Skip to comments.Group Scent: The Social Glue of the Multi-cat Household
Posted on 02/28/2013 11:00:45 AM PST by Slings and Arrows
Cats primarily rely on scent. It's not only the main way they communicate with other cats, but it also helps them understand and navigate their environment. Everything from where food is to where predators and competitor cats may be, starts at the nose.
In a multi-cat household, cats who are familiar, affiliated, and friendly with one another share a group scent, meaning they smell like one another. Behaviors such as rubbing up against one another, grooming each other, or even curling up together to nap all help create and maintain a group scent and increase bonding between cats.
Multi-cat homes without an established group scent are breeding grounds for turmoil. Without a group scent, your chances of having a smooth running and stress-free environment for your cats is slim. In a worst case scenario, cats who lack a group scent will not feel like part of the same group, resulting in varying degrees of tension and hostility. At its best, cats who lack a group scent won't fight, but they will merely coexist in the same household, avoiding each other and keeping their distance.
In both feral colonies and multi-cat households, we often see what cat behaviorists refer to as a "social facilitator" cat. This cat routinely grooms and rubs up against other cats, carrying each cat's individual scent to the rest. By mixing the scents of all the cats, the social facilitator is creating the important group scent, and aids positive social behavior between cats. If the social facilitator is removed, dies, or becomes ill, the group scent will be lost -- and you can expect tension and fighting to erupt between your cats.
Without thinking about it, cat owners sometimes act like social facilitators by brushing all of their cats with the same brush. As long as your cats enjoy being brushed and dont become upset when smelling a brush that contains another cats scent, its a great way to create the social glue in your multi-cat household. If you havent been doing this already, but would like to give it a try, its easy and only takes a few minutes a day.
Before brushing, be sure to let your cat sniff the brush that has the opposing cats scent on it and pay attention to her response. If you are met with a negative response, such as hissing or pulling away, do not brush her. Instead, pair the scented brush with cat food or treats to build positive associations with the other cats scents for several days or until she has no negative response. When the response is positive or neutral to the brush, proceed with brushing.
To create a group scent, brush your cats in the areas they would groom and rub up against each other, such as the head, neck, shoulders, and sides along the rib cage. For this technique, avoid the back legs and tail, as less friendly scents are located in these regions. Brush each cat twice per day, 4-10 strokes for each cat per session. Rotate the brushing order of cats each time. To help keep things positive, try brushing her while she is happily eating food or cat treats, or distracted by a toy.
This technique is a great way to help cats get along better when it is done daily and in a positive way. In hundreds of cases Ive dealt with, Ive seen formally un-bonded cats eventually begin to groom and rub up against each other (instead of avoiding each other or fighting) after the group scent is created. Perhaps you will eventually have a social facilitator cat or your cats will begin to create a group scent on their own. If not, have no fear. You can step in as the facilitator (the couriers and diplomats of the cat world) and create the group scent, easing your home into a happier and healthier space for cats.
The big Siamese is the leg rubber, suspect he is the facilitator passing the scent onto me as the big cat.
I have a cat with very long hair that occasionally gets so matted I have to get it shaved off. Everytime I do my other cat hisses and growls and swipes at him for a week (they ae usually best friends). This article might just explain this behavior.
I got 2 cats and 4 dogs.
Still wondering if the cats think they are dogs or the dogs think they are cats.
And - they all have different personalities.
Wonder if it works on kids Hmmmm...
They like their people to have the group scent too which is why they rub and groom us.
I’ve had that happen when I had to use the clipper/shaver on my cats-it takes away the pack/group scent-two of my 3 cats are fur hazards-a mostly-Persian and a Maine Coon. This winter, I’ve been brushing them every day to keep away the matts, and it is working very well. I wear gloves, because they both think the brushing is play, happily kicking and biting as they purr. My little midget shorthair gets brushed too, but she just sits there purring.
Getting brushed is my cat’s favorite thing. She comes and gets me, and leads me to her brushes. And if I ask he, “Where’s your brush?” she will seek it out.
My long hair is a maine coon also, they’re the best! He won’t let me brush him much, and he doesn’t get matted all the time but when he does I take him to the vet or a groomer, where they give him a poodle cut that looks funny and they bathe him, so I guess his scent is gone. My other cat must think I took her rusty and brought back some strange cat, and poor rusty looks like he’s saying “It’s me!”.
I'm honored! I have a 14YO Ragdoll male (Jasper) who treats me like his best friend and a Corgi (Frank) who is a better human then a lot of people I know. Both shed like crazy but that's a small price to pay for all the fun they provide.
PS If they don't allow dogs and cats in heaven I don't want to go there.
What a smart kitty!
All three of my sweeties are shelter cats-I have always gotten my cats from a shelter, because pets deserve love and a good home. My orange tabby Persian got lost in a nearby RV park as a kitten, and is a self-propelled lap ornament. The midget gray tabby was tossed out into the woods by someone as a kitten, and just never grew-she weighs about 4 pounds and is over a year old-I got her from the shelter several months ago.
My Maine Coon is a gray tabby-I’ve had him for about 7 years now, and he is a great cat.
My dog is a Siberian Husky, so I spend a lot of time brushing furballs...
We have 4, and the older longhaired calico is also the facilitator and wannabe momma cat. It’s actually rather impossible not to notice the social/almost pack bond aspect of things with cats if you have a good “alpha”. Cats, loners? No way...
Interesting point. In my pride the dominant one is a loner, so there’s no facilitator. Probably why the two subs have bonded, but not the pride as a whole.
I put a couple of spring clamps on her big pin brush so it won’t roll over. I leave it on the floor. She brushes he own head and neck.
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