Cat Scent Glands – Crucial Machines That Enable Cat Communication

Out of the different body parts that help the felines to survive and make their way through daily life, the cat scent glands are one extremely vital body organs that cater to the communication needs of cats. There are many surprising ways in which cats use their scent glands for different purposes. The different smells that come out of these glands can be studied to get vital information about the health and mental status of the cats.

Let us give you all the important details about the scent glands of cats and how you can take help from the scent communication that they facilitate to know your cat closely.


About the scent glands

cat scent glands

Scent glands are microscopic holes present on the bodies of cats that store distinctive smells and release them when rubbed upon any surface. The scent released by these glands is scientifically termed as pheromones that are sort of chemicals and get deposited on the surface and keep releasing their distinctive smell. These chemicals can be understood as repositories of information about the cats as they can be studied to understand the message that the feline is trying to convey or their medical status as well.

Location of the scent glands on cat’s body

9 major cat scent glands are located on different parts of the cat’s body. A unique thing to note here is that each of these glands secrets a different scent and that’s how it becomes possible to decode the message that they try to convey by using any particular scent gland. Let us see where all do the cats have their scent glands:

  • Pinna glands- These are present on the outer portion of the ear flaps and release soft-scented oil that also makes the cat ears extremely soft.
  • Temporal glands- These are present on the temples or forehead of the cat which makes them the easiest scent spot to be used for rubbing the scent anywhere.
  • Cheek glands- These are present on both cheeks of the cat that produce very less oil as compared to other cat scent glands and get dispersed through the whiskers.
  • Perioral glands- These are present on each corner of the mouth of cats and used by them to leave a distinctive smell after mating on their partners to solidify their claim.
  • Submandibular glands- These are present on the center portion of the chin or above the jawline that secret soft scented oils smudged by the cat in the same way for possession marking.
  • Interdigital glands- These are present on all the four paws of the cats that give off a very strong scent and are used by the cats to assert strong possessions or putting up fights.
  • Anal glands- These are present on the right and left side of the rectum of cats and leave a very foul smell that helps other cats with recognition via the feces.
  • Caudal glands- These are present all along the tail of cats and the scent from them gets released into the air when the cats wag their tail.
  • Supra-caudal glands- These are present at the lower portion of the tail where it connects with the body and the oil it secrets perform many important functions for the cat-like giving it its trademark cologne, preventing bugs, keeping the skin and fur healthy, and impart a potent musk to the tail. Sometimes, these glands can over-secret the oil too.

Mechanism of the scent glands

As has been already mentioned, communication is the foremost purpose that these cat scent glands aim to serve. By communication, we mean the emotions or issues that the cats want to convey to humans or other pets.

We have seen that each scent gland on the body of cats releases a unique smell and this mechanism happens in a similar form in each member of the feline family. Thus, it builds up in the form of a code that every member recognizes and the humans also come to identify different smells secreted by cats to understand their issues.

The glands on the particular body part that is being rubbed by the cat on any surface get activated and release their characteristic pheromones on that surface as well as the air where they get deposited. You will be surprised to know that these scents or pheromones are analyzed by the cats by tasting it via the vomeronasal organ aka Jacobson’s organs in their mouth.

All of these factors are the parts of the scent gland communication that cats perform.

Different ways in which cats use the scent glands

Communication in cats means a whole lot of different things and the scent glands help them to a lot of things other than just speaking. Here are some of the major ways cats use scent:

Mark of identification

Cats smudge their scent over the members of their cat family and in this way, create their colonies, establish amicable familiarity, create territorial boundaries, share the reproductive status, self-groom, observe the other cats’ true intentions, bonding together, and expressing feelings of anguish too to the enemies. Cats combine their unique scents into making a family and assert their belongingness and identity to that family only.

Mark of possession

Cats try to mark the people and objects like a toy, furniture, etc. that they truly love with their scent and for that, they rub their faces on those things to deposit the soft scent from the facial cat scent glands. This scent helps them to know if any other cat or pet tried to possess their marked belongings and also as a warning to them to not do so. It is usually a friendly gesture that exhibits their sense of attachment and comfort with their surroundings.

Strong assertion

When cats scratch surfaces with their paws, the strong scent from their paw glands gets deposited on that surface which is a symbol of a strong assertion like marking territory.

Convey feelings of stress

Urine marking is a thing with cats and the scent released from the back glands gives off a very high-intensity expression of stress, high excitement, and serious issues that the cat might be undergoing. These pheromones never carry a calm meaning and it helps other cats with identification.


This was all about how the cat scent glands are extremely vital for the cats to communicate and they help the owners too in understanding their cats. Cats rub their scent over you in different ways and you will learn what message they are trying to convey with time. All you need to do is observe your cat closely and keep check if their behavior shifts anywhere near unnatural aggression.

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Luna Tran

My name is Luna and I am a great cat lover and a cat owner of three lovely cats. I have owned many cats till now and have dedicated many years to nurturing and caring cats. Through this blog, I am here to share my knowledge and experience about cats.