Is Chanel #5 really made from cat sweat?

I have heard this for as long as I can remember (and even read it in a book somewhere) that a major ingredient of Chanel #5 perfume is the sweaty excretions of the Abbisinian Civet cat. I have even heard that they stretch these cats out on some type of medieval rack, and whip them mercilessly to make them sweat more. The Straight Dope, please, Cecil.

The civet isn’t really a cat, and it’s not the sweat that is used. It’s actually the musky substance that is “extracted” from their perineal gland near the base of their tail. It used to be used as a fixative in perfumes. A fixative is used mainly to prolong the duration of the perfumes scent, although they do have a scent of their own.

Another common fixative was ambergris. It’s sort of a sperm whale’s version of a furball. They eat mostly cuttlefish, which have sharp beaks that irritate the whale’s stomach. The whale’s body produces ambergris to counteract this. It can be obtained by opening the whale or just waiting until the whale “tosses his cookies”.

I’m guessing that no American company uses either of these ingredients today, as suitable synthetics exist. They are possibly still used by companies in countries where this practice doesn’t seem to offend the senses.

Although perfume ingredients are a trade secret, Chanel No. 5 is actually more famous for it’s use of synthetics, i.e. aldehydes.

The Other Master (i.e. Shakespeare) touched on this point:

A recent Cecil collumn touches on this subject.

It’s like the latest damn column! How could you possibly enter the Straight Dope homepage without noticing the extensive coverage on this subject?

— G. Raven

OK, I am officially the first one to notice this, I think.

This is actually the exact same question Cecil answered. Worded in the same way, and sent by the same name.

Thus, this must be some kind of stupid joke, and I hope this thread will be closed as soon as possible.
— G. Raven

No, I don’t think you are the first one to notice it. At first I thought your reply was some sort of stupid joke but with your second post I realised you were serious. If you actually read the column it credits the question as coming from ‘Daemon, via the Straight Dope Message Board’. The question was taken directly from this thread, not the other way round.

Morrison - Daemon explains at this thread: Cecil used my Question today!

For the truth behind feline persperation, extensive research was performed on the effects of cat sweat, and the most efficient means of extraction by Mr. Oliver Wendell Jones and Mr. Milo Bloom. Great stuff until it was made illegal.


The thing is, I assumed Cecil could not work so fast. I’ve heard of people seeing their questions answered years and months after they first sent them in.

Congratulations on the unprecedented rush treatment dude, and sorry about my assumptions :smiley:

— G. Raven

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m almost sure we learned in biology that dogs and cats pant when it’s hot out because they have no sweat glands.

Maybe, elfkin477, but does that apply to cloned undead cats with brain transplants?