A new research shows that mice that are exposed to cat urine are more likely to be caught by their predators. Researchers say that those mice that are exposed early in their life to cat urine tend not to avoid the odor and that is why they are more threatened.
The study was presented in Prague, at the annual meeting of the Society for Experimental Biology by scientists from the AN Severtov Institute of Ecology and Evolution in Moscow. One of the researchers, Vera Voznessenskaya, explained that if mice that have less than 2 weeks are fed milk and at the same time are exposed to cat urine they will experience positive reinforcement. That is why later on they will be in danger.
Cat urine contains L-Feline, a chemical compound to which mice have grown to react to. When the rodents smell it their bodies produce corticosterone, a stress hormone and get away from the cat. Researchers said that exposure to a strong smell of L-Feline compound can even prevent female mice from reproducing or have smaller litters than normal. This is not the case only with mice. Many prey species are not able to reproduce or they hold back when giving birth if they sense that their predator is nearby.
For the experiment the researchers exposed mice that were one month old to the L-Feline chemical for a period of two weeks. Afterwards they were tested for their reaction and researchers observed that they were less likely to flee from the scent of cat odor.
In fact the mice were more sensitive to the chemical than normal mice. The compound was detected by more of the mice’s receptors and they even released higher levels of stress hormone. But in spite of this they were however less likely to show signs of fear or to run away when they smelled cat urine.
“Early exposure to cat odor changes behavioral reactions to, but not physiological (hormonal) responses in the mice, which remain elevated. In fact, mice that had experienced the odor showed stress response (elevated corticosterone) to cat odors the same way as controls.”
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