Home > Family and Home > Communication > How Cats Use Scent Communication

How Cats Use Scent Communication

how cats use scent communication

Scent matters to your cat. Scent is your cat’s calling card. It also tells your kitty lots of information about other cats in his environment. For your cat, scent is a valuable communication tool. Being the verbal species that we are, humans don’t truly appreciate the volumes of information provided in scent, but trust me, your cat is on the case. The scent he leaves behind is an encyclopedia of information about him.

Your Cat’s Scent Glands

Cats have scent glands on their paws pads, their cheeks, on their head and there are also two little anal glands on each side of the rectum that release a very strong-smelling liquid to mark the cat’s stool as it passes through (as if cat poo didn’t have enough of a smell!). Then of course there’s the scent of urine. Anyone who has ever lived with a cat or had a neighbor’s cat visit their garden is familiar with the smell of cat pee. If that urine belongs to an unneutered male then it increases the odor factor even more.


Scent glands release pheromones. These pheromones are actually chemicals that provide information. In an outdoor setting, scent communication is vital because it reveals information about one cat to another without the risk (hopefully) of a physical confrontation. For an outdoor cat this is a very important survival benefit. The fewer physical altercations that occur, the greater the chances kitty will live unscathed to see another day.

How Cats Use Scent

Scent is used to identify members of the same colony, define territory, create familiarity, announce sexual readiness, learn more about unfamiliar cats in the environment, self-soothe, bond with another, or as a form of covert aggression.

The scent glands around the face are identified as friendly or low-intensity. These are used when a cat is marking familiar objects he considers part of his turf, or when he’s depositing scent as a bonding gesture such as when head bunting. You’re also probably very familiar with the sight of your cat cheek-rubbing on objects in the home. This is a comforting behavior for him and reflects his sense of security and familiarity with the environment.

One comment

  1. Christina Swiatek

    Good Evening – I’m sorry i do not remember the site where i found the title of your book,I’ve been online constantly searching for answers. Thank you for the ability to ask a question on your site.
    These are my 3 cats in order of their introduction into the home): Scotty, a 10-yr old male SH tabby – Alex, a 9-yr old female SH tabby, and Lily, a 12-16(?) yr old grey and white SH, no teeth and mammary tumors.

    Scotty as the primary aggressor, has always had issues with his ‘status’ and in the past has had a history of marking the basement and ambushing other 3 cats I have had. Scotty and Alex are a tag-team of sorts and have tormented Lily – a couple weeks ago it escalated to a viscous attack where they cornered her and Lily incurred just a scratch (thankfully)on her chest – needless to say she was traumatized and has been spending alot of time in my bedroom. (I did have her checked by my vet – no stitches just cream.)
    I have attempted the Feliway spray and it has had limited or sporatic positive effects.
    Do you think Scotty can ‘smell’ Lily’s tumors?
    He always seems to be aiming for her in some way – angling, placing himself precisely, watching her pointedly.
    Can he be jealous if she sits on my lap?
    I myself am traumatized by this – I don’t know where else to look anymore.
    Thank you so much for any help you can offer.
    Christina Swiatek
    Lincoln Park, NJ

Leave a Reply