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How Cats Create a Group Scent

Don’t Force the Scent Issue on Your Cat

Some cat guardians have been given bad advice about how to use scent to create a peaceful multicat environment during a new cat introduction or when trying to address multicat aggression. I’ve worked with clients who had previously been advised to put one cat’s scent on another cat by either brushing all the cats with the same brush or rubbing one cat with a towel and then rubbing the other cat. This is potentially dangerous and very stressful to the cats. When you put one cat’s scent on another you deny that cat the ability to get away from it. An important and very basic rule in ethical behavior modification is to always provide CHOICE to the cat. If a cat feels she has no ability to escape the scent, it may escalate aggression and will probably interfere with the introduction and integration process. You have to go at the cat’s pace. When you push the issue, the cat will typically retreat.

If you’ve ever been to a department store and shopped for perfume, you notice they have paper strips available so you can spritz the perfume on that instead of on your skin. If you spray the perfume on your wrist and you absolutely hate it, you then can’t get away from it. I remember having done that in the past and could hardly wait to get to the restroom to wash off a terrible perfume and even then, the scent trace still lingered.

black cat with green eyes

Photo: Pam Johnson-Bennett

This is why I recommend using scent methods that allow cats to move away. I use the sock technique during new cat introductions. I rub one cat with a sock and then place the sock in the other cat’s area. This gives the cat the choice of whether to approach and sniff or back away. I use clicker training and reward any positive movement toward the sock, but if the cat decides she’s not ready to check out the scent, then that’s okay. I go at the cat’s pace.

Respect Your Cat’s Sense of Smell

Your cat has a very sensitive nose and there are so many scents in her environment. Be aware of how invasive certain scents may be, such as highly scented litter, room fresheners, household cleansers, perfumes, etc. Also, be mindful of how important it is to keep the litter box clean due to your cat’s highly sensitive nose. The little things you do (or don’t do) can have a big effect on your cat’s cute, but highly sensitive little nose.

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If you have a question about your cat’s behavior, you can find information in the articles on our website as well as in Pam’s books. If you have a question regarding your cat’s health, please contact your veterinarian. This article is not intended as a replacement for your cat’s veterinary care.

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