Most of us have noticed that cats have a tendency to turn their butts towards us and they really don’t care if they’re three feet away or right on top of someone. They’ll even rub their butt against your leg or worse yet, your head and face if you’re not vigilant. Have you ever wondered by they do this? Felines, like canines, also sniff one another’s butts and for many, it remains a mystery as to why they do this in the plain sight of everyone in the room. For those of you who are interested in knowing why cats use their butts so much, the answer is that it is how they communicate and they do it using butt microbes.
Research conducted by Kitty Biome has revealed that cats have bacteria in their digestive systems that undergo a fermentation process that helps to produce a stinky substance that sends a definite message to other cats. Although much of this is discarded as waste, there are still traces which remain around the anal area. Researchers have further found that the extremely smelly odors that give cat spray its unmistakable signature stink are created as the result of this fermentation process which takes place internally in an oxygen-free environment inside the digestive system of a cat. There is scientific evidence to back up the claim that cats communicate through microbes produced in their butts. This is why they are prone to butt-sniffing.
Research conducted at UC Davis investigated cat communication through scent. They learned that there are specific compounds that are crated in the anal sac by bacteria that live and grow in this area. The scents that are produced by the bacteria communicate a great deal about an individual cat and this is why other cats are so interested in sniffing its butt. It gives off information about the physical health of the cat, its reproductive state, and a variety of other signifying markers that another cat can interpret through an instinctual knowledge of what these scents mean. In short, it is a chemical language that cats understand.
A means of identification and affection
It was further suggested that volatile organic compounds, known as VOCs can also travel through the air. This is why some male cats who have not been neutered will travel for miles to locate a female cat that is in heat. The VOCs are like a signaling device and other cats can smell the compounds and will respond in the way that nature dictates as it is a natural drive. This also helps cats to identify one another. Even cats that know one another well take a sniff every now and then for an update on the status of their buddy. It’s also believed to be a social action that is similar to two friends meeting, shaking hands and inquiring about one another’s health, only they can check for themselves without the need to ask.
The research is ongoing
Scientists are still testing the fermentation hypothesis and they are working to further identify the multiple species of bacteria that grow within the anal sac of a cat. So far they have discovered that out of 67 known VOCs which they have identified from the bacteria found in cats, 51 of them are found in secretions from the anal sac, and it is currently believed that these are the compounds that are used in the production of scent that is used to communicate with one another.
Cats can assess health issues
We found it interesting that one cat can tell if another has influenza or another virus that could be contagious. Just as you would take extra precautions around a friend with a fever or nasty cough, cats can detect illness in one another. Although research is still ongoing to further investigate this type of communication, and just how cats respond to the information that they receive. The extent of their cognitive processing and ensuing actions is not fully known, but it is assumed that cats act on the information that they receive when they get an update on their furry friends. It isn’t the cat itself that produces these scents, but rather, the microbes found in the bacteria that is found in the anal sacs.
Why your cat sticks her butt in your face
Most cat owners who are close to their pets can confirm that at least on one occasion, their pets have stuck their butts in your face. The information that has been gathered by researchers about this so far, indicates that your cat may be trying to communicate with you. Just as it’s a social activity in the cat community, it’s entirely possible that your cat is offering you the opportunity to get more up close and personal and get an update on her health and what’s trending with her. While it may not make the situation any more palatable, it’s nice to know that a cat who sticks her butt in your face is just trying to be social and show that you are trusted.
Scent marking is a fairly complex process but to a cat, it is a natural instinct that they are born with. When humans intervene to make them stop performing these acts, such as spraying, or butt-sniffing we are actually preventing them from dispersing and gathering information from one another. The more that we know about the reasons for these behaviors, the better we understand our pets. Cats are highly social creatures and domesticated cats may just be trying to bring us into their worlds by offering their butts as a polite form of conversation, although most humans don’t see it that way. It might be in your cat’s best interest to let them do what nature guides them to do and if it’s too unpleasant to bear, simply avert your eyes and let them talk.