Scent plays a huge role in a cat’s life. To highlight that point, here’s some interesting information. Cats have about 200 million scent receptors in their nostrils and humans have about 5 million. Think about all the scents our noses are missing.
Your cat’s scent-marking and scent-detection capabilities are always working. An environment surrounded with familiar scents is very comforting to a cat and is an important means of identification.
Scent is also used by cats to identify one another. When cats are unfamiliar with each other, their scent-detection ability provides valuable information about the cat who left the scent. It’s so fine-tuned and detailed; the scent mark will tell the “sniffer” information such as the sex, status, sexual availability and age of the cat. It’s the feline version of leaving a business card.
The Group Scent in a Cat’s World
Scent in a multiple cat environment involves the comfort of creating a group scent. You’ve probably seen this on a daily basis in your home as you watch companion cats rub against each other. You’re even a part of this as your cats rub against you. This is a way of creating a communal scent in addition to being a sign of affection. The group scent is created through allogrooming, head bunting and body rubbing. These are highly social behaviors that not only create a common scent but also increase the bond between friendly cats. In the case of cats who aren’t so friendly to each other, the group scent-marking keeps things peaceful.
Threats to the Feline Group Scent
If you’ve ever brought one cat to the veterinary clinic while the other cats remained home, you might’ve witnessed hostility on the part of those cats when the feline patient returned home. The cat who returns from the vet clinic now smells very threatening. Rather than simply recognizing each other by sight, the scent-oriented cats react to the perceived threat by displaying aggression and fear toward the returning cat. It isn’t until that cat has time to self-groom and take on the familiar scents of the home again that her feline companions begin to relax.