An unconfined cat sniffs filter paper to which components of cats’ urine are applied but simply leaves the site without scent-marking in an experiment in Louisiana. (Provided by Iwate University associate professor Masao Miyazaki)

A team of Japanese and U.S. researchers are hot on the scent of a solution for homeowners and others battling the annoyance of cats defecating or urinating on their doorsteps and in sandboxes.

They have found that components of cat urine are useful in driving felines away from where they seek to make their own private litter box.

Masao Miyazaki, an associate professor of chemistry at Iwate University, and his colleagues discovered that felines, unlike dogs, did not relieve themselves where components of other cats’ urine were applied and simply went elsewhere.

The finding could help eliminate problems where sandboxes at parks, entrances to homes and elsewhere are sometimes littered with the animals’ feces and urine.

According to the team, cat repellents that emit odors useful in driving felines away are commercially available. However, existing agents are ineffective after the animals become accustomed to the odors.

The researchers filmed a total of 15 stray and other cats for several months at night between 2009 and 2012 at five locations, including a residential area, in Louisiana and Morioka.

They applied feline urine components, including those responsible for its odor, to sheets of filter paper and put the paper on the observation spots.

The results showed the cats much more frequently sniffed the filter paper. But they did not defecate or urinate and just left the sites.

The scientists said the discovery could help develop new repellents to prevent the animals from defecating or urinating at locations where their doing so could create problems for residents.

“The finding will be helpful in allowing cats and humans to coexist with one another,” Miyazaki said. “But further research is necessary to see if applying urine is effective even when the urine is diluted so much that people are not bothered by the odor.”