Cats use their sense of smell to evaluate their surroundings and the result has a direct impact on their sense of security and comfort. The scents they detect often lead them to generate their own signals by marking furniture and by facial and body rubbing. This behavior establishes the boundaries of the area in which they feel secure and safe.
Interfering with the cat's sensory signals may cause behavior issues.
When a cat is prevented from establishing their sensory signals, they may develop unwanted behaviors such as inappropriate elimination, scratching, and even stress-related illnesses such as urinary tract disease and over-grooming.
Some common mistakes to avoid.
The following tips address some of the more common ways that we can interfere with the cat's need to establish scent
Avoid using products (cleaners, detergents, scented litter or other cat paraphernalia) that may disrupt the cat’s scent profile that it uses to identify its customary surroundings.
Rotate the washing of a cat's bedding material so that some of the items still have the cat’s scent. We use color coding: the darker blankets, towels, etc are freshly laundered and are mixed together in the bedding, resting, and hiding boxes with the lighter ones that have been used. In a couple of days, we wash the lighter colors and then mix them with the darker ones that have been used since the last laundry day.
Scent marking as well as inappropriate elimination should never be punished. This only leads to more stress and further complications.
A cat returning to a multi-cat home from a visit with the veterinarian should be isolated in a room apart from the other cats to prevent the aggression that is sometimes caused by the unfamiliar scent of the veterinary practice.