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Pheromone can modify scratching behavior in cats

  • May 16, 2014 10:03 AM EDT

    Recent studies have focused on evaluating scratching behavior in cats. Beyond the need to sharpen claws and maintain the ability to extend and withdraw the claws for hunting and climbing, scientists have identified different social messages in scratching. Scratching may be a form of territorial marking for cats, leaving chemical signals released by plantar pad glands on surfaces. 
    The authors performed a randomized blinded study on 19 cats, following a crossover design to test the effects of synthetic feline interdigital semiochemical (FIS) on the induction of scratching behavior in cats. The scratching behavior of the study cats was observed when the cats were introduced to a scratching post after receiving, at random, FIS then placebo or vice versa, applied to the post. FIS is described as a synthetic mixture of fatty acids that represent components of a natural pheromone identified in sebaceous gland secretions from the plantar pad complex in cats. The product used in this study was a natural liquid combined with FIS (Feliscratch; Laboratoires BIOSEM) applied in vertical lines to the scratching post. 

    The results show that the presence of FIS can influence and prime the location for this important feline behavior. It also gives specific, long lasting information to other cats. Using the semiochemical approach can modify the choice of areas selected spontaneously by cats. In the future, it could be used as a preventative measure for a cat arriving at a new home or control or change inappropriate scratching behavior.

    Reference:  Cozzi A, Lecuelle CL, Monneret P, et al. Induction of scratching behaviour in cats: efficacy of synthetic feline interdigital semiochemical. Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery 2013;15:872-878.

  • May 16, 2014 11:32 AM EDT

    This study was reviewed at the Behavior meeting last summer and is convincing evidence that this pheromone as well as the facial pheromone encourages normal scratching behavior in locations considered acceptable by cat owners. Both can be considered tools in the efforts of veterinarians to help owners create enriched active lives for their house cats.