Vitale Shreve, K.R., Udell, M.A.R. (2016) Stress, security, and scent: The influence of chemical signals on the social lives of domestic cats and implications for applied settings. Applied Animal Behaviour Science. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2016.11.011
• Olfaction is an important perceptual sense, yet the role of chemical signals in cat behavior is not fully understood.
• Many aspects of cat social behavior are influenced by chemical signals.
• Chemical cues appear to play a role in stress and anxiety reduction, allowing cats to feel secure in their environment.
• Understanding chemical signals can help inform cat behavioral problems.
• Future research may yield new methods of addressing feline behavioral issues and strengthen the human-cat bond.
Although millions of cats live among humans worldwide the scientific community knows relatively little about cat behavior and cognition. Olfaction is an important perceptual sense for many members of Carnivora, however the role of chemical signals in cat social relationships is not fully understood. Research indicates chemical signals play an important role in many areas of cat behavior including mother-offspring and conspecific interactions and exploration of their environment. Chemical cues appear to play a role in stress and anxiety reduction, allowing cats to feel secure in their environment. A better understanding of cat chemical signals, especially as it relates to within and between species communication, may lead to an increase in cat wellbeing as humans can utilize this knowledge in applied settings. Therefore, the purpose of this review is to investigate how cats process and use chemical signals in social contexts and identify ways this information can be applied to address cat behavioral issues, such as inappropriate litter box and scratching behavior, and improve cat welfare, including species-appropriate ways of reinforcing the human-cat bond.