What is male cat spray made of?

This is a Google search term. It is refers to male cat urine sprayed horizontally onto surfaces as a marker. As ‘male cat spray’ is urine it is around 95% water and it contains a variety of waste products from the cat’s metabolism e.g. sodium and potassium.

Isovalthine
Isovalthine
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

However, the ‘active ingredients’ in respect of smell for marking purposes are a couple of ‘unusual amino acids’ which degrade after being deposited on surfaces and which thereby provide information to the cat smelling it as to when the spraying cat was there and who it is (a calling card).

These are two sulphur-containing animo acids:

Felinine

The chemical name for felinine is: 2-Amino-7-hydroxy-5,5-dimethyl-4-thiaheptanoic acid.

Isovalthene (Isovalthine)

The chemical name for isovalthene is: 2-Amino-5-Carboxy-6-Methyl-4-Thiaheptanoic Acid.

You can see that you can spell it with caps or in lower case. The main degradation products are:

  • 3-mercapto-3-methyl-1-butanol and;
  • 3-methyl-3-methylthio-1-butanol and;
  • other disulphides and trisulphides. These have a strong tomcat odour.

The content varies with the age, gender, health and reproductive status of the cat. Felinine levels are controlled by cauxin (a urinary protein) which in turn is controlled by the level of testosterone in the blood. Unaltered males spray large amounts of felinine, up to 95mg a day. Females excrete far less at up to around 20mg a day which means it is less pungent. It is suggested that the pungency of the urine is a reflection on the health of the cat as the amount of felinine is dependent on the amount of quality food ingested.

Source: Joulain & Laurent, 1989 and Hendricks and colleagues in 1995. Via The Domestic Cat: The Biology of its Behavior

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