One musky Calvin Klein fragrance isn’t just making humans go Rawr. When sprayed on rocks by zookeepers and field researchers, the cologne Obsession for Men draws big cats like cheetahs and jaguars. They cuddle against it; they take long sniffs, savoring it longer than they do their meals; they may even track it down from half a mile away.
As reported by The Wall Street Journal, spraying perfume on zoo exhibits is something of a trade secret among zookeepers–sniffing out the foreign scents keeps the cats curious and active in captivity. In 2003, Pat Thomas, general curator at the Bronx Zoo in New York, conducted a smell test with his jaguars. The cats certainly didn’t turn up their noses at Estée Lauder, Revlon, or Nina Ricci, but Calvin Klein’s Obsession kept them sniffing the longest, keeping them engaged for about eleven minutes.
During the seven years after Thomas’ test, the scent’s secret feline attraction has helped big cat researchers to observe the animals’ behaviors in the wild and conduct conservation population studies. In one jaguar survey in Guatemala, scientists sprayed the cologne on rags placed in front of their motion-sensitive video cameras. Researchers’ biggest difficulty is getting their hands on the stuff, which runs for about $60 per bottle and is hard to come by in the rain forest. The Bronx Zoo keeps its supplies up by taking donations of the smelly stuff.
“It’s a combination of this lickable vanilla heart married to this fresh green top note—it creates tension,” she says. The cologne also has synthetic “animal” notes like civet, a musky substance secreted by the cat of the same name, giving it particular sex appeal, she adds. “It sparks curiosity with humans and, apparently, animals.”