Cat pheromone

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Cat pheromones are pheromones that are used by cats and other felids for cat communication.

Feline facial pheromone[edit]

Feline facial pheromone is a pheromone used by cats to mark places, objects, and persons as familiar by rubbing their face on surfaces.[1] Several pheromones are currently known to exist as "feline facial pheromones" and are produced from glands located around the mouth, chin, forehead and cheeks.[1]

These are only some of the many pheromones that cats produce. Others are from lower back, tail and paws.

Cat attractants[edit]

A domestic cat demonstrating the effects of catnip such as rolling, pawing, and frisking

Cat attractants are odorants that have an effect on cat behavior. A cat presented with a cat attractant may roll in it, paw at it, or chew on the source of the smell. The effect is usually relatively short, lasting for only a few minutes after which the cats have a refractory period during which the response cannot be elicited. After 30 minutes to two hours, susceptible cats gain interest again.[2]

Various volatile chemicals, iridoid terpenes extracted from essential oils, are known to cause these behavioral effects in cats. Cats are known to respond to catnip (Nepeta cataria), Tartarian honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica), valerian (Valeriana officinalis), and silver vine (Actinidia polygama) to different degrees.[3] The active chemical for catnip and silver vine has been confirmed to be nepetalactone and nepetalactol respectively: they are found in the two plants and synthesized versions of these chemicals trigger similar responses in cats.[4] The active ingredient in Tartarian honeysuckle and valerian may be actinidine, but its effect is yet to be confirmed.[3]

Cat urine odorants[edit]

Cat urine-like odorants
Chemical structure of 3-mercapto-3-methylbutan-1-ol
Chemical structure of 4-methoxy-2-methylbutane-2-thiol
Chemical structure of 4-mercapto-4-methylpentan-2-one

Cat urine, especially that of male cats, contains the putative cat pheromone 3-mercapto-3-methylbutan-1-ol (MMB), a compound that gives cat urine its typical odor. The MMB precursor felinine is synthesized in the urine from 3-methylbutanol-cysteinylglycine (3-MBCG) by the excreted peptidase cauxin. Felinine then slowly degrades into the volatile MMB.[5]

Chemical structure of felinine Chemical structure of 3-mercapto-3-methylbutan-1-ol
Felinine MMB

Rats and mice are highly averse to the odor of a cat's urine, but after infection with the parasite Toxoplasma gondii, they are attracted by it, greatly increasing the likelihood of being preyed upon and of infecting the cat.[6]


  1. ^ a b Vitale, Kristyn R (2018-11-01). "Tools for managing feline problem behaviors: Pheromone therapy". Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery. 20 (11): 1024–1032. doi:10.1177/1098612X18806759. ISSN 1098-612X.
  2. ^ "How does catnip work its magic on cats?". Scientific American. May 29, 2007. Retrieved 25 July 2014.
  3. ^ a b Bol, Sebastiaan; Caspers, Jana; Buckingham, Lauren; Anderson-Shelton, Gail Denise; Ridgway, Carrie; Buffington, C. A. Tony; Schulz, Stefan; Bunnik, Evelien M. (16 March 2017). "Responsiveness of cats (Felidae) to silver vine (Actinidia polygama), Tatarian honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica), valerian (Valeriana officinalis) and catnip (Nepeta cataria)". BMC Veterinary Research. 13 (1): 70. doi:10.1186/s12917-017-0987-6. PMC 5356310. PMID 28302120.
  4. ^ Uenoyama, Reiko; Miyazaki, Tamako; Hurst, Jane L.; Beynon, Robert J.; Adachi, Masaatsu; Murooka, Takanobu; Onoda, Ibuki; Miyazawa, Yu; Katayama, Rieko; Yamashita, Tetsuro; Kaneko, Shuji; Nishikawa, Toshio; Miyazaki, Masao (2021). "The characteristic response of domestic cats to plant iridoids allows them to gain chemical defense against mosquitoes". Science Advances. 7 (4): eabd9135. doi:10.1126/sciadv.abd9135. PMC 7817105. PMID 33523929. S2CID 231681044.
  5. ^ M. Miyazaki; T. Yamashita; Y. Suzuki; Y. Saito; S. Soeta; H. Taira & A. Suzuki (October 2006). "A major urinary protein of the domestic cat regulates the production of felinine, a putative pheromone precursor". Chem. Biol. 13 (10): 1071–9. doi:10.1016/j.chembiol.2006.08.013. PMID 17052611.
  6. ^ M Berdoy; J P Webster & D W Macdonald (2000). "Fatal attraction in rats infected with Toxoplasma gondii". Proc Biol Sci. 267 (1452): 1591–4. doi:10.1098/rspb.2000.1182. PMC 1690701. PMID 11007336.

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