Journal of Ethology

, Volume 30, Issue 2, pp 325–329 | Cite as

Do faecal odours enable domestic cats (Felis catus) to distinguish familiarity of the donors?

  • Miyabi Nakabayashi
  • Ryohei Yamaoka
  • Yoshihiro Nakashima
Short Communication


We studied the ability of domestic cats to distinguish familiarity based on faecal odours. This was evaluated by comparing the sniffing duration of cats’ own, familiar, and unfamiliar faeces. We found that (1) sniffing durations differed between unfamiliar faeces and the other types of faeces, (2) sniffing durations of faeces of the same unfamiliar individuals decreased over time, and (3) sniffing durations toward unfamiliar faeces increased after change of donors. These results indicate that domestic cats can distinguish the faecal odours based on familiarity. This ability could be adaptive for domestic cats to maintain their social relationships.


Felis catus Faecal odours Familiarity Sniffing durations Olfactory communication 



We are deeply grateful to the cat keepers for their warm assistance in sample collection and conducting behavioral experiments. Their understandings and enthusiasms made this work possible. We sincerely thank Assoc. Prof. Dr. T. Akino in Kyoto Institute of Technology for his valuable supports and guidance. We are also grateful to Dr. H. Samejima and Dr. R. Ito for their kind advices and comments on earlier drafts of this paper. We thank two anonymous reviewers for critical readings and helpful comments that greatly improved previous versions of the manuscript.


  1. Bradshaw J, Cameron-Beaumont C (2000) The signaling repertoire of the domestic cat and its undomesticated relatives. In: Turner DC, Bateson P (eds) The domestic cat: the biology of its behaviour. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 67–93Google Scholar
  2. Brown RE, Macdonald DW (1985) Social odors in mammals. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  3. Case LP (2003) The cat: its behavior, nutrition and health. In: Case LP, Helms K, MacAllister B (eds) The cat: its behavior, nutrition and health. Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford, pp 131–150Google Scholar
  4. Crowell-Davis SL, Curtis TM, Knowles RJ (2004) Social organization in the cat: a modern understanding. J Feline Med Surg 6:19–28PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Dielenberg RA, McGregor IS (2001) Defensive behavior in rats towards predatory odors: a review. Neurosci Biobehav Rev 25:597–609PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Gorman ML, Trowbridge BJ (1989) The role of odor in the social lives of carnivores. In: Gittleman JL (ed) Carnivore behavior, ecology and evolution. Chapman and Hall, New York, pp 57–88CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Halpin ZT (1974) Individual differences in the biological odors of the Mongolian gerbil (Meriones unguiculatus). Behav Biol 11:253–259PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Izawa M, Doi T, Ono Y (1982) Grouping patterns of feral cats (Felis catus) living on a small island in Japan. Jpn J Ecol 32:373–382Google Scholar
  9. Johnston RE, Derzie A, Chiang G, Jernigan P (1993) Individual scent signatures in golden hamsters: evidence for specialization of function. Anim Behav 45:1061–1070CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Kerby G, Macdonald DW (1988) Cat society and the consequences of colony size. In: Turner DC, Bateson P (eds) The domestic cat: the biology of its behaviour. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 67–81Google Scholar
  11. Liberg O (1980) Spacing patterns in a population of rural free roaming domestic cats. Oikos 35:336–349CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Liberg O, Sandell M (1988) Spatial organisation and reproductive tactics in the domestic cat and other felids. In: Turner DC, Bateson P (eds) The domestic cat: the biology of its behaviour. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 83–98Google Scholar
  13. Macdonald DW (1980) Patterns of scent marking with urine and feces amongst carnivore communities. In: Stoddart DM (ed) Olfaction in mammals, vol 45. Academic, London, pp 107–139Google Scholar
  14. Macdonald DW, Apps PJ, Carr GM, Kerby G (1987) Social dynamics, nursing coalitions and infanticide among farm cats, Felis catus. Adv Ethol 28:1–66Google Scholar
  15. Natoli E (1985) Behavioural responses of urban feral cats to different types of urine marks. Behaviour 94:234–243CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Natoli E, De Vito E (1991) Agonistic behaviour, dominance rank and copulatory success in a large multi-male feral cat, Felis catus L., colony in central Rome. Anim Behav 42:227–241CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Natoli E, Baggio A, Pontier D (2001) Male and female agonistic and affiliative relationships in a social group of farm cats (Felis catus L.). Behav Process 53:137–143CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. R Development Core Team (2009) R: language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical computing, Vienna, Austria.
  19. Temeles EJ (1994) The role of neighbours in territorial systems: when are they ‘dear enemies’? Anim Behav 47:339–350CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Yamane A, Doi T, Ono Y (1996) Mating behaviors, courtship rank and mating success of male feral cat (Felis catus). J Ethol 14:35–44CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Japan Ethological Society and Springer 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Miyabi Nakabayashi
    • 1
  • Ryohei Yamaoka
    • 2
  • Yoshihiro Nakashima
    • 3
  1. 1.Wildlife Research Center of Kyoto UniversityKyotoJapan
  2. 2.Kyoto Institute of TechnologyKyotoJapan
  3. 3.Graduate School of Science, Kyoto UniversityKyotoJapan

Personalised recommendations