Microbes Make Chemicals for Scent Marking in Cats

Cat Eating Grass

Unlike women who will tell other ladies to stay away from their men by whichever means necessary even if it means posting on Instagram daily, animals have their unique way of marking their territory. They may not talk, but their behavior is all you need to observe to know what they think is their own. Therefore, you must have seen your dog lift one hind leg and then urinate on a tree or a specific spot on the house. Your cat will also lift her tail and spray her urine on a wall since they prefer vertical surfaces. You might also wonder why you keep finding feces everywhere else but the litter box yet we know of cats to be clean animals. Before you discipline your pets for their lack of hygiene, you should know that they are only marking their territory. Here is everything you need to know about how microbes make chemicals for scent-marking in cats, as well as other animals.

Is it the urine that marks their space?

Most people have always thought that it is the urine that helps animals to mark their territory. However, research indicates that it is not the urine but rather chemicals within it that help in scent marking. According to Market Research Journals, one venture researcher from the University of California’s Genome Center, David, created a paper revealing this fact. David believes that a male feline is not responsible for producing the many odiferous mixes. Instead, network microorganisms found in the butt-centric sacs of the animals make the scent marking chemicals. Matter of fact is that it is not only the felines that use the butt-centric chemical but also other animals, including skunks, bears, hyenas, and pandas.

After researching the KittyBiome project that has continued as AnimalBiome, the conclusions supported this claim. One Bengal cat owner volunteered the animal for experimenting; thus, anal-sac secretions were obtained. After sequencing the extracted DNA, Davis and his fellow researcher Mei Yamaguchi detected 67 volatile compounds, having grown the little bacteria obtained in culture. Of the 67 compounds, 52 were found from the anal-sac secretions enabling them to conclude that it is the bacteria that makes the scents and not the cat itself.

Is it new research?

While it is 2019, and people are making use of technological advancements to make discoveries, this scent marking chemical research has been done before. As early as 1993, one researcher named Cheryl S. Asa from the St. Louis Zoological Park was curious about the relative contribution that urine and anal-sac secretions made in scent marks of large felids. According to her study published in Academia, many studies had been previously done on mammalian scent-marking secretions, but only a few focused in anal-sac secretions. As per her paper, mammals, especially carnivores, have paired invaginations whose ducts open inside the anus. Cheryl alongside Mech and Seal write in 1985 that a muscular layer surrounds the invagination enabling the animal to release the sac contents at will. The contents can be liquid or viscous, and most have a pungent smell. Other researchers, including Albone, Gorman, Raymer, and others also concluded that bacteria contributed to the production of the secretions.

Why do animals scent-mark?

Most of the time, we assume that animals are only marking their territory, but they use the scents for so much more. According to Young People’s Trust for The Environment, the smell is the most common and fundamental means of communicating among animal. Even the most primitive react to different scents, whether it is from their species or another. Female insects, for instance, secrete pheromones to communicate that they want to mate. Cats also feel the need to spray their urine in vertical walls as they try to attract mating partners. However, if you do not want more cats on the house, you can solve the marking problem by neutering your cat. Others, like dogs, will want to assert their dominance by urinating in high places. By lifting their leg to pee on vertical surfaces, they are communicating to other dogs that they are big. Bears for instance scratch trees in the highest place possible while bears will do headstands to mark the highest point of a tree.

Asserting dominance is also extended to stressful situations. If an animal feels threatened by the presence of a new person in your house, they will have to show them they are intruding their home. Therefore you will find a dog urinating on a newborn baby’s blanket or diaper, not to show their dislike but to react to the new smells and reduced attention. A cat with an underlying medical condition such as urinary tract infection will keep urinating in your house. Male cats especially fall victim to UTIs and blockages, and the only way they find relief is to urinate. They will, therefore, lick their genitals and sometimes cry to communicate that there is something wrong with them.

Ways used by cats to mark their territories

According to Humane Society, cats will ensure that if they are not around to monitor their area, no other animal is laying claim to their spot. Therefore, apart from spraying urine on their favorite sleeping places, cats have different ways of marking their territory, including rubbing and scratching.

Cats have glands on paws, cheeks, and flanks that secret scents. Therefore if a cat rubs himself against you, he is claiming you as his so that other cats will not be as comfortable around you. Rubbing also helps to establish a bond between cats as they reduce the tension. Most cat owners will confess to having their furniture or sofa cushions destroyed by their feline friends. Unfortunately, while you may kick them out of the house for the undesirable behavior, the cat is innocent and was trying to tell other cats to stay away from their property.


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