Why do cats sniff pheromones?
I have been asked how cats sniff pheromones. Perhaps the better question is “Why they do this?” Let’s find out the reasons.
Pheromones are an odourous secretion releasing a specific response in another individual of the same species. These body chemicals are natural scents and are used in communication between cats. The aroma of pheromones (odorous sections) from the Queen, and her estrous behaviour of persistent vocalisation, rolling, rubbing and extreme affection, ready the male for copulation, and the Queen allows him to mate.
Produced by the anal glands within the anal sac and by some of the sebaceous glands, pheromones are especially found in those of the caudal glands in
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the tail and the areas in front of the ears. Ducts from the sebaceous glands open into hair follicles. These produce sebum, an oily material which is important in waterproofing the skin surface, maintaining skin pliability and resistance to infection.
On the dorsal surface of the tail, near the anus, is a specialised area containing many sebaceous glands. This area is known as the caudal gland and it sometimes produces excessive sebum which leads to the condition of ‘stud tail’.
The nasal organ is a blind pouch above the hard palate that communicates with the nasal and oral cavities via the nasal palatine duct which opens behind the incisor teeth. This organ is believed to perceive pheromones, that are chemical odours in urine and glandular secretion; and residual scent marks in the environment. Both Toms and Queens produce pheromones and they act as sexual attractants for cats.
Therefore, cats are seen to be sniffing both the opposite sex as well as the same sex although it is more usual to see the males sniffing any female they feel may be ready for mating. It is all part of the reproductive life of animals.
(Joan E Henderson is based in Australia and she has judged furry felines in many other countries including USA, Bermuda, Malaysia, South Africa, Hong Kong, Philippines and New Zealand.)