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Cat-speak Dictionary: Scent Marking

Scent marking is a vital part of feline communication. It helps to define territory and serves as a way for cats to introduce themselves to one another. Cats do three basic types of scent marking:

  1. Rubbing. Your cat has scent glands on the sides of her forehead, on her chin and lips, and near the base of her tail. When she rubs against your legs, it's not just a sign of affection; she's marking you with her scent and making you familiar again.

  2. Scratching. Your cat also has scent glands beneath her front paws. When she scratches on her scratching post, a tree, or your furniture, she's not just grooming her claws, she's marking territory.

  3. Spraying. Urine spraying is done primarily by un-neutered tomcats. You can tell a cat is spraying if they back up to a vertical surface and squirt small jets of urine, usually while stamping their back feet and jiggling their tail. While rubbing and scratching are very subtle methods of scent marking, the odor of cat spray is unmistakable.

As a general rule, the scents that come from the front of the cat indicate a more calm and relaxed state, whereas the scents from the back of the cat are about territorial marking, dominance, and anxiety. This is why stress can lead to problems with spraying.

Because scent communication is so important to cats, researchers developed a product that helps reduce spraying, fighting, and other signs of stress by mimicking “front of the cat” pheromones. This product, Feliway Comfort Zone, has been on the market for many years and has been successfully used by hundreds, if not thousands, of cat owners. Some vets even use Feliway Comfort Zone in their examining rooms to help decrease their patients' stress levels.

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