When there are other cats around, your cat’s nose knows!
You know that dog has a sensitive sense of smell, but your cat does as well. Cats’ nostrils have roughly 200 million scent receptors—compare that to humans, who only have roughly 5 million (or dogs with over 220 million). That means your cat can pick up scents you can’t, and he uses that nose to check out his environment and identify other felines.
That sensitive nose is what gives your cat the ability of feline group scent—a helpful tool that your feline uses all the time, especially if you live with multiple cats.
What Is Group Scent?
Group scent is established amongst two or more felines, so if you have a multi-cat household, there will be a group scent. Cats create this communal scent so they can be comfortable with each other. They combine each of their individual scents by rubbing on each other, something your cat probably does with your legs all the time. The scent will provide them with a sense of comfort, potentially preventing turf wars.
This is the scent for their feline community as they scent one another. This also helps establish a close sign of affection. As the common scent is created, the bond between friendly felines becomes stronger, and even cats that like to spend more time alone will enjoy a peaceful environment.
Using Group Scent for a Happy Home
If your multi-cat household has felines that don’t get along, who don’t rub against each other or mutually groom one another, a group scent is lacking. This isn’t the end of the world—there’s a good chance the cats will coexist without forming a bond, or prefer being solitary. Fights may break out, or in the worst case scenario, they end up marking or claw marking their environment.
If this sounds like your home, you can still help create a group scent. Brush all of your cats every day using the same brush on all of them. Before you start with the grooming ritual, your cats need to be calm, should want to be brushed, and need to be comfortable smelling another cat's scent on the brush. Distributing the scents to the other cats, you’ll help create a social bond. Your once hostile cat may end up feeling like they belong to a group, leading to positive social interaction.
When trying this approach, always brush your cats along the rib cage, shoulders, neck, and head—that’s where they retain their group scent. Use the same brush on all the cats, and don’t remove the fur collected on the brush. Of course, you’ll remove it once the brush is full of fur, but keep as much on it as you brush the cats in order to spread the scent out.
Before you start brushing, allow the cats to smell the brush, and only move forward if each cat is calm. Rotate the order of the cats that are brushed so that they all share their scents with each other.
If a shared brush doesn’t do the trick, try a different approach that allows your pets to move away from a scent that they don’t like.
You may want to take a sock and rub it on one of your cats and then leave it in another cat’s area. That way, a cat can choose whether or not to sniff it. If your cat sticks around to smell the sock, be sure to reward the behavior with affection or treats. But don’t try to push your cats to do something they aren’t comfortable with—they’ll work on their own pace.
Amy Tokic is the Editor of Petguide.com, the flagship site to over 70 different pet communities, which offers pet parents a one-stop-info-shop for all things dog and cat related. Amy's been with PetGuide since the beginning, guided by the wisdom of her Shih Tzu mix and furry roommate, Oscar. Together, this pet power couple has their paw on the pulse of the pet industry, sniffing out trends, advice, news, tasty treat recipes and other tail-wagging stories.