Cats are equipped with a very special piece of equipment known as the Jacobson’s organ or vomeronasal organ. Located in the roof of the mouth, it contains ducts that lead to the mouth and to the nose. This is essentially a scent analyzer. It’s used primarily for analyzing pheromones (scent chemicals) from other cats, especially the ones found in urine.
How it Works
The scent is collected in the mouth where the cat then uses his tongue to flick it up to the vomeronasal organ. You can tell when the cat is in the process of using his vomeronasal organ because his facial expression is similar to a grimace. His upper lip will be curled and his mouth will be partially open. This expression is known as the flehmen reaction.
The Purpose of the Vomeronasal Organ
Although all cats have this organ and can use it whenever they come across any scent that they feel requires more in-depth analysis, it’s often used by intact males reacting to the pheromones in the urine of females in heat.
Want More Information?
You can find more specific information on how cats use their amazing senses in any of Pam’s books, including the most recent release, Think Like a Cat. If you’re experiencing a cat behavior problem or cat training issue and would like a consultation with cat behaviorist Pam Johnson-Bennett, contact our office.
Pam Johnson-Bennett is the star of Psycho Kitty airing on Discovery UK. She is author of seven best-selling books on cat behavior including Think Like a Cat: how to raise a well-adjusted cat – not a sour puss. Think Like a Cat has become known as the cat bible. Pam is considered a pioneer in the field of cat behavior consulting. In addition to her television series and public speaking engagements, Pam owns Cat Behavior Associates, a private veterinarian-referred behavior company in Nashville, TN. Cat Behavior Associates offers private cat behavior appointments on a limited basis. Pam Johnson-Bennett is a Certified Cat Behavior Consultant.