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Observations Upon the Sexual Behaviour of the Domestic Cat (Felis Catus L.) Under Laboratory Conditions

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image of Behaviour

Detailed descriptions are given, based upon upwards of one thousand standardized Mating Tests, of the Patterns of Sexual Behaviour shown by the adult female cat. The changes observed in these patterns are described in terms of a Behaviour Cycle. The characteristics of the four distinct stages of this Cycle have been determined by studying the behaviour of thirty animals in response both to the coital activity of the male cat and to artificial sexual stimulation. The conspicuous external signs of the Cycle, together with the highly stereotyped pattern of Mating Behaviour which constitutes a sharp end-point for quantitative study, greatly facilitate the further investigation of sexual behaviour in this form. Nothing resembling oestrous or pro-oestrous behaviour was seen either in immature animals or in spayed adult females. Only behaviourally oestrous animals can be mated, and mating was never observed after removal of the ovaries during four hundred mating tests conducted with thirty animals over a period of fourteen months. It is concluded that the state of Sexual Receptivity in the female cat is strictly dependant upon the presence of ovarian hormone. Correlations are made between the behavioural patterns and the condition of the genital tract as revealed by vaginal smears; a highly significant association exists between the degree of vaginal cornification and the behavioural state at every stage of the oestrous cycle. Oestrous behaviour and mating continue throughout the period of vaginal oestrus. Mating behaviour in association with an anoestrous vaginal epithelium is a very rare occurrence in this form. The full organisation and development of the sexual reflexes in the female feline which result in the adoption of the full oestrous posture when stimulated artificially by vaginal probing is not necessarily associated with a state of sexual receptivity. It follows that the only certain criterion of Receptivity is a positive mating test conducted with an active male. Reasons have been given for putting forward the view that a central mechanism exists, underlying the development of the state of Receptivity, which requires a higher level of ovarian hormone for its activation than that required for the organisation of the segmental, postural reflexes. Attention has been drawn to the territory characteristics of the male as well as to spontaneously occurring distortions of sexual activity. Many of the aberrant patterns of sexual behaviour, which have been described in the literature as developing in brain-damaged animals, have been found to occur in unoperated animals simply as a result of laboratory conditioning and training.

Affiliations: 1: Institute of Psychiatry, Maudsley Hospital, Denmark Hill, S.E. 5. London, England


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