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Re: Phorusrhacids killing large mammals in National Geographic Channel



On Tue, Aug 11th, 2009 at 3:56 AM, Erik Boehm <erikboehm07@yahoo.com> wrote:

> I have to disagree. Cats that have never been outside the house will show 
> intense interest in
> birds they see, and will attempt to capture them. They often don't seem to 
> know quite what to do
> after that though. But they still end up killing and often eating the birds. 
> After all they will
> chase laser dots, stuff hanging from strings,etc.
> If it is small and moving, they will try to sneak up on it and pounce or give 
> chase. 

It seems that most mammalian predators utilise a combination of instinctual and 
learned behaviour. 
Usually the latter serves to refine the former. Whereas many ectotherms are 
able to take care of 
themselves from birth, mammals tend to have en extended period of 'education' 
before reaching full 
independence.

Cats certainly have predatory instincts, which trigger them into action 
whenever they see something 
small moving quickly or erratically. However any individual animal has to learn 
to associate certain 
things (such as birds or mice) with food, otherwise they'll simple play with 
them.

My own cat will chase moving inanimate objects purely as a form of play. It 
seems that he strikes out 
at them with a paw without even realising that he's doing it, suggesting that 
it's an instinctual response 
rather than a deliberate decision. He never initiates play with anything that's 
not already moving.

He has also never associated birds or rodents with either play or food. In 
fact, he's so used to the local 
birds (especially the spotted turtle doves) that he completely ignores them. 
They even share his food 
with him - if they're in a confidently large enough group they'll practically 
shoulder him aside to get 
their share. 

My cat was the only one in his litter, so never had the benefit of play with 
other kittens. It may be that 
he's simple never associated living things with play at all. Play behaviour in 
young predatory mammals 
is usually a way of honing stalking and attack techniques. Certainly he never 
saw an adult cat hunt 
when he was young and impressionable. As far as he's concerned, food appears 
when he meows at the 
front door.

-- 
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Dann Pigdon
GIS / Archaeologist                Australian Dinosaurs
Melbourne, Australia               http://home.alphalink.com.au/~dannj
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