Cat pheromones may cause increased scratching; focus on scratching devices
Cats have long been some of the most independent and unpredictable animals on the planet. Now, a Texas Tech researcher may have unlocked the answer to at least part of what a cat is thinking when it comes to what that cat prefers to scratch.
John McGlone, a professor of animal welfare and animal behavior in Tech's Department of Animal and Food Sciences, presented this week his study on cat scratchers, which scratchers cats preferred and why. His research was delivered during the 2015 Joint Annual Meeting (JAM) of the American Dairy Science Association (ASDA) and the American Society of Animal Science (ASAS) in Orlando.
Using kittens due to their playful nature more than adult cats, McGlone and his research team tested various cat scratchers to determine which one cats preferred. Knowing which cat scratcher kittens prefer will help people select effective cat scratchers. Cat owners want to direct cat scratching towards selected objects rather than having them scratch furniture, drapes and carpet.
The team then used that preferred scratcher to determine what causes kittens to spend more time scratching. The experimental evidence suggested kittens deposit pheromones from scratching and from their fur. The thinking is cats are attracted by pheromones, chemicals excreted or secreted by animals that trigger a social response in members of the same species.
"We are hypothesizing that kittens are responding to pheromones on the cardboard scratchers and the next kitten that comes in experiences the scratcher smell of other kittens' odor and it makes them scratch more," McGlone said. "We will be able to direct cat scratching towards preferred objects and away from household objects like furniture."
Odors do strange things to animals, McGlone said. It makes them eat more, it makes them more sexually active and it makes them play more. The next step, he said, is determining exactly which pheromone affects behavior. They are doing organic chemistry and animal behavior work to identify the molecules involved, and once that is determined, that pheromone can be applied to scratchers to induce play and keep drapes and furniture safe.
"Kittens might stay away from an adult male cat," McGlone said. "Maybe we can use pheromones to stop cats from scratching the couch, or maybe if they're so interested in the cat scratcher they'll forget about the couch. There's more than one way to get this goal accomplished."
Written by George Watson
CONTACT: Michael Orth, chairman, Department of Animal and Food Sciences, Texas Tech University at (806) 742-2805 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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