'The flehman response', also known by some people as 'stinking face', is a grimacing look easily identified by an open mouth, wrinkled nose, raised chin and gaping tongue.

Its function is to open the vomeronasal, or Jacobson's Organ, located in the roof of the mouth. This allows the full strength of a scent to enter and the testing of chemical scents travelling through the air; from this a cat can read many things. The flehman response is most often exhibited by both males and females where other cats have marked their territory by spraying scent.

Through reading the odour it's possible to identify which cat left the scent and whether or not it is a stranger entering the territory.

Males use flehman in determining whether or not a female is in oestrus and so ready to mate. It may also be used in an attempt to identify any unusual smell.

All felids exhibit the flehman response and you may occasionally see it in your domestic cat. Here it is a little more difficult to identify as domestics do not open te mouth in the same manner.

The Jacobson's Organ is not confined to felids; it is found in some other mammals, including a few bats, and in all snakes. The face-pulling effect seen in tigers and other cats does not occur in snakes; tongue-flicking is the equivalent action.

 Taxonomy | Whiskers | Hearing & Ear Spots | Eyesight | Smell | Teeth | Communication | Flehman | Genetics |
Life Span | Streaking | Claws, Paws & Pug Marks | Skin & Coat | Gait | Tail | Cleanliness & Tongue |
Skeleton & Internal Organs | Big Cat/Small Cat?

Characteristics Index | Home

Photography With Thanks To Lisa Purcell
All Rights Reserved. Displayed here with permission, for educational, non-profit purposes.