What do cat pheromones do?

Feline allorubbing
Feline allorubbing. Rubbing the cheek and depositing pheromones on his owner’s leg.
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We know about feline facial pheromones which are facial secretions. The chemical components of these pheromones have been analysed. They are almost entirely made up of ‘acids’ interestingly. There are five facial pheromones.

Chemical components of the feline facial secretions:

  • F1 – Oleic acid, caproic acid, trimethylamine, 5-aminovaleric acid, n-butyric acid, a-methylbutyric acid
  • F2 – Oleic acid, palmitic acid, propionic acid, p-hydroxyphenylacetic acid
  • F3 – Oleic acid, azeliac acid, pimelic acid, p-hydroxyphenylacetic acid
  • F4 – 5ß-cholestan acid 3ß-pl, oleic acid, pimelic acid, n-butyric acid
  • F5 Palmitic aicid, isobutyric acid, 5-aminovaleric acid, n-butyric acid, a-methylbutyric acid, trimethylamine, azeliac acid, p-hydroxyphenylacetic acid

People are still trying to work out what these pheromones do but in round terms they send out special chemical signals. The signals reveal information about the sex, reproductive status and identity of individuals. The scent is picked up by other cats using the Flehmen response (a special, high powered way felines smell things).

We are told that the F2 pheromone is deposited by tomcats (unneutered male cats) when rubbing on objects during courtship. Jackson Galaxy describes it as tomcats saying, “I’m ready to mate”.

The F3 pheromone is deposited when marking objects with the cheek and chin of the face while patrolling their home range. It’s a way of claiming ownership of territory.

The F4 pheromone is said to be used between cats who are friendly with each other. When they are involved in mutual rubbing (allorubbing) they deposit the pheromone on each other which apparently reduces the likelihood of aggression between the cats. It also facilitates recognition of other individuals.

We don’t know what the F1 and F5 pheromones do.

When you buy a commercially prepared feline pheromone to calm your cat or cats it would be made up of the F3 and F4 pheromones.

Essentially, feline pheromones are a method of communication through smell (we can’t detect the smell or barely can). As we know, the cat’s sense of smell is incredibly important to them. It is approximately 14 times stronger than ours. The information received through cat pheromones apparently go straight to the part of the brain associated with emotions and motivations e.g. aggression and anxiety.

Sources: Total Cat Mojo (Jackson Galaxy and Mikel Delgado PhD), The Domestic Cat: The Biology of its Behaviour (by Dennis C. Turner)

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