Sniffer dogs are having to step aside for their feline counterparts at a Papua New Guinea airport and, if trials are successful, we could soon be seeing sniffer cats – rather than sniffer dogs – at airports all over the world, blogs Paul Johnson.
It has long been known that cats have in the region of 200 million smell receptors (compared to just 5 million in humans) – more than most breeds of dog. But recent research at the Feline Olfactory Observation Laboratory in Port Moresby has also identified that a cat’s sense of smell can be up to four times more acute than that of a dog, thus making them more suited to unveiling contraband goods. Understandably, dogs are not impressed at this turn of events.
But it is exactly for this reason that from today sniffer cats will be given a trial at Papua New Guinea’s April River Airport (IATA code: APR). Until now, the problem has always been how to train a cat – a domestic animal renowned for ‘having a mind of its own’ – to do precisely what you want, but with advances in training, this has largely been overcome and now cats mean business.
Commenting on this turn of events, Dr. Kitty Stroker, an expert in feline behaviour from the University of Papua New Guinea, said “Cats are notoriously independent but, with careful coaxing, they can be trained effectively. Unlike dogs, they do not respond well to praise, but can be motivated by the right kinds of treats and respond well to the use of training clickers that re-enforce good behaviour.”
Meanwhile dogs are not too happy and will no doubt feel threatened should the trial prove to be a success. Which would you rather entrust with the task of sniffing out illegal goods at airport security, a dog or a cat?