How Do Animals Respond to Perfume?

A cat's sense of smell is about 14 times better than yours, so it's not a surprise that they notice when someone sprays perfume nearby. The surprise is that some big cats love it. In fact, the lions, leopards, and tigers at Banham Zoo in Norfolk, England, are so enamored with the scent of perfume that the zoo is asking visitors to drop off their unwanted bottles.

Lions and other big cats find the scent of perfumes such as Calvin Klein Obsession very stimulating.
Lions and other big cats find the scent of perfumes such as Calvin Klein Obsession very stimulating.

All felines like to investigate new odors around them, so spraying the perfume in the big cats' enclosures is one way to add some stimulation to their day, and it helps to keep them mentally and physically active. As the zoo explains, perfumes typically contain animal musk, which is what excites the cats.

While any perfume will do, animal manager Mike Woolham says the giant felines do have a preference. "For some reason, Calvin Klein perfume is a huge hit with all big cats," he told the BBC. Calvin Klein's Obsession includes civetone, a pheromone secreted by civets and other small creatures. When a big cat gets a whiff, it wants to check it out and ultimately mark its own scent over the musk.

The zoo is accepting all perfumes and aftershaves at its admissions department, but anyone who wants to send some scents through the mail can also ship them to Zoo Animal Management, Banham Zoo, Kenninghall Road, Banham, Norfolk, England NR16 2HE.

Big cat basics:

  • In the wild, leopards tend to drag their prey up into trees, where they can dine without being bothered.

  • The only big cats capable of roaring are the lion, tiger, jaguar, and leopard.

  • While cheetahs can run faster than any other land animal, they cannot completely retract their claws.

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