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Scent Producing Structures of the Male Domestic Cat

This post is also about where cats prefer to be petted. The diagram shows where the scent producing structures are. It is good to know where a domestic cat's scent glands are because it affects our interaction with our cat. Cats like to deposit scent onto us when being petted. The scent is discharged by the skin glands.

In very general terms, but dependent upon the individual cat's preferences, the cat's head is the place to pet (stroke and caress).  As far as I'm concerned there are two reasons for this:
  1. For a cat it feels safer if he or she is being stroked and touched at a place which he can see it and respond to it, if it goes wrong and
  2. Secondly, there are five skin glands on the head of the domestic cat and these glands secrete pheromones which are deposited onto the recipient.  Often the recipient is an object like a door or a tree but it can be a person's hand or a person's leg and often it is another cat.  In this situation the cat is depositing scent onto the person and the scent on the person's skin is being deposited on the cat (scent exchange).  This makes things feel more friendly for the cat.  And what makes a cat feel as though he's in a more friendly place is something he will do and enjoy and therefore he will enjoy being stroked/caressed around the head.

The skin glands on the head are on the ear flaps (pinnae), under the chin, at the corner of the mouth, at the cheeks and either side of the forehead.

Snow leopard depositing scent with side
of face.
There are also scent glands at the hindquarters of a domestic cat but there are less of them and this is an area where the cat has less control as mentioned.  The skin glands are at the base of the tail and along the tail.

However, this is not a black-and-white situation because many cats like to be stroked down their body and indeed over their hindquarters. It is about what is generally accepted by cat.

There are, for example, skin glands in a cat's tail (caudal glands) but most cats don't like people fiddling with their tails.  Hind legs are almost a no-no area for a domestic cat.  There are no scent glands in a domestic cat's hind legs.

Most of us know about scent marking and how it helps a cat to control his home range in setting up boundaries and informing other cats that he was there a certain amount of time ago because as the odour of the deposited substance fades a cat who smells it can judge how long ago it was deposited.

The picture above-right of the snow leopard is a good example of a cat depositing scent from cheek and perioral glands onto a rock along a trail.


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