Did you know that your cat’s nose has two jobs? Obviously, cats use their nose to smell odors. In fact, they can smell about 40x better than you and me. But, the feline nose has a second function. Inside a cat’s nose is a special sensor called the Vomeronasal organ. This special sensor is used to detect pheromones. Pheromones are invisible, colorless and odorless natural communication particles.
Cats have glands on their face, paws and rump that produce and give off pheromones. They release pheromones when they scratch and rub on things. These particles leave messages to other cats like “This is my territory. Get out!” “Hey guys, you can relax. This is a safe place for cats.” or “Scratch this! It’s awesome!” depending on which pheromone is released.
Feline pheromones give cats the incredible ability to communicate with other cats without making a sound. They can even communicate with other cats without physically being in the same place! And, only cats can perceive these messages.
Have you ever felt the love of a cat weaving in and out of your legs rubbing her face on your ankles? Yep. She has just left her pheromones all over you with the message: “This human is mine!”
Scientists have figured out how to replicate these pheromones. Now, you can buy bottled feline pheromones that communicate the message: “Everything is good and safe here.” You can use these products to help ease your cat’s stress at home and when your cat travels.
Here is how you can use pheromones to help your cat stay calm and relaxed for her vet visit. At least an hour before your vet visit, spray a large towel with pheromones and let the towel air out. When it is time to leave, put your cat in the carrier (see article on carrier training) and drape the towel over the carrier. This helps your cat in two ways. First, the pheromones help communicate a sense of calm and safety. Second, the towel draped over the carrier can keep your cat from seeing things that might be frightening, like dogs in the vet office and other cats.
A simple pheromone towel, draped over your cat’s carrier can make the trip to the vet’s office more relaxing and start the visit off on the right paw!
-Dr. Liz Bales