Howlett’s Wild Animal Park, Canterbury, UK is enriching the environment of their big cats by spraying perfume onto the ground. This creates a blob of scent which is interesting to a big cat such as a tiger. In this way, their environment is enriched and more closely corresponds to the wild where cats are constantly sniffing the air and objects.
The intriguing aspect of this project is that perfume is interesting to big cats. It almost seems that the cat’s response is similar to that of catnip.
As a consequence, the animal park is asking customers to donate their unused perfume, preferably Chanel! The trouble is Chanel perfume is expensive and I doubt whether many people throw it away. I am sure that catnip is cheaper.
The argument is that for a tiger the added smells make their tiny home more interesting. This is clearly better than no smells at all.
“Different smells would be encountered often in the wild, so this activity seeks to emulate that and encourage the tigers to explore their sensual awareness… When we put perfume on the ground, you will probably see them roll around in it. And if they show their teeth, it means they are enjoying the scent.”
When a tiger shows his teeth, he is engaging in the ‘Flehmen Response’, which as you may know is when a cat opens his mouth slightly and inhales the air particles forcing them over a special organ above the roof of his mouth, the Jacobson’s organ, which is supersensitive to smells. This allows the cat to analyse the scent more accurately. It does not necessarily mean he is enjoying it. It is more about analysing it.
This is a nice, albeit unusual, idea to make a captive tiger’s life more enjoyable. I am all for that.