't enter the bloodstream, there is no risk of ever exposing your cat to too many pheromones.  They only send your cat a message! People and other animals are not affected by cat pheromones.

cat pheromone deposit

How Do Pheromones Work For Cats?

Pheromones influence many different cat behaviors, interactions, and emotions. So how do pheromones work for cats?

Your cat will release pheromones for lots of different reasons. Pheromones are used to:

  • Mark territory
  • Identify and learn about other cats
  • Create familiarity
  • Enhance bonding
  • Signal to sexual partners
  • Help mother cats and kittens bond, identify and be in harmony with each other
  • Self-soothe
  • Signal happiness, contentment, and reassurance
  • Signal stress or fear
  • Plus more!

This means that the pheromones your cat leaves will vary, depending on the situation. For example, if your pet comes across a new object and has decided it’s harmless, they may rub against it, to leave the message "this is safe." 

Pheromones can also be used to reduce stress-induced behavior in cats.  FELIWAY CLASSIC mimics the natural pheromones that send calming messages to cats. This helps reduce stress-related behaviors such as hiding, scratching, or spraying.

It’s important to remember that cat pheromones are a natural part of cat communication. Whether your cat comes in contact with pheromones from another cat, or FELIWAY, they are always safe ‘cat messages’ with no side effects. They only send a message to your cat!

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Understanding Male Cat Pheromones

Though all cats will release pheromones, male cat pheromones, have a few unique messages. Pheromones released from the rear of a cat (often in the urine) are common to both sexes. They communicate territory messages, indicate sexual status, and express stress or fear. Both male and female cats may urine mark. It’s more common to see unneutered male cats spray, to send competitive messages to other male cats. Unneutered male cat urine is stronger smelling too. It contains amino acids that give the urine its characteristic odor. When other cats sniff urine marks, they use the pheromones to gain information. It tells them who is nearby (and how long ago), the cat's gender, sexual status, and hierarchical status. In fact, these pheromone markers can help cats to avoid conflict. Lower-ranking male cats can recognize territory messages from a high-status tomcat and stay away! A male cat is attracted to pheromone marks left by a female cat in heat. Her pheromone deposits, from her cheeks and urine, will indicate when she is ready to mate.

Understanding Mother Cat Pheromones

Pheromones play a very important role in ensuring harmony and bonding between a mother cat and her kittens. A mother cat’s pheromones, secreted in the mammary area, from glands around her nipples. This Cat Appeasing Pheromone, this helps nursing kittens feel secure and content. It also helps the kittens to get along. This pheromone can help a mother cat to identify her kittens if they become separated. It also helps cats mark other individuals as ‘familiar’ friends. Because of this, the appeasing pheromone can reduce conflict and tensions between cats. FELIWAY MultiCat mimics the natural Cat Appeasing Pheromone. When used in homes of cats with conflicts, they become more accepting, less aggressive, and are more likely to approach in a friendly manner.

What Cat Facial Pheromones Are There?

Your cat’s face is a hub for pheromone messaging! Facial rubbing is a common behavior that helps deposit pheromone messages. Why? Cats have glands in their forehead, chin, cheeks, around the mouth, and at the base of their ears. Cats will often rub their faces on household objects, doorways, and even people to mark them as ‘safe.' It’s a positive sign that your cat is happy, relaxed, and content in their environment and territory! Over time, this reassurance will build. Your cat will continue to re-mark their favorite and important places with up-to-date pheromones.  If an environment lacks those 'secure' or 'happy' messages, it may cause your cat to feel uncomfortable. They may see unfamiliar objects or places as threatening. Using FELIWAY CLASSIC can contribute to creating a reassuring environment for your pet.

Understanding Different Cat Pheromones:

There are many different varieties of cat pheromone. Below are three specific ‘everyday’ pheromones that your cats uses.

Feline Facial Facial Pheromone (F3)

The feline facial pheromone is a comforting pheromone. It provides a sense of reassurance for cats in their environment. These ‘happy messages’ help cats feel safe and secure.

FELIWAY CLASSIC Diffuser and Spray both mimic the natural feline facial pheromone. It reduces stress and stress-related behaviors. The most common signs of stress in cats are excessive scratching, peeing outside of the litter box, hiding, and fighting. FELIWAY CLASSIC's calming effects can help cats handle stressful situations. Stressful situations for cats are changes in their enviroment such as moving, decorating, or visiting the vet!

Cat Appeasing Pheromone (C.A.P)

The cat appeasing pheromone is produced by mother cats to ensure harmony and help her kittens feel safe and secure. It helps mulit-cat household cats get along with each other. It stimulates social contact and acceptance, and limits social conflict and escape responses.

FELIWAY MultiCat mimics the natural cat appeasing pheromone. It eases inter-cat conflicts and tensions by sending ‘harmony messages’ to cats. These 'harmony messages' reduce issues such as fighting, hissing, chasing and other tensions.

Feline Interdigital Semiochemical (F.I.S)

FYI - semiochemical is another name for pheromone. 

When a cat marks an area by scratching, their toes and foot pads release the feline interdigital semiochemical (F.I.S). All cats need to scratch. Scratching helps them mark their territory. This leaves both visual scratch marks and pheromone markers. It also helps them to feel secure in their surroundings. And scratching feels good to your cat!

The F.I.S pheromone encourages your cat to scratch. This can make it difficult to move your cat’s scratching place, especially if they’ve chosen to use your couch. FELISCRATCH by FELIWAY mimics the natural FIS pheromone. When combined with the other ingredients in FELISCRATCH, a blue colorant and catnip, it will entice cats to scratch on the scratching post.

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