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Predatory Behaviour in Domestic Cat Mothers

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This study documents quantitatively the change in predatory behaviour of domestic cat mothers as their kittens develop. Predatory behaviour in mother cats was found to decline as that of their offspring increased. Before kittens were 8 weeks old, mothers were more likely to interact with prey if their kittens had not been on the prey for a time; they led in interactions with prey. Kittens were found to show increased rates of predatory behaviour patterns in the presence of their mother. This paper then goes on to examine some of the mechanisms by which mothers are able to bring about such an improvement in their kittens' predatory behaviour. It was found that kittens interacted more frequently and for longer with prey following the mother's bouts. Kittens were more likely to quickly follow another cat on the prey than wait more than 10 seconds. However when siblings only were considered, they were less likely to follow a sibling in less than 10 seconds of it having been on the prey. After the eighth week, kittens attended to prey by themselves more often than would be expected by chance, whereas in the early weeks of exposure to prey, they were more likely to attend to prey while their siblings or their mother was watching prey.

Affiliations: 1: (Psychology Department, University of St. Andrews, Fife, Scotland

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