Ever had that moment when you’re sitting there watching TV, or suitably distracted by something else, (your phone, perhaps?), when you look across to see your furry feline sniffing intently at something? You watch as their whiskers twitch, their tail flicks.
Their eyes struggle to focus on a spot that’s right … in front … of their nose …. You say their name and it breaks the spell. They turn to you and … their mouth is ajar as they look as though you’ve not showered in a month?
Well, after you’ve recovered from snorts of laughter, you might find yourself wondering what on Earth they were doing.
Lucky for you, you’re about to learn.
Did you know that our feline friends have 14 times the smelling power of their human slaves? This is because, along with their powerful noses, they have something that we don’t have: a “vomeronasal” or “Jacobson’s organ”. This unique little addition allows them to detect pheromones, and pheromones tell them a lot about their surroundings.
But back up. How does this Jacob-a-what-sit help them to smell the seemingly un-smellable?
The Jacobson’s organ is essentially two sacs of fluid which are hidden in the roof of your kitty’s mouth behind their teeth. It connects their mouth and nasal passage and, by sniffing with their mouth open, allows them to draw air through this special organ and identify additional information that their noses can’t.
Pheromones are chemical substances which are secreted through the pores of your cat through their cheeks, their paws, and even in their urine! (Cast your mind back to times you’ve seen your cat rubbing against walls, massaging the couch, or sniffing around in the litter tray …. Are those dots connecting?)
Essentially your cat is digesting information about its surroundings; learning about who passed by, how they were feeling, and whether or not they should be running in the opposite direction!
So there you go. You’ve learned something new about the amazing animals we share our lives with. But before I run, I’ll share with you one last fun fact: the processing of pheromones, your cat’s act of staring into nothingness with its mouth agape is called the “flehmen response/reaction”. See if you can work that one into your next trivia night!
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