Imitation of mother’s inappropriate food preference in weanling kittens


Experiments were performed on four mother cats and their 22 kittens from 7 litters. Each mother was trained to eat banana or mashed potato in the presence of meat pellets in order to get a hypothalamic stimulation reward. Eighteen of twenty-two weanling kittens which accompanied the mother during the session imitated the mother in eating banana or potato and ignored meat pellets. The imitation of the mother started not earlier than at 35 days of age and in most kittens (10 of 18) began between 49 and 56 days of age. The kittens which ate banana or potato with the mother also ate that food when tested alone after weaning at 9 to 27 weeks of age, either during 10 min sessions in the experimental compartment or during 24 hr tests in the home compartment. When banana was offered to 9 control 13–23 week old kittens (of three other mothers) who never before had eaten that food or had seen their mother eat it, 8 of them did not consume banana during three 24 hr tests. Some consumption, however, occurred in the ninth kitten during the third of these tests. It has been concluded that weanling kittens in the period of transition from maternal to independent feeding tend to imitate the mother in food preferences, even if the food chosen by the mother is unusual for their species. The food preferences acquired through the imitation of the mother may influence the food preferences at the later stages of life.

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Correspondence to Wanda Wyrwicka.

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The author, Wanda Wyrwicka, received the Pavlovian Award in 1977.

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Wyrwicka, W. Imitation of mother’s inappropriate food preference in weanling kittens. Pav. J. Biol. Sci. 13, 55–72 (1978).

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  • Food Preference
  • Mash Potato
  • Control Kitten
  • Banana Slice
  • Experimental Compartment