Cats With Scent Glands in the Cheeks

You might assume that he's overly affectionate, but he's secretly marking you.

You might assume that he's overly affectionate, but he's secretly marking you.

You probably think Simba lifts his leg when he wants to mark his turf. This isn’t always the case. Cats have scent glands all over their bodies, even in their cheeks. When he’s rubbing up against you or the furniture, he’s making his mark, even though you can’t smell it.

How Glands Work

Your purring pal has glands in his cheeks that produce pheromones. By leaving pheromones behind, Simba can attract female kitties in heat or alert other male cats that he is on the prowl. Each time he rubs his cheeks on something -- or someone -- he leaves behind some of his pheromones. They are undetectable to the human nose, but every other fur-covered critter around can smell them. Female furballs can also rub up against objects, leaving behind pheromones to let male cats know they are available.

Marking You

Every time you curl up into bed, Simba comes marching over, head-butting you at full force. He certainly adores you and wants you to know it, but he also has a hidden plan: He’s marking you. When he rubs his cheeks on your chin or hands, he’s secretly covering you with his specialized “perfume.” That way when any other kitty comes nearby, they’ll know that this human is already spoken for.

Creating a Sanctuary

After Simba’s full body stretch in the early morning hours, you’ll most likely see him surveying his environment. He’s checking everything out to see if anything changed, while going through rubbing his face on all edges. Even though you might think he’s relieving an itch as he strategically rubs his cheeks on all the corners of the coffee table, he’s actually leaving his own unique “perfume” behind. By surrounding himself with his own scent, all objects on his turf become familiar, making his home his own personal safe sanctuary.

Picking Up Pheromone Scent

If you’ve ever seen Simba get real close to something and take a big whiff with his mouth slightly open, he’s gathering more information. The Jacobson’s organ, which is located near his nasal cavity, picks up on scents as Simba inhales and brings the scent over the area. While he may appear to be repulsed by the smell, he’s just processing information, possibly from pheromones left behind by Felix next door. Once he figures out whose “perfume” that is, he’ll most likely rub up against the object to coat it with his own scent. That way, he can prove that he was the last kitty there and this is his turf.

About the Author

Melodie Anne Coffman specializes in overall wellness, with particular interests in women's health and personal defense. She holds a master's degree in food science and human nutrition and is a certified instructor through the NRA. Coffman is pursuing her personal trainer certification in 2015.

Photo Credits

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