Research Proves That Early Exposure To Cat Urine Makes Mice Less Likely To Escape From Cats
Apparently, there is one way to prevent mice from backing down in the face of a dangerous cat. According to new research presented at this year's Society for Experimental Biology meeting in Prague, if a baby mouse is exposed to the L-Felinine compound found in cat urine, they are less likely to run from cats when they're older.
Dr. Vera Voznessenskaya of the A.N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution in Moscow discovered that the same chemical that triggers an increase in stress hormones is responsible for this odd mouse behavior.
During their study, the team exposed mice to L-Felinine when they were babies, and then again when they were adults. Because the baby mice were being fed milk in the initial stage, "they experience positive reinforcement," when they smell the scent again, Dr. Voznessenskaya stated in the press release.
The mice's brains did produce the same stress hormones in response to the odor as the control group—they just didn't act on it.
"Because the young mice (less than 2 weeks-old) are being fed milk while being exposed to the odour, they experience positive reinforcement," says Dr Vera Voznessenskaya, one of the lead researchers behind this study. "So they don't escape the cats when exposed to cat odour later on."
Dr. Voznessenskaya thinks that the rodents’ ability to function around cats—in this case, house cats—ensures that they have easier access to food, as both animals rely on humans for nutrition.
A mouse that can't occupy the same space as a cat is left to its own devices to find sustenance, and may be less successful. But just because the mouse has adapted doesn't mean the cat has too. As fancy as today's gourmet cat foods are, few cats can pass up a good mouse for dinner.
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