Your favorite perfume might be made out of a civet’s anal secretions.
For centuries, the thick, yellow substance procured from the small nocturnal mammals’ musk glands have been diluted and used to add depth and warmth to fragrances. Called civetone, it’s an organic compound that exists in some of the most beloved, well-known, and animal-unfriendly perfumes today. Chanel No 5 and Coco are made with the byproduct, as are fragrances by Estee Lauder, Christian Dior, and Versace.
If you wear any of those, don’t feel badly. With its velvety, floral notes, civetone can be hard to resist. In fact, even jaguars like it. Their favorite scent? Obsession for Men by Calvin Klein.
For years, scientists and conservationists have used perfumes to learn more about wildlife through a tactic called scent lure, Motherboard reports. Hidden cameras are sprayed with fragrances — or, to make the scent linger longer, sprayed on a piece of carpet placed atop the camera — attracting curious and scent-sensitive animals, like big cats, over to be observed, captured, or recorded.
Compared to other perfumes, researchers have consistently found Obsession for Men to have the strongest effect on jaguars. A 2005 study performed at the Bronx Zoo found the animals could spend as long as 15 minutes rubbing, nuzzling, pawing, and otherwise fussing with objects sprayed with that perfume.
But unlike humans, jaguars aren’t attracted to Calvin Klein’s 1986 scent for its smooth notes or sleak packaging. To them, the civet byproduct in the perfume smells like a territorial marker from an outsider — a scent which they then feel compelled to erase by rubbing their own on top of it. •
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