Cat Urine Extract As A Feral Cat Management Tool
Cats may be the most popular companion animal in the world. As a result, cats often roam free wherever humans have brought them. Unfortunately, free-roaming cats—both outdoor companion animals, and feral cats—can cause problems. Cats hunt local wildlife. And they can spread diseases through their urine and feces. To solve these problems, advocates for cats need humane ways to manage free-roaming cat populations. This paper explores the use of a cat urine extract to discourage cats from living and hunting in sensitive areas. This extract can be used as a lure and as a deterrent for feral cats and small wildcats.
Cats mark their territories with urine markings. This means other cats take interest in the urine markings. When cats sniff other cats’ markings, they show what is called the “Flehmen response.” The Flehmen response is the behavior whereby a cat curls back its upper lip, exposing its teeth. This allows the cats to better smell pheromones, such as felinine, in the urine. Cats use these pheromones to identify one another. Unlike dogs, cats do not “overmark,” or urinate on top of, one another’s markings. Instead, they usually leave the immediate area. Because cats avoid staying in areas marked by other cats, humans have tried to keep cats away from certain areas by placing artificial cat urine markings. We use urine collected from domestic cats for this. But, storing cat urine can be difficult; it tends to decay and emit an ammonia smell, which does not keep cats away.
The researchers in this study decided to try preserving the cat urine to prevent it from decaying and smelling different. They collected cat urine from several young male cats. And they combined the urine with chloroform and methanol. The researchers then extracted an organic solution from this combination. This was the urine extract used in the rest of the study. To test whether cats would respond to the extract, the researchers introduced six cats to test tubes containing the extract. All of the cats sniffed the test tube and showed the Flehmen response.
As cats are interested in sniffing each other’s urine markers, the researchers also wondered whether the organic urine extract could be used to lure cats to traps or to hidden cameras. In a lab setting, the researchers found that cats spent more time investigating glass panes treated with urine solution than untreated glass panes. The researchers decided to try using the solution to attract free-roaming cats to hidden cameras. As a control, the researchers first tested cats’ responses to the boxes treated with chloroform rather than the urine extract. No cats came close enough to the control camera boxes to be photographed and identified. But, when the urine-treated camera boxes were left in place for three months, 10 cats could be identified on camera.
Even though the urine extract could attract cats to the camera box, cats also avoided urinating or defecating in areas where the extract was present. When the researchers treated filter paper with the urine extract and placed it in a window, several cats were seen on video. But no cat feces were found in the passageway near the window. In comparison, when the researchers placed chloroform-treated filter paper in the window, cats did defecate in the passageway. When the researchers placed urine-treated filter paper near a pre-school sandbox, the researchers saw four cats sniffing the filter paper. The cats showed the Flehmen response and left the sandbox without urinating or defecating.
Finally, the researchers tested the response bobcats would have to domestic cat urine. They placed a cup of cat urine extract in a bobcat enclosure. The first bobcat to respond was male, and he took 10 minutes to respond. He sniffed the extract, gave the Flehmen response, and left the extract. After 30 minutes, two more male bobcats found the extract. They responded the same way as the first bobcat. When the researchers presented three bobcats—two males and a female—with extract-treated filter paper, they also had the same response.
In summary, urine extract created from the organic solvent proved to be an effective lure for both domestic and wild felines. This is ideal for studying free-roaming cats, because they leave the area after investigating the urine extract. In comparison, cats lured with catnip or food tend to stay nearby. Cat urine extract is a promising method for both studying free-roaming cats and deterring them from marking new areas. Advocates for free-roaming cats should take notice. Many proposals to manage the behavior of free-roaming cats involve killing unwanted cats. Using a urine extract to study and manage outdoor cats offers a much more ethical alternative.