Prenatal and early sucking influences on dietary preference in newborn, weaning, and young adult cats

P.G. Hepper, D.L. Wells, S. Millsopp, K Kraehenbuehl, S.A. Lyn, O. Mauroux

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10 Citations (Scopus)


Early experiences are of potential importance in shaping long-term behavior. This study examined the relative influence of prenatal and/or early postnatal experience of chemosensory stimuli on subsequent olfactory and dietary preferences of cats as newborns, at 9-10 weeks, and at 6 months. Cats were exposed to vanillin or 4-ethylguaiacol via their mother's diet either prenatally, postnatally, perinatally (prenatal and postnatal), or experienced no exposure to the stimuli (control). Newborns were given a two-choice olfactory test between the familiar "odor" and no odor; 9-10 week olds were tested for their preference between two food treats, one flavored with the familiar stimulus and the other unflavored; at 6 months, cats were given a choice of two bowls of food, one flavored with the familiar stimulus and the other unflavored. At all ages, cats preferred the familiar, and avoided the unfamiliar, stimulus. Perinatal exposure exerted the strongest influence on preference. Prenatal exposure influenced preference at all ages and postnatal exposure exerted a stronger effect as the cat aged. We conclude that long-term chemosensory and dietary preferences of cats are influenced by prenatal and early (nursing) postnatal experience, supporting a natural and biologically relevant mechanism for the safe transmission of diet from mother to young. © The Author 2012. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)755-766
Number of pages12
JournalChemical Senses
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2012



  • cat
  • dietary preference
  • long-term preference
  • nursing
  • prenatal learning

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