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The Mysterious Sixth Sense of Cats: Uncovering the Jacobson’s Organ

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Ginger cat smelling a human hand

Cats have always seemed to possess astonishing abilities and senses that exceed human capabilities. One of the most intriguing of these is their vomeronasal, or Jacobson’s organ, an anatomical feature that affords cats an additional sensory capacity when compared to humans.

What is the Jacobson’s Organ?

Jacobson’s organ is an olfactory sense organ situated on the roof of a cat’s mouth. It harbours special sensory receptor cells that detect pheromones – chemical substances animals release to transmit signals to others of the same species. Pheromones carry information about identity, social status, territory marking, and when a female is in heat.

To cats, Jacobson’s organ serves as a kind of sixth sense, enabling them to decipher a wealth of information from smells that would elude human detection. When a cat rubs its face on objects or other animals, it uses this organ to glean more about them. The Jacobson’s organ also triggers the well-known flehmen response when a cat encounters a fascinating odour – the distinctive curled upper lip that resembles a grimace.

Specialized Taste and Smell Abilities

The Jacobson’s organ is connected to the nasal cavity and works with a cat’s usual sense of smell. However, it’s specially adapted to detect pheromones rather than everyday odours. Nerve endings relay signals to the brain’s limbic system, interpreted as information about other animals and potential mates. This vomeronasal system empowers cats to smell and taste scents simultaneously.

Researchers theorize that Jacobson’s organ evolved to assist felines in identifying territory markings and locating mates. However, cats today likely utilize it to gather information from the humans in their lives – information to which we remain oblivious. It acts as a potent sensory tool for decoding social cues.


Therefore, the next time you see your cat with an oddly curled grimace on its face, remember they are not simply making a humorous expression. Instead, they are employing their captivating sixth sense to analyze intriguing odours in their environment that humans can only dream of perceiving. The secret of cats’ Jacobson’s organ unveils an entirely different sensory world beyond our comprehension.

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