Why Do Bearcats Smell Like Popcorn? It's All In The Science — And Their Urine

If there's one thing pretty much everyone on the Internet can agree on, it's that nothing is better than a video of a cute animal. Seriously: We collectively love viral videos of cats, puppies, and all variations of baby farm animals. But the latest one taking the online world by storm is something of a puzzle: Why do bearcats smell like popcorn? You heard me — there's an adorable wild animal that literally smells like popcorn. But why do they have that unique scent? What even is a bearcat, for that matter? Well, good news: Science has all the explanations we need.

Bearcats, also known as binturong, are native to South and Southeast Asia and live primarily in heavily wooded forests. Interestingly, their colloquial name is a little deceiving: They are not actually bears or cats. They're part of the viverrid family. Sadly, the bearcat population has declined more than 30 percent over the last few decades. In terms of appearance, these guys are unquestionably adorable; they have long, thick black fur, short, pointed muzzles, big eyes, and clawed feet. Notably, female bearcats are, on average, 20 percent larger in size than male bearcats.

And then there's that whole thing where they smell like popcorn. What gives? Unfortunately, it's not because they're magical and the stuff of children's dreams. There's a scientific reason bearcats smell like popcorn, and admittedly, it's a little gross. Basically, bearcats smell like popcorn because they run around drenched in their own urine.

Like many solitary animals, bearcats let their presence be known and mark their territory by urinating. Unlike, for example, a cat or dog, bearcats squat when they urinate, which inevitably soaks their little feet and bushy tails. The scent of urine clings to the ground, as well as to their bodies, and the urine is responsible for the smell.

Not all urine smells like popcorn, though, so what's the deal with bearcat urine in particular? Well, according to a recent study, it all comes down to chemistry. Essentially, urine is made up of many chemical compounds that combine, in part, to create the way urine smells. While conducting research, scientists discovered a common compound in nearly all of the bearcat urine samples they gathered. The chemical was 2-acetyl-1-pyrroline, or 2-AP — which is, interestingly, the same chemical found in popcorn that gives it its delightfully popcorn-y scent.

Most of us are unlikely to run into a bearcat, unless it's at a zoo, but people who work with bearcats swear you can smell the popcorn scent pungently, and on a regular basis. Personally, I think bearcats are nothing short of precious, so I'm happy to see as many viral videos of these little guys as I can find. It's cool, too, when science gets brought into the viral video world; while the chemical make-up of urine isn't necessarily the most important thing you'll learn today, it never hurts to have more information in your arsenal.

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