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Sprayed Urine Emits a Pungent Odor due to its Increased Adhesion to Vertical Objects via Urinary Proteins Rather Than to Changes in its Volatile Chemical Profile in Domestic Cats

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Abstract

Spraying urine on vertical objects by raising the tail is a commonly observed functional behavior for chemical communication in Felidae species, including domestic cats (Felis silvestris catus). The sprayed urine is recognized as a chemical signal for territorial ownership of their habitats. Previous studies reported that sprayed urine emits a more pungent odor than urine excreted from a squatting position. However, little is known about how sprayed urine acts as a strong scent mark in the environment. Here, we showed that sprayed urine originates only from bladder urine without any secretions, such as anal sac secretions, but it can effectively emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) when smeared on vertical objects due to its strong adhesion. Chemical profiles of VOCs and odor qualities were similar between fresh sprayed urine and bladder urine sampled immediately after spraying from the same individuals. Meanwhile, feline-specific proteinuria arising from excretion of a carboxylesterase that produces a precursor of cat-specific odorants resulted in reduced surface tension of the urine and increased adhesion to vertical surfaces, which kept sprayed urine on the surfaces and led to the emission of large amounts of VOCs. In conclusion, proteinuria contributes to the emission of a strong odor through its enhanced adhesion to vertical objects without other secretions containing malodorous substances. These findings improve our understanding of the mechanism of scent marking via the spraying of urine for chemical communication in cats.

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Acknowledgements

We thank Profs. T. Yamashita and N. Ikeda for valuable discussion. We also appreciate Prof. T. Nishikawa for synthesizing 3-methyl-3-methylthio-1-butanol.

Funding

This research was funded by JSPS KAKENHI Grant Numbers 25850217, 17H03937, and 22K19321 (Masao Miyazaki). Reiko Uenoyama was supported by a Grant-in-Aid for JSPS Fellows.

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Reiko Uenoyama and Masao Miyazaki conceived the study, designed the experiments, collected urine samples, performed all of the experiments, analyzed the data, and wrote the manuscript. Wenrui Zhu, Makoto Miura, and Tamako Miyazaki contributed to the measurements of surface tension. All authors reviewed the manuscript. Masao Miyazaki supervised the project.

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Correspondence to Masao Miyazaki.

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Uenoyama, R., Zhu, W., Miura, M. et al. Sprayed Urine Emits a Pungent Odor due to its Increased Adhesion to Vertical Objects via Urinary Proteins Rather Than to Changes in its Volatile Chemical Profile in Domestic Cats. J Chem Ecol (2024). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10886-024-01490-1

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10886-024-01490-1

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