Development of defensive behavior and conditioning to cat odor in the rat

D. T. Hubbard, D. C. Blanchard, M. Yang, C. M. Markham, A. Gervacio, L. Chun-I, R. J. Blanchard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


Laboratory rats show a range of defensive behaviors, including freezing, avoidance, and risk assessment upon exposure to cat odor, an unconditioned but highly effective threat stimulus. This study examined defensive behaviors, and the rapid conditioning to context plus cue, of these behaviors, in 18-, 26-, and 38-day-old male and female rats exposed to cat odor. Rats were placed individually in a runway with a cloth covered (control or saturated with cat fur/skin odor) block for a 10-min trial. On the following day, a similar trial involved an odorless block. On the odor exposure day, rats of all ages showed less contact with the odor block than with the control block. The 26- and 38-day-old rats, but not the 18-day-old rats, also showed locomotor suppression, more avoidance of the area where the odor block was located, and more risk assessment than no-odor controls. On a test of conditioned behavior 24 h following exposure, 26- and 38-day-old rats exhibited defensive behavior including avoidance and reduction of locomotion while 18-day-old pups did not.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)525-530
Number of pages6
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Anxiety
  • Cat odor
  • Conditioning
  • Crouch
  • Defense
  • Defensive behavior
  • Development
  • Fear
  • Freeze
  • Predator
  • Rat
  • Risk assessment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Physiology (medical)


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