Say it, er, don’t spray it …

The average person seldom gets an opportunity to take part in far-reaching scientific research. For most of us, participation in any kind of scientific research is limited to an autopsy long after we’re past caring about it.

(“Hey, doc, willya lookit the liver on this guy. He musta been on the varsity martini team …”)

Even less likely is a chance for the average person and his cat to participate in significant scientific research and, perhaps, make the world a better-smelling place to boot.

But don’t despair, because opportunity’s just around the corner.

The University of California, Davis, Feline Urine Marking Study is under way and it needs your help – and your cat’s.

Yes, the same bucolic Northern California university that brought you bulletproof tomatoes and easy-access bovine innards is looking for a way to keep your precocious kitty from marking territory by spraying kitty byproduct throughout your household.

According to a recent report from UC Davis, the university’s School of Veterinary Medicine has undertaken a clinical trial “to determine the effectiveness of a liquid medication for the treatment of urine marking in cats.”

The medication has been tested for safety in cats, UC Davis reports, and spray-happy felines who are signed up for the program get a free physical exam, blood and urine tests.

(Participating pet owners, it should be noted, needn’t undergo any of the aforementioned tests …)

This research may not seem like a big deal to most folks, but to anyone who’s ever endured the machinations of a spraying cat, it could be a godsend. Ask anyone who’s had to put up with a pathologically leaky cat and you’ll hear tales of reeking rugs, soggy sofas, putrid pillows and dank draperies.

One co-worker recently complained about how her industrious feline went so far as to liberally spray her back while she was quietly reclining in a lawn chair. Now that’s territorial.

Tired of putting up with a four-legged cropduster?

To participate in UC Davis’ clinical trial, your cat needs to be healthy, between 1 and 12 years of age and free of medication for urine spraying.

You should have no more than four cats in your household, only one of which is a convicted sprayer, engaging in the practice longer than one month and at least three times per week indoors.

There is one small catch for those of you looking for an easy fix. Although your cat will receive free treatment and advice, the research is described as “a double-blind, placebo-controlled study,” meaning some feline participants won’t actually be receiving real medication. Which means those cats will probably continue making their owners’ lives significantly soggy.

And remember, this study is for house cats only. If you’ve got a pet ocelot, Siberian tiger or mountain lion with a spraying problem, UC Davis probably can’t help you.

Instead, consider giving the big cat a sound swat across the nose with a rolled-up newspaper. That should solve the problem for at least one of you …

Originally published April 21, 2002