Meadow voles, Microtus pennsylvanicus, can discriminate between scents of individual house cats, Felis catus


Individual discrimination provides animals the opportunity to adjust their exposure and behavior when interacting with other animals, both conspecifics and heterospecifics. Meadow voles, Microtus pennsylvanicus, were exposed to scents of house cats, Felis catus. Our first experiment tested whether meadow voles could discriminate between caudal, interdigital, and facial scents produced by a cat with a habituation–dishabituation paradigm. Upon exposure to the familiar scent and a novel one, meadow voles did not investigate either scent more than the other. Our second experiment tested whether meadow voles discriminate between the facial scents of different cats. When exposed to a familiar scent of one cat and the unfamiliar scent of another cat, the meadow voles did discriminate and investigated the unfamiliar scent more than the familiar scent. The results suggest that meadow voles will discriminate between cats using any scent that the cat may inadvertently leave within the environment, thereby reducing the vole's risk of predation by that individual.

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