Cats are extremely territorial creatures as you’ve probably noticed from their late night screams at the back window! But since most cats roam a territory larger than they can watch from a single vantage point, they need to leave messages for other cats in the area to alert them to ownership, presence, and mating rights. They do this by scent marking.
Scent marking is performed in a variety of ways; rubbing, chinning, spraying, clawing, and refusing to bury their poop! So, let me give you a brief overview of each.
Rubbing: We’ve all seen our cats do it; rubbing themselves against the walls, taking an extra few moments to “enjoy” the rub against their cat flap; even rubbing against us! They might rub with their cheeks and alongside their mouth; perhaps they might continue on to their head or the back of their neck.
This is because cats have large sebaceous scent glands along their lips and chin, and when using these areas to rub, is it usually in specific response to a scent that they have found. This is called “chinning”, or just “rubbing”.
Cats also have grease on their coats and this is transferred onto objects and surfaces when they rub against the surface with the length of their bodies.
Spraying: When cats lift their tails to spray urine onto a surface, this is called “spraying”. It is most often performed by entire males and is marked by a distinctive, (and unpleasant!), odor. Neutered males and females can also “spray”, but in general have been identified as doing it far less often than an unneutered male. It is a powerful way to mark one’s territory due to the pungent smell. By the way, if your cat is a sprayer, to help control this messy problem, you might want to give this a try … Click Here!
Clawing: Cats scratching at surfaces is called “clawing” and is marked by outstretched paws and a repeated dragging of claws against a surface. Because cats sweat from their paws and not the skin on the rest of their bodies, clawing allows them to transfer their sweat and scent onto surfaces to announce their presence, and mark their territory.
Lastly, the poop thing. When cats are in territorial disputes, they will often leave their poop unburied – a complete contrast to what we know about cats and their incessant want to scratch in their litter trays! This is most often observed in male cats, and can be an annoying, (and disgusting!), mark of a current fight over lands.
Yet not all scent marking is used to announce ownership rights! Scientific observations have shown an additional purpose to rubbing; to create a group scent between cats in a multi-cat household, and between individuals in feral groups! They have identified that not only do these animals rub to transfer scent and create a mutual group identity, but also to bond.
I wonder what my husband will think if I start rubbing my cheeks on him?
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