Chronic Exposure of Cat Odor Enhances Aggression, Urinary Attractiveness and Sex Pheromones of Mice

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Biological Sciences

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To test whether predator odor exposure negatively affects the behavior of prey, we exposed three groups of male house mice (Mus musculus) to the odors of cat (Felis catus) urine, rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) urine and water (control), respectively, for consecutive 58 days and investigated how the treatments affected the response, aggressiveness, dominance, urinary attractiveness to females and pheromone composition of male mice. Compared to mice exposed to rabbit urine or water, those exposed to cat odor did not show any response habituation to the cat odor and became more aggressive, increased mark urine production and were more attractive to females when the latter were tested with their urine. Furthermore, gas chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry analysis revealed coincident elevations of the well-known male pheromones, E,E-α-farnesene, E-β-farnesene, R,R-dehydro-exo-brevicomin or S-2-sec-butyl-dihydrothiazole. In addition, rabbit urine exposure increased urinary attractiveness to females and pheromonal levels of the males in comparison with the mice exposed to water. This could be related to olfactory enrichment of heterospecific chemosignals, suggesting that predator odors were more beneficial. In light of these anti-intuitional findings in the chemical interaction between cats and mice, we conclude that predator odor affects prey more profoundly than previously believed and that its impact may not always be negative.


This article was originally published in Journal of Ethology. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

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Journal of Ethology


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