Individual differences in visual and olfactory cue preference and use by cats (Felis catus)

Mayes, Evely.-Rose E., Wilkinson, Anna, Pike, Thomas W. and Mills, Daniel S. (2015) Individual differences in visual and olfactory cue preference and use by cats (Felis catus). Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 173 . pp. 52-59. ISSN 0168-1591

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Item Type:Article
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Eight cats were trained in a T-maze using a two-alternative forced choice procedure.

Cats could use either an olfactory or visual cue to locate a food reward.

Cues were then put in conflict to determine which was preferred for the task.

Most cats used the visual cue to learn the location of the food.

Preferences were stable, repeatable and rapidly learned.



Animals are constantly presented with stimuli through different sensory challenges, which may sometimes contain contradictory information and so they must decide which is more salient in a given situation. Both vision and olfaction are extensively utilised by the domestic cat (Felis catus) in a variety of biological contexts, but which modality tends to take priority when the two channels contain information of similar potential value is unknown, as is the tendency for different individuals to use different cues in relation to the same situation. Such individual difference may have important clinical implications as it may help to explain why animals living within the same house may respond differently to the same environment. For example a change in the olfactory features of the environment may be stressful to an individual who has a bias towards using this sensory modality, but have no significant impact on individuals who rely more on visual cues for orientation. Eight cats were trained in a T-maze using a two-alternative forced choice procedure. The positive and negative stimuli presented both visual and olfactory information. Thus, there were two cues that the cats could use in order to make the discrimination. After reaching criterion for their training stimuli the six successful cats were presented with a feature mismatch test in which the positive visual stimuli were combined with the negative olfactory stimuli and vice versa. This investigated which cues were of greater salience to them. Four out of six cats showed a significant preference (P = 0.022- 0.006) for the visual cue, but one individual showed a consistent preference for using the olfactory cue (P = 0.019). To investigate whether the cats using visual cues had learned anything about the olfactory stimulus, four were given an additional test in which they were presented with the olfactory stimulus alone. Three out of four cats successfully made this discrimination, (P = 0.006-0.003, unsuccessful cat P = 0.076). This demonstrated that the cats had the potential to use olfactory cues in the absence of visual ones. These results highlight the importance of considering sensory preferences as an individual trait, which may vary substantially from population level effects.

Keywords:Cat, Intermodal discrimination, Learning, Multisensory, Olfaction, Vision, JCNotOpen
Subjects:D Veterinary Sciences, Agriculture and related subjects > D300 Animal Science
Divisions:College of Science > School of Life Sciences
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ID Code:16535
Deposited On:27 Jan 2015 16:16

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