June 8, 2010

Taking “Obsession” to a Whole New Level

by Heather Falconer

The Wall Street Journal published an article today on some interesting scientific research. Apparently, Calvin Klein’s cologne, Obsession, is more than just for men.

As the article notes, zoos all over the world have long been using the practice of spraying perfumes and colognes throughout animal grounds in order to keep them stimulated and curious. At the Bronx Zoo in New York, Curator Pat Thomas decided to see if the types of scent had much affect on the response of cheetahs to the new odors. While a cat’s sense of smell may not be as developed as its other senses, the average cat’s ability is still 14 times greater than a human’s — which makes those perfumes and colognes particularly pungent, and Thomas’ study showed that the big cats have very particular tastes.

Using 24 different types of perfume and cologne, Thomas measured the amount of time it took for the cats to first notice the new scent, and then how long they spent investigating it. The results were varied. Estee Lauder’s Beautiful apparently interested the cheetahs for a whopping two seconds. But Klein’s Obsession? 11.1 minutes. More than simply investigating the scent, the animals tended to cuddle up next to whatever was sprayed with the cologne.

This research was impressive enough to convince Thomas to share his finding with other scientists studying big cats, and has since had a significant impact on field research. Now, scientists all over the world are able to get better information about the big cats they are studying. As the article noted, one researcher studying jaguars has had a significant increase in usable data. Relying on motion-detecting cameras to record the presence and distinct markings of jaguars, he has managed to lure more of the elusive animals to his camera areas by leaving objects spritzed with the cologne nearby. The Wildlife Conservation Society has even decided to make the use of Obsession-spritzing a regular part of all of their jaguar studies!

Many of these organizations and zoos rely on donations from the public in order to operate — and this includes donations of scents. If you happen to have some Obsession lying around that you don’t think you’ll use, contact your local zoo to see if they might like it. And if that’s your favorite cologne, you might want to think twice about wearing it the next time you are in the area of big cats…

For more on research methods, visit Visionlearning.com’s Process of Science page.

Image courtesy of Bernie Condon at freedigitalphotos.net
Heather Falconer

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Heather Falconer holds undergraduate degrees in Graphic Arts and Environmental Science, as well as an MFA in Writing and an MLitt in Literature. She is currently completing her PhD in Rhetoric and Composition, with an emphasis on rhetoric in/and/of science. Heather has worked internationally in academic publishing as both an author and editor, and has taught a wide range of topics – from research writing to marine biology – in the public and private educational sectors.