The Nose Knows

Overview – Dogs and Cats:

Ever wonder why dogs smell each other’s ears, face, and rear end? Or why cats rub their cheeks or spray urine on surfaces? They do these activities because it allows them to gather and send information to each other using chemical cues called pheromones.

Receiving and Sending Messages:
Have you ever noticed what dogs do when they first meet each other? They sniff each other. I like to compare these sniffing introductions that dogs do to speed dating – the dogs are able to gather a lot of information very quickly and make a decision whether to stay around or run away quickly! 🙂 When cats spray or rub their cheeks on surfaces or people, they are sending information, using a variety of pheromones including marking pheromones. The cat may simply be leaving messages around to mark his or her territory . Cats may also be sending messages letting everyone know they are stressed. Please note cats can spray and house-soil because there is a medical problem as well.  Veterinary Behaviorists will take a detailed behavioral history and review the medical records to determine what the most likely underlying reason is for the house soiling.
Did you know that even neutered and spayed cats can spray?

Pheromones and Solving Behavior Problems:

In the past several decades, there has been an increased interest in studying pheromones and how they might be useful in helping to resolve common behavior problems in pets. We know that inside the nose of a cat or dog, there is an organ called Jacobson’s organ connected to the brain, which analyzes the pheromones. It is this key biological fact that has led to using manufactured pheromones to help solve some behavior problems. Because the studies on different manufactured pheromones and behavior problems have had mixed results, it is important that the person making the recommendation be knowledgeable on a few items, including;

* What pheromone form to use (a collar, a spray, or diffuser)

* What behavior problem it can specifically be applied to help solve

* Being able to identify other interventions needed, other than pheromones, to help solve the identified behavior problem(s).

For Other Pets (other than cats and dogs):

For all of you readers who have pets other than cats and dogs, I want you to know that pheromones are just as important for your critters as well. Whether you have a pet reptile, rodent, or horse, pheromones play a role in their lives as well.

Before I end this post, I would like to leave you with an interesting fact…..not too long ago it was discovered that people also have Jacobson’s organ. However, because of our other specialized senses such vision etc..we do not rely on smell as much as other species. Can you imagine a speed dating session in people if we relied on smell to get information from others?? Not a pretty picture……..

More about the Nose in future posts, so stay tuned!!

Please feel free to send comments about your experience with pheromones and any other topics you would like me to address.

Published in: on August 19, 2010 at 4:44 pm  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. May I call an animal behaviorist directly for an appointment, or do a need a referral from my vet?

    • Many veterinary behaviorists do not require a referral from your veterinarian. For my practice, I will always call the veterinary office to have a copy of the medical records faxed for review prior to the behavior consult.

  2. I heard that placing aluminum foil on the areas and surfaces that your cat sprays, will prevent them from continuing to spray in those areas. Is this true?


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