Experienced cat parents know about chin scratches. Much like how behind a dog’s ears is “the spot,” underneath a kitty’s chin seems to be their weakness. Why do cats love chin scratches so much? There are several reasons, but the main one seems to be pleasurable pheromones.
These scent-like molecules are released from a cat’s scent glands when you scratch their chin. Cats have numerous of these glands on their body to mark their territory and communicate with other cats. The pheromone released when you scratch a kitty’s chin is oxytocin, which is known to cause pleasure and happiness in humans and cats alike. So, when you scratch their chin, it literally makes your cat happy!
Chin scratches aren’t just a pheromone thing, though. They’re also related to cat grooming, their sense of smell, and potentially a sign of skin conditions. Let’s find out more about what exactly chin scratches have to do with all that down below.
Cat Grooming & Scratching
From a young age, cats are taught by their mothers to groom themselves. This formative stage in a cat’s life is crucial, and littermates are often seen grooming all over each other, including the chin. Some scientists think that the scent glands on a cat’s body encourage them to clean themselves, so they associate it with littermates and companions too.
If you have a close bond with your cat, you may already be familiar with their habit of grooming you by licking or gently biting you. This means they love you and see you as a littermate or companion. After all, you take care of them, right? They may not be as needy as a dog, but your cat knows you’re their person.
Cats & Smells
Smells are an integral part of a cat’s life too, and their nose is about 14 times stronger than ours. The hormones released by a cat’s scent glands, including those in the chin, can be detected by other cats nearby. They can tell that the cat is happy and secure where they are.
Scents like these are used to mark a cat’s territory or turf as well. Cats might rub their chin or body along you to rub their scent on you, which is basically just claiming you as their property. Considering that they get happy hormones from doing so, marking you is a pleasurable thing for your cat.
Excessive Cat Itchiness
Some cats like to be rubbed under the chin all the time, so it can be hard to tell if they’re unusually itchy. If you see your cat scratching under their skin and other areas often, it could be a sign of an unpleasant skin condition.
Cats are great at grooming, but they can’t prevent all cases of fleas, allergies, and parasites. Keep an eye out for extreme grooming behavior like pulling out fur, biting at rashes, or if your cat stops in the middle of doing something to scratch themselves.
While you can get a good idea of what’s wrong on your own, it’s a smart idea to visit your vet when you see signs like these. A trusted vet will be able to quickly diagnose the source of your cat’s itchiness and recommend your best course of action. Always follow their instructions, including using topical or other medications as prescribed.
Cats have unique quirks like loving chin scratches, but it turns out there’s a scientific reason: their chins have scent glands that release feel-good chemicals. Chin scratching can also be a sign of affection or territorial marking, but too much scratching may be a sign of a painful skin irritant.
Featured Image Credit: Chendongshan, Shutterstock