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Japanese soap firm makes April Fool's joke reality with cat-seducing fabric softener

The "FUNS Luxury No. 22 Matatabi Softener," which Daiichi Sekken Co. developed based on an April Fool's joke, is seen in Itakura, Gunma Prefecture, on April 5, 2022. (Mainichi/Tetsuya Shoji)

ITAKURA, Gunma -- Soap maker Daiichi Sekken Co. has developed a fabric softener containing natural silvervine extract that it says is irresistible to our feline friends -- a year after the firm posted a similar joke product on social media as an April Fool's prank.

    "FUNS Luxury No. 22 Matatabi Softener" is unfortunately not for sale. After the Itakura, Gunma Prefecture-based firm set up an official Twitter account, the employee in charge -- and who loved cats -- had the idea for a fabric conditioner that could make its users popular with felines.

    On April 1, 2021, the company tweeted, "We are going to sell silvervine fragrance for cats to enjoy," "It's a magical fabric softener that makes felines want to naturally snuggle with you," and, "The ultimate weapon for when they don't want to be held," along with an admission that the whole thing was a gag.

    The company began to work to actually develop the product after discovering results of Japanese university research on silvervine. The study found that silvervine contains a chemical -- nepetalactol -- that keeps mosquitoes away, and that cats roll in it and rub up against it to keep the bloodsuckers at bay. It is non-toxic for felines.

    The April Fool's joke was a hit inside the soap firm, and product development staff began using any downtime they had to create the cat-attracting fabric softener. To keep the product cat-oriented, natural silvervine extract was used without any artificial fragrances. Only a small amount of extract is contained in the fabric softener, so it does not overstimulate any felines in the area.

    The product's label has a picture of a cat and silvervine along with the phrase "We're inseparable now," and, "It's a special softener just for you." To show that the product was real, the company tweeted, "We actually made it!" The post was sent on March 31, to avoid any confusion.

    Many people who saw the post said they wanted the silvervine fabric softener, but a company official told the Mainichi Shimbun that though commercialization "is in the back of our head, there are many issues that need to be cleared up, such as how to optimize the amount of silvervine (extract)."

    (Japanese original by Tetsuya Shoji, Maebashi Bureau)

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