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Concept: Cat


The Ainsworth Strange Situation Test (SST) has been widely used to demonstrate that the bond between both children and dogs to their primary carer typically meets the requirements of a secure attachment (i.e. the carer being perceived as a focus of safety and security in otherwise threatening environments), and has been adapted for cats with a similar claim made. However methodological problems in this latter research make the claim that the cat-owner bond is typically a secure attachment, operationally definable by its behaviour in the SST, questionable. We therefore developed an adapted version of the SST with the necessary methodological controls which include a full counterbalance of the procedure. A cross-over design experiment with 20 cat-owner pairs (10 each undertaking one of the two versions of the SST first) and continuous focal sampling was used to record the duration of a range of behavioural states expressed by the cats that might be useful for assessing secure attachment. Since data were not normally distributed, non-parametric analyses were used on those behaviours shown to be reliable across the two versions of the test (which excluded much cat behaviour). Although cats vocalised more when the owner rather the stranger left the cat with the other individual, there was no other evidence consistent with the interpretation of the bond between a cat and its owner meeting the requirements of a secure attachment. These results are consistent with the view that adult cats are typically quite autonomous, even in their social relationships, and not necessarily dependent on others to provide a sense of security and safety. It is concluded that alternative methods need to be developed to characterise the normal psychological features of the cat-owner bond.

Concepts: Psychology, Behavior, Cat, Felidae, Felis, Cat communication


Studies of biological shape evolution are greatly enhanced when framed in a phylogenetic perspective. Inclusion of fossils amplifies the scope of macroevolutionary research, offers a deep-time perspective on tempo and mode of radiations, and elucidates life-trait changes. We explore the evolution of skull shape in felids (cats) through morphometric analyses of linear variables, phylogenetic comparative methods, and a new cladistic study of saber-toothed cats.

Concepts: Evolution, Species, Ecology, Skull, Phylogenetics, Cat, Phylogenetic comparative methods, Paleontology


Data mining approaches have been increasingly applied to the electronic health record and have led to the discovery of numerous clinical associations. Recent data mining studies have suggested a potential association between cat bites and human depression. To explore this possible association in more detail we first used administrative diagnosis codes to identify patients with either depression or bites, drawn from a population of 1.3 million patients. We then conducted a manual chart review in the electronic health record of all patients with a code for a bite to accurately determine which were from cats or dogs. Overall there were 750 patients with cat bites, 1,108 with dog bites, and approximately 117,000 patients with depression. Depression was found in 41.3% of patients with cat bites and 28.7% of those with dog bites. Furthermore, 85.5% of those with both cat bites and depression were women, compared to 64.5% of those with dog bites and depression. The probability of a woman being diagnosed with depression at some point in her life if she presented to our health system with a cat bite was 47.0%, compared to 24.2% of men presenting with a similar bite. The high proportion of depression in patients who had cat bites, especially among women, suggests that screening for depression could be appropriate in patients who present to a clinical provider with a cat bite. Additionally, while no causative link is known to explain this association, there is growing evidence to suggest that the relationship between cats and human mental illness, such as depression, warrants further investigation.

Concepts: Predation, Illness, Woman, Cat, Electronic health record, Theobromine poisoning, Neutering, Cosmopolitan species


It is widely accepted that behavioural changes induced by Toxoplasma gondii are an adaptation of the parasite to enhance transmission to its cat definitive host. In our opinion, this explanation requires a rethink. We argue that the experimental evidence that observed behavioural changes will enhance transmission to cats is not convincing. We also argue that cats and sexual reproduction may not be essential for transmission and maintenance of this parasite. Thus, the selection pressure to infect a cat may not be sufficiently strong for the evolution of adaptive host manipulation to have occurred in order to enhance predation by cats.

Concepts: Immune system, Natural selection, Critical thinking, Predation, Rat, Cat, Toxoplasmosis, Toxoplasma gondii


Domestic cats have a unique breeding history and can be used as models for human hereditary and infectious diseases. In the current era of genome-wide association studies, insights regarding linkage disequilibrium (LD) are essential for efficient association studies. The objective of this study is to investigate the extent of LD in the domestic cat, Felis silvestris catus, particularly within its breeds. A custom illumina GoldenGate Assay consisting of 1536 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) equally divided over ten 1 Mb chromosomal regions was developed, and genotyped across 18 globally recognized cat breeds and two distinct random bred populations. The pair-wise LD descriptive measure (r(2)) was calculated between the SNPs in each region and within each population independently. LD decay was estimated by determining the non-linear least-squares of all pair-wise estimates as a function of distance using established models. The point of 50% decay of r(2) was used to compare the extent of LD between breeds. The longest extent of LD was observed in the Burmese breed, where the distance at which r(2) ≈ 0.25 was ∼380 kb, comparable to several horse and dog breeds. The shortest extent of LD was found in the Siberian breed, with an r(2) ≈ 0.25 at approximately 17 kb, comparable to random bred cats and human populations. A comprehensive haplotype analysis was also conducted. The haplotype structure of each region within each breed mirrored the LD estimates. The LD of cat breeds largely reflects the breeds' population history and breeding strategies. Understanding LD in diverse populations will contribute to an efficient use of the newly developed SNP array for the cat in the design of genome-wide association studies, as well as to the interpretation of results for the fine mapping of disease and phenotypic traits.

Concepts: SNP array, Cat, Breed, Felidae, Purebred, Felis, Cats, Cat breed


We study the dynamics of a predator-prey system where predators fight for captured prey besides searching for and handling (and digestion) of the prey. Fighting for prey is modelled by a continuous time hawk-dove game dynamics where the gain depends on the amount of disputed prey while the costs for fighting is constant per fighting event. The strategy of the predator-population is quantified by a trait being the proportion of the number of predator-individuals playing hawk tactics. The dynamics of the trait is described by two models of adaptation: the replicator dynamics (RD) and the adaptive dynamics (AD). In the RD-approach a variant individual with an adapted trait value changes the population’s strategy, and consequently its trait value, only when its payoff is larger than the population average. In the AD-approach successful replacement of the resident population after invasion of a rare variant population with an adapted trait value is a step in a sequence changing the population’s strategy, and hence its trait value. The main aim is to compare the consequences of the two adaptation models. In an equilibrium predator-prey system this will lead to convergence to a neutral singular strategy, while in the oscillatory system to a continuous singular strategy where in this endpoint the resident population is not invasible by any variant population. In equilibrium (low prey carrying capacity) RD and AD-approach give the same results, however not always in a periodically oscillating system (high prey carrying-capacity) where the trait is density-dependent. For low costs the predator population is monomorphic (only hawks) while for high costs dimorphic (hawks and doves). These results illustrate that intra-specific trait dynamics matters in predator-prey dynamics.

Concepts: Game theory, Population, Predation, Ecology, Lotka–Volterra equation, Cat, Hunting, Carrying capacity


The highly distinctive and mostly endemic Australian land mammal fauna has suffered an extraordinary rate of extinction (>10% of the 273 endemic terrestrial species) over the last ∼200 y: in comparison, only one native land mammal from continental North America became extinct since European settlement. A further 21% of Australian endemic land mammal species are now assessed to be threatened, indicating that the rate of loss (of one to two extinctions per decade) is likely to continue. Australia’s marine mammals have fared better overall, but status assessment for them is seriously impeded by lack of information. Much of the loss of Australian land mammal fauna (particularly in the vast deserts and tropical savannas) has been in areas that are remote from human population centers and recognized as relatively unmodified at global scale. In contrast to general patterns of extinction on other continents where the main cause is habitat loss, hunting, and impacts of human development, particularly in areas of high and increasing human population pressures, the loss of Australian land mammals is most likely due primarily to predation by introduced species, particularly the feral cat, Felis catus, and European red fox, Vulpes vulpes, and changed fire regimes.

Concepts: Human, Animal, Mammal, Europe, Cat, Extinction, Dinosaur, Red Fox


Predation plays a central role in the lives of most organisms. Predators must find and subdue prey to survive and reproduce, whereas prey must avoid predators to do the same. The resultant antagonistic coevolution often leads to extreme adaptations in both parties. Few examples capture the imagination like a rapid strike from a venomous snake. However, almost nothing is known about strike performance of viperid snakes under natural conditions. We obtained high-speed (500 fps) three-dimensional video in the field (at night using infrared lights) of Mohave rattlesnakes (Crotalus scutulatus) attempting to capture Merriam’s kangaroo rats (Dipodomys merriami). Strikes occurred from a range of distances (4.6 to 20.6 cm), and rattlesnake performance was highly variable. Missed capture attempts resulted from both rapid escape maneuvers and poor strike accuracy. Maximum velocity and acceleration of some rattlesnake strikes fell within the range of reported laboratory values, but some far exceeded most observations. Thus, quantifying rapid predator-prey interactions in the wild will propel our understanding of animal performance.

Concepts: Predation, Lotka–Volterra equation, Velocity, Cat, Rattlesnake, Crotalinae, Snake, Crotalus


The ancestor of all modern domestic cats is the wildcat, Felis silvestris lybica, with archaeological evidence indicating it was domesticated as early as 10,000 years ago in South-West Asia. A recent study, however, claims that cat domestication also occurred in China some 5,000 years ago and involved the same wildcat ancestor (F. silvestris). The application of geometric morphometric analyses to ancient small felid bones from China dating between 5,500 to 4,900 BP, instead reveal these and other remains to be that of the leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis). These data clearly indicate that the origins of a human-cat ‘domestic’ relationship in Neolithic China began independently from South-West Asia and involved a different wild felid species altogether. The leopard cat’s ‘domestic’ status, however, appears to have been short-lived-its apparent subsequent replacement shown by the fact that today all domestic cats in China are genetically related to F. silvestris.

Concepts: Cat, Felidae, Domestication, Felis, Mammals of Asia, Felines, Prionailurus, Leopard Cat


Anthropogenic threats, such as collisions with man-made structures, vehicles, poisoning and predation by domestic pets, combine to kill billions of wildlife annually. Free-ranging domestic cats have been introduced globally and have contributed to multiple wildlife extinctions on islands. The magnitude of mortality they cause in mainland areas remains speculative, with large-scale estimates based on non-systematic analyses and little consideration of scientific data. Here we conduct a systematic review and quantitatively estimate mortality caused by cats in the United States. We estimate that free-ranging domestic cats kill 1.4-3.7 billion birds and 6.9-20.7 billion mammals annually. Un-owned cats, as opposed to owned pets, cause the majority of this mortality. Our findings suggest that free-ranging cats cause substantially greater wildlife mortality than previously thought and are likely the single greatest source of anthropogenic mortality for US birds and mammals. Scientifically sound conservation and policy intervention is needed to reduce this impact.

Concepts: Scientific method, Conservation biology, Predation, United States, Poverty in the United States, Mammal, Cat, Dinosaur