Categories: Zoos

Is Calvin Klein perfume safe to use on big cats in zoos?

Banham Zoo, Norfolk, UK: Banham Zoo has appealed for unwanted perfumes from visitors because they are a ‘roaring success’ with the big cats as they ‘respond very positively to unique scents when sprayed in their enclosures’. I see the importance of stimulating captive big cats because they have a very boring and unstimulated existence normally.

Is perfume safe to use to stimulate big cats at zoos?

The problem I have with the idea of using perfume is that they are made of artificially created chemicals. How safe are they?

A simple and immediate Google search throws up some big question marks. People ask, ‘are perfumes toxic?’. And the answer: fragrances are highly toxic! This is according to the website. Other sites concur. Many studies conclude that the chemicals in perfumes can be classified as ‘as allergens, hormone disruptors, asthma triggers, neurotoxins and carcinogens’.

I am not going to trawl over all the chemical details as you can find them online very quickly. The simple conclusion that you have to draw from the research is that zoo keepers should question the use of donated perfumes as a way of stimulating captive big cats.

Perfumes are highly convenient. You just spray then in the enclosure and apparently they love it. But has anyone asked if it is safe? One issue is that the chemical composition of fragrances are trade secrets. Apparently the fragrance industry is self-regulated. This means that safety testing does not have to be confirmed by regulators. Yes, they are also unsafe for humans. I guess it is about quantity. In small doses perfumes are probably considered safe. They are like plugin, home frangrance dispensers. These too can be harmful to health.

There is obviously something in perfume which gets the cats going but there are better but less convenient ways to achieve the same result and the health of the cats is paramount. On my research the call by Banham Zoo for Calvin Klein perfume needs to be carefully thought out again. The active ingredient it apparently a pheromone, cicerone which is derived from the civet cat. In an ironic twist, the poop of civet cats makes super expensive coffee!

P.S. I’d advise zoo keepers of big cats to contact Big Cat Rescue in Florida for advice on this. They are the most knowledgeable.


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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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