|MadSci Network: Zoology|
My best guess is that fear of cats in mice is, like most behaviors, a combination of learned and inborn behaviors (instincts.) I couldn't find any studies specifically about cats and mice, but I did locate a recent study (July 2001) by Pongracz, et al. in the journal Developmental Psychology, vol. 39, issue 1, pp. 53-62. The researchers there found that rabbits who were exposed to cats as pups did not show fear of cats at weaning; rabbits who had not been exposed to cats did show fear. So, there does seem to be some "instinctive" fear of the cat, but that can be overcome by experience, especially if the experience happens when the animal is young. How old was the mouse in your study? A study by Z.Y. Kuo in the 1930's also looked at cat-rat interactions. He raised some kittens who observed their mother killing rats and others who were raised without ever seeing their mother kill a rat. When given a chance to hunt rats as adults, 86% of the ones who had seen their mother kill a rat, killed rats, whereas only 45% of the kittens who had not observed rat-hunting killed rats. So again, the tendency of cats to kill rats seems to have both instinctive and learned elements. This study is found in the Journal of Comparative Psychology, vol. 11. pp. 1-36. Keep in mind, too, that your mouse probably showed a much weaker reaction to the cat hair than it would have to an actual live cat. I hope this helps you and your daughter in your research. Louise Freeman Mary Baldwin College
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