The development of predation in cats
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This study is concerned with some of the processes that occur during the development of behaviour, and these are examined in the context how predatory behaviour develops in domestic cats, initially some of the problems that have beleaguered the study of behavioural development are examined and current issues in this field ae outlined. The experimental design of the study, the definitions of recorded behaviour and the methods of data analysis are then discussed. The study then focusses on the multiple effects that experiences in development can have on adult behaviour. It shows that cats were better able to catch prey as adults if they had had experiences of it as kittens, that cats specialized on the type of prey with which they had had prior experiences, and that little generalization to other prey types occurred in cats with experience of one prey type. Several other factors likely to affect adult predatory behaviour were than examined. Both the presence of the mother during kittens' exposure to prey, and experience of prey as adults were found to improve adult predatory competence. Object play had no effect on predatory behaviour. The study went on to relate the development of social play in kittens to the development of predatory behaviour. Some aspects of play became more associated with predatory behaviour aspects grew older, others less so. Different patterns of play appeared to increasingly come under separate types of control as kittens developed. One of the factors affecting the development of predatory behaviour, the effect of the mother, was then examined in detail. Some of the ways in which mothers encouraged their offspring to interact with prey were outlined together with the ways that offspring responded to the mother's predatory behaviour. Finally, the relationship between predatory behaviour in kittens and their subsequent predatory behaviour as adults was investigated. Many aspects of kitten predation were found to correlate with adult predatory activity. Some individuals that were poor predators as kittens showed competent predatory behaviour as adults. The implications of those findings were discussed in relation to the development of predatory behaviour, the development of play and the timing of events in kitten ontogeny.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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