Friday, March 18, 2011

It doesn't smell like that on me!

I have been looking online for discussions about which scents smell like cat pee, and which ingredients are the trigger. It's perplexing: various writers attribute it to different perfumes, and to different ingredients in those perfumes.

The response of perfume lovers to criticism of their favorite scent is an interesting insight into cognitive dissonance.

Many report 'some weird people say it smells like cat pee...well it doesn't smell like that on me!' In spite of folk wisdom that 'a fart has no nose'. Some - many? - attribute liking the scent to having a more educated and discerning nose.

Perfume does smell different on different people, but if someone told me my perfume smelled bad, I'd seek further feedback. In the perfume industry, it's believed that 'great' perfumes tend to be the ones that are most divisive: you either love or loathe them. Even a panel of perfume-istas won't agree on which perfumes belong on which list. Hence the same perfumes often appear on both best and worst perfume lists.

Several fans responded smugly by saying, 'I'm lucky, it smells good on me.' This may be followed by 'I'm one of the ones it chose ton reveal itself to.' Wow, I must be special because this cat pee smells great on me (to me at least). Buffy eat your heart out.

There is something in this. Body chemistry varies, and this affects the volatile ingredients in perfume. Which is why you should never buy without trying just because a perfume smells good on someone else. Still,'other people hate my perfume but I know it smells good and they are just ignorant' is a risky interpersonal decision.

One writer even complained that she was banned from wearing any perfume at work because 'this one time' she put on a bit too much of one quite heavy perfume. Thinking of my many and several work places, I am awed by the amount of built up angst that would be necessary before a ban would be proposed let alone enforced... Yeah, sure it was just this one time...

To complete the case study of humanity in action, several perfume lovers reveal that they 'punish' people who don't like their perfume by wearing even more of it. Or wearing another perfume that even they have reservations about. I'm sure that helps.

Perfume is emotional. Smell is directly connected to our limbic system in our brains, which process emotion and bypass logical processes.'You stink' is a powerful insult to hurl at anyone. The identification many people have with their signature fragrance means that even a careful 'it's not you, it's your cologne' will not erase offense.

For a minority of people, estimated to be between 5-20%, mild chemical sensitivity means they can get headache, asthsma or migraine just from being exposed to strong smells. Which just shows how variable people are.

Both sides of the debate remain convinced of their olfactory superiority (perfume lovers and haters), that there is a 'right' and a 'wrong' in the pong debate.


Anonymous said...

I love the smell of Jo Malone's Red Roses. Unfortunately after about 5 minutes it begins to smell like urine on me.

opinionatedchildlesswoman said...

Oh dear. Probably not what you were going for!

My issue is not urine but pyrethrum - many perfumes start to smell like cheap fly spray after a few minutes.

Jenn the Greenmom said...

LOL! (And I know this is a few months after the fact)...I actually DO work in a place where the scent ban is in the contract and vigilantly enforced; I'm a musician, and lots of people have genuine allergies and intolerances to scents, which is one thing when your job is to type but another when it is to sing in close quarters with 119 other people.

This cracks me up because someone asked the "why does perfume smell like cat pee" question on a post of mine, and I of course asked Google, and got a whole bunch of hits, yours among them. :-)

opinionatedchildlesswoman said...

Thanks for stopping by, Jenn.

I wish it was consistent what caused the cat pee smell, but if it was the perfumers would have stopped using it. Instead it seems to be the body's way of signalling that there's something poisonous in this smell.

At least you don't suffer at work!

Anonymous said...

I was in an emergency medical center for respiratory arrest. After machine treatment and injections, a nurse came in to get blood and her perfume put me back into respiratory arrest. The Doctor removed her from the room and put the machine back on me. My workplace is fragrance free by written policy. So many people smell like cat urine, i believe it is the chemicals used.Cat urine is more expensive than chemical by- products of other industries who cannot dump, but can sell same to perfume houses. I hadn't thought of it that way, but maybe some perfume wearers do feel more powerful by making others deathly ill and robbing them of breathable air. One elderly lady told me she doesn't take many showers, so she uses perfume. She smells like it.

Mr Jixpoio said...


Having a cat pee all over the house can drive you crazy.

It stinks and creates unnecessary work to clean up the mess.

But what can you do to fix it?

Well, it appears you’ve only got two options.

1. Lock your cat up in one room during the day
2. Or get rid of it completely

I’m guessing you’d prefer to not have to do either of these…


Well you don’t have to…

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Go check it out now…

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Talk soon,