A Neuroethological Study of Sexual and Predatory Aggression in the Domestic Cat

  • R. W. Hunsperger
Part of the NATO Advanced Science Institutes Series book series (NSSA, volume 56)


The neck grip displayed during male sexual mounting behavior and the neck bite shown in prey-killing by the cat are, according to ethologists, phylogenetically related (Leyhausen, 1979). Both aggressive displays are aimed at the neck of the object. In the case of mounting, however, the bite is inhibited. Such a unitary concept would call for a common neuronal substratum both for neck grip and bite. To this might be objected that the drives underlying these two types of behavior are different and, hence, that the brain areas organizing these patterns differ as well. Thus, bilateral ablation of the amygdala and adjacent piriform cortex produces a state of “hypersexuality” (Schreiner and Kling, 1953; Green et al., 1957) and extinguishes mouse-killing (Schreiner and Kling, 1953; Summers and Kaelber, 1962) an effect also obtained with more restricted bilateral lesions in the ventro-medial amygdala (Zagrodzka and Fonberg, 1977). On the contrary, bilateral lesions within the medial preoptic area and anterior hypothalamus extinguish male mounting behavior (Hart et al., 1973), an effect also observed in the dog (Hart, 1974) and in the rat (Heimer and Larsson, 1967). These results point to the fact that the neck grip during male sexual mounting behavior and the neck bite shown in prey-killing are organized by different brain structures and that they are different in nature. A study was therefore undertaken in the freely-moving animal by systematically comparing the effect of bilateral brain lesions of the amygdala and piriform cortex, or of the medial preoptic area, on both the male mounting behavior and prey-killing. In order to demonstrate the non-injuring nature of the neck grip displayed during mounting, ablation of forebrain structures was also combined with electrical stimulation in the threat zone of the hypothalamus (Brown et al., 1969). The question, here, was whether the release of sexual aggression would transform a threatening attack pattern into an injuring one.


Preoptic Area Sexual Aggression Bilateral Lesion Piriform Cortex Medial Preoptic Area 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. W. Hunsperger
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhysiologyUniversity of ZürichZürichSwitzerland

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