Microbes make chemicals for scent marking in a cat

cat
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Domestic cats, like many other mammals, use smelly secretions from anal sacs to mark territory and communicate with other animals. A new study from the Genome Center at the University of California, Davis shows that many odiferous compounds from a male cat are actually made not by the cat, but by a community of bacteria living in the anal sacs. The work is published Sept. 13 in PLOS ONE.

"Cats use a lot of volatile chemicals for signaling, and they probably don't make them all," said David Coil, project scientist at the Genome Center and an author on the paper.

Many species—including cats, dogs, bears, pandas, skunks and hyenas—use anal sac secretions as a chemical language. Skunks, of course, also use them as a means of defense.

The experiment grew out of the KittyBiome Project started at the Genome Center by Holly Ganz, a postdoctoral researcher working with Coil and Jonathan Eisen, professor of evolution and ecology in the UC Davis College of Biological Sciences. The KittyBiome Project has since been spun off as AnimalBiome, a company with Ganz as CEO.

The researchers obtained anal sac secretions from a single male Bengal cat volunteered to participate by its owner. They extracted DNA for sequencing to identify types of bacteria, and also took samples for chemical odor analysis in Professor Cristina Davis' laboratory in the UC Davis Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.

Sequencing showed that the microbial community was not very diverse and dominated by a small number of bacterial genera.

"There are not a lot of players there," Coil said.

Analyzing volatile organics

The most abundant bacteria from the screen were grown in culture. Mei Yamaguchi, a postdoctoral researcher in Davis' lab, analyzed the volatile chemicals given off by the bacteria.

Davis' lab focuses on technology for detecting and characterizing low levels of volatile organic compounds that can be markers of health and disease, from influenza in humans to in fruit trees.

Yamaguchi and Davis were able to detect 67 volatile compounds released by the bacterial cultures. Fifty-two of these compounds were also found directly in the anal sac secretions.

The results support the idea that the bacterial community, not the cat itself, produces many of the scents used by the cat to communicate.

Coil and colleagues want to follow up by looking at more cats. If these scents are made by bacteria, why do cats smell different to each other? How do cats acquire the and do they change over life? Understanding how microbes influence their scent could have wide implications for understanding scent communication in animals.


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Journal information: PLoS ONE

Provided by UC Davis
Citation: Microbes make chemicals for scent marking in a cat (2019, September 13) retrieved 20 October 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-09-microbes-chemicals-scent-cat.html
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Sep 13, 2019
"...use smelly secretions from anal sacs to mark territory and communicate..."

So THAT'S how Otto was able to convince some commentators that Phys.org is HIS territory and how he will do his best to remove you from HIS science site if he doesn't like you. And if you don't leave, then he will come after you, growling and hissing nasty epithets.
Who KNEW?

Sep 13, 2019
Wow... talk about symbiotic relationships!

Sep 14, 2019
They say that germs just wanna have fun.

Sep 14, 2019
Oh wait. That was Cyndi Lauper who said that.

Sep 14, 2019
Here's another example of the same process of communication and territorial staking, but with Meerkats in South Africa.
https://phys.org/...nts.html

Personally, I don't think that the cats have the intention that the researchers say they have. I think that they just want to get the stinky stuff off themselves because they don't like the odour. Same with the Meerkats.

Sep 14, 2019
As if knowing that cats use "smelly secretions from anal sacs", wasn't bad enough, these scientists had to go and add bacteria to the mix. There has to be a financial limit on research, because these guys are getting paid way too much.

Sep 14, 2019
okay, seeking general consensus here
which looneytick. sillyegg or auntieoral has your vote as loon of the year?

& auntie, if you were competent to judge the economic benefits of scientific development?

you'd be on the phone to a broker trying to acquire shares in which ever start-ups are investing in this research

Sep 14, 2019
As if knowing that cats use "smelly secretions from anal sacs", wasn't bad enough, these scientists had to go and add bacteria to the mix. There has to be a financial limit on research, because these guys are getting paid way too much.
says antigo

The thought is enough to turn one's stomach, according to my host and his friends who have read the material. The other thing to turn one's stomach is the incessant nonsensical caterwauling coming from rrwillsj on a daily basis - who never seems to offer any valid maths or science in her comments - except to pursue those of us who come into physorg for one reason only - the science - and not nitpicking personalities unless well-deserved such as the one spoken of in my previous first comment.

Sep 14, 2019
geewhillickers, sillyegghead
thanks for confirming that you are an non-human circuit-board whose only function is broadcasting anti-science propaganda

cause biological creatures?
all biological creatures...
are all about the natural bodily functions

what makes it even funnier?
the realization that all those pretty, sparkling lights in the sky?
are produced by the same gases as flatulence & decay

hmm, "fart" & "star"
a silly letter's difference

i can hear my patron goddess Trickster Coyote giggling behind the curtains
at playing such a cosmically comedic practical joke on all of us!

Sep 14, 2019
And yet another Comments section ruined by the nonsensical crap from the above caterwauler.

Sep 15, 2019
my crap smells a lot prettier
than your agitproping yec offal

Sep 15, 2019
okay, seeking general consensus here
which looneytick. sillyegg or auntieoral has your vote as loon of the year?

I don't believe antigoracle is crazy. I think he's just a troll. He doesn't care about the issues at all, he just wants to get a rise out of someone. The less you respond to him, the less he enjoys it.

SEU, on the other hand, is clearly insane. I'm not sure of all the psychoses that afflict SEU, but there seem to be many of them. I try not to interact with him and/or her as any interaction with them almost feels like I'm attacking a handicapped person.

Sep 18, 2019
okay, seeking general consensus here
which looneytick. sillyegg or auntieoral has your vote as loon of the year?

I don't believe antigoracle is crazy. I think he's just a troll. He doesn't care about the issues at all, he just wants to get a rise out of someone. The less you respond to him, the less he enjoys it.

SEU, on the other hand, is clearly insane. I'm not sure of all the psychoses that afflict SEU, but there seem to be many of them. I try not to interact with him and/or her as any interaction with them almost feels like I'm attacking a handicapped person.


The fact that you've mentioned my name and discussed what you THINK is my personality only means that you have me on your mind for some strange reason. Particularly when I haven't concerned myself with you and YOUR personality which is of no use to me in the first place. You should really ask yourself what it is about me that provokes you to think about me. Are you wanting to draw me into your circle?

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