Cats ‘control mice’ with chemicals in their urine

Jul 21, 2015

by Victoria Gill

Cat v mouse: it is probably the most famous predator-prey pairing, enshrined in idioms and a well-known cartoon.

And cats, it turns out, even have chemical warfare in their anti-mouse arsenal – contained in their urine.

Researchers found that when very young mice were exposed to a chemical in cat urine, they were less likely to avoid the scent of cats later in life.

The findings were presented at the Society for Experimental Biology’s annual meeting in Prague.

The researchers, from the AN Severtov Institute of Ecology and Evolution in Moscow, had previously found that the compound – aptly named felinine – causes pregnant mice to abort.


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15 comments on “Cats ‘control mice’ with chemicals in their urine

  • I live in London, and there are plenty of foxes around. I have heard advice that peeing into a bucket / watering can, and then spreading said substance on the enclosing fences, tends to keep the foxes out. Apparently it has to be a man’s pee. A scent that presumably says “You are not welcome, and I’m bigger than you !” or words to that effect.

    As to putting lion’s crap in the garden to keep cats out, – I’d rather have the cats !



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  • Regarding the cat pee, I have heard that a parasite is involved in making the mice less frightened, and therefore more likely to get eaten, and thus more likely to flourish in the cat’s body before the next stage of life.

    And then there are those ants that climb to the top of plants making themselves an inviting meal for a bird, also parasite driven.



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  • For some reason cats don’t like me; every time I’ve come into contact with one it’s dug its claws into me.

    The best distinction I know between dogs and cats is as follows:

    You provide me with food and drink, and give me shelter and affection; you must be a god.

    You provide me with food and drink, and give me shelter and affection; I must be a god.



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  • Stafford: You cite a great story from Cat and Dog Parables. Thanks,

    Looking at the description of the experiment: “Their physical sensitivity [to the chemical] was actually actually much higher,” Dr Voznessenskaya explained. “More of their receptors detect the compound and they produce higher levels of stress hormone.”
    Despite this though, mice raised around the unmistakable scent of cat pee are less inclined to show signs of fear, or to flee when they sniff it out.
    “You get a higher response, but less behaviour,” said Dr Voznessenskaya, ”

    Apparently their is a disconnect between neurological response and motor behavior which is not explained. In layman’s language, she seems to be saying that the treated mice actually become more neurologically stressed, more distressed, more afraid when smelling cat urine yet illogically less inclined to run away as a consequence of heightened fear. “Despite this though”[quote] is illogical and fails to explain how the habituated behavior to the cats’ presence works in mice brains.



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  • Do the Cats have sinister plans for us also?

    No, our sinister plans do not involve you at all. In fact they’re not even sinister. Or plans. we have no plans, that was your assertion not mine.

    I think you might want to reign in that sort of talk, don’t you?



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  • Cats are attracted to me. In fact, it’s almost impossible to keep my 3 cats off my bed, lap, shoulders, head, back, or feet. They follow me everywhere. They bring me little gifts, laying their most prized toys at my feet. If they catch a mouse, they will present it to me proudly. When I speak their names, they come running, their little eyes fixed on me with apparent adoration. When I am gone, my husband says the cats suffer from obvious distress and anxiety. When I’m outside, they watch from the windows, meowing piteously. It’s as if I’m an addictive substance.

    Perhaps I exude some scent that is irresistible to them. Perhaps I smell like catnip, or their long-lost mother. I don’t know. Hopefully it’s not because I smell like mouse pee.



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  • Perhaps. My adorable little carnivores certainly do not lack for tasty tidbits, and I am the one who doles them out. However, cats are attracted to me everywhere I go. Cats I have never met before will come right to me. All cats. Everywhere. When I lived in backcountry Montana, bobcats and mountain lions were frequently to be seen around my log shack, basking in the sun, grooming themselves, and watching me…even though other people who’d lived in the area all their lives had never seen a mountain lion in the daytime at close range. I never fed them, and there was no food source around the place. Four feral housecats migrated to my place from some ranch or barn miles away over the years, sitting on my porch or windowsills at all hours. It would be super creepy if I didn’t like cats, but I do. Perhaps they somehow know that I like them, although I don’t want to fall into the anthropomorphic trap or ascribe ridiculous supernatural powers to them. I prefer to think that I smell “good” to them.



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  • although I don’t want to fall into the anthropomorphic trap or ascribe ridiculous supernatural powers

    My 90 year old mom is the same. All her life, cats, dogs, chickens, rabbits, guinea pigs, turkeys and even the local magpies pay attention to her. A stab at a scientific explanation. Wild animals and domestic pets are alert to predatory behaviour. They evolved to recognize a threat. Survival strategy 101. Maybe you don’t present as a threat. Subtle reading of body language,… maybe. Don’t know.

    A cat meets my mom. Within seconds the cat is rubbing up against her leg and getting an ear scratch. I have a similar affinity but down by about 70% on my mom.



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  • 14
    Pinball1970 says:

    “I have heard advice that peeing into a bucket / watering can, and then spreading said substance on the enclosing fences, tends to keep the foxes Out”

    I will definitely try this to see if I can address the cat problem at my partners garden, probably bulk up on some extra protein first.

    It is a joy to watch squirrels, chaffinches, bull finches, robins, wood pigeons, magpies and jays try to outsmart each other for the fat balls and nuts in the garden.

    This is only spoiled by the four cats in the area that watch the event with murderous intent, stalking, waiting to pounce.

    What with Fleas, toxoplasmosis, hair balls, constant soiling of any garden but its own and pastimes that seem to be only a mixture of sleeping, eating and killing anything smaller than itself that moves, it amazes me that civilized people would want to keep one as a pet.



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  • Sue Blue: What charming “Cat Whisperer” stories. Though male, I’ve loved cats (and dogs) as long as I can remember. My cat Charlie likes to jump in my my lap and purr while I type comments on RDF. David R makes a sound observation that cats usually prefer women over men. Without exciting accusations of sexism, I believe women are less aggressive and more nurturing than men and cats gravitate to female friendly attention and kindness. Women’s bodies are also softer and make more comfortable feline “nesting” places or surfaces for the “kneeding” behavior (making “kitty biscuits” is my wife’s expression) cats exhibit before cuddling. I’ve read that the massaging with the paws against our torsos is the residual instinctual behavior of the kitten “pumping” the mothers belly to stimulate the flow of milk. Well, enough of this. Back to the hard science of cat pee. Not.



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