Environmental Needs of Cats Part 3/4: Smell!

The third of four posts in this series follows, to discuss top needs of our domestic (but “wild”) feline friends. Keeping cats satisfied both mentally and physically, as a cat in the jungle would be, is proven to be imperative to their long-term mental and physical health. Hence, the focus here is on helping you understand their thought process, physiology, and needs.

The sense of smell in cats is multiple times as keen as that of humans. They even have an extra body part in the roof of their mouth, called the vomeronasal organ, to help them take in more scent. This can explain why one cat may show aggression to another that may be returning from the vet clinic, or why one may urinate inappropriately in a room (to cover the markings of a prior cat’s urine that only they can smell).

Cats go to extra effort to put their own scent on their territory in specific areas. They have the ability to release pheromones (chemical secretions) from their cheeks, chin, base of tail, and even their paw pads to leave little messages and communicate with others.

As cat owners, we need to respect their efforts and maintain the scent profile in the home as much as possible. This includes:

  • Avoiding strong cleaners and detergents on floors, bedding, and blankets.
  • NO scented litter or litter fresheners (read the bag carefully, this includes baking soda. No green or blue particles in the litter!)
  • Avoid cleaning areas where you know your cat likes to mark in a friendly way (areas they rub their cheek or tail base on)
  • Respect the time your cat has taken to mark their territory the way they like it. Moving furniture or introducing new furniture or items can throw off your cat’s hard work! Expose new items to your cat’s friendly individual scent by rubbing them first with a cloth that you’ve used during friendly interaction with your cat (ideally they have even rubbed on the cloth with their scent glands).
  • Use reputable pheromone diffusers like Feliway. This product comes in a spray, wipe, and diffuser and makes a huge difference in the home (or vet clinic) of a cat. It mimics the natural feel-good pheromones of the cat and helps create a calm zone for them.

Remember every cat is unique. Some may be more sensitive to smells or to having things smell in their home a certain way than others. The goal is to avoid potential problems and not let them develop in the first place. Having knowledge and respect of the unique traits of our mysterious cats is the first step to making them happy, healthy family members.

Loving your cat means understanding them and appreciating their differences and needs.

Dr.Kat

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