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Are mice afraid of cats? We’ve all watched the cartoon, Tom and Jerry, and always thought mice were afraid of cats. But why? How do mice know to be scared when they encounter a cat? As it turns out, cats scientifically trigger a fearful reaction in mice.
Why are Mice Afraid of Cats?
It has been long known fact that mice run away or avoid cats. But why? How do mice know to avoid cats instinctively? Scientists have discovered that mice have two different ways to pick up scents: their nose, and a specialized organ inside their nose called the vomeronasal organ (VNO). The VNO, researchers have discovered, detects specific scents found in proteins in cat saliva as well as rat urine. This protein is called Mups, and it triggers a fear response in a mouse’s brain.
The Science Behind the Fear
In a study, researchers dropped cotton balls laced with cat saliva and rat urine into the cages of both normal and mutant mice with that had their VNOs deactivated. The normal mice were fearful of the cotton balls and cowered away from them. However, the mice with inactive VNOs weren’t even afraid, so much so that when an anesthetized rat was placed in their cage, some of the mutant mice curled up next to the rat for a nap.
Most homeowners who have experienced a mouse infestation do not own cats. This study affirms our suspicions that those who own cats are less likely to encounter a mouse infestation in their home. Similarly when we encounter a rat infestation, it is less likely that mice are cohabiting in the same dwelling. If you think you have a mouse or rat infestation contact Environmental Pest Control today!
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