Discerning Foxes wear Puma N°5

Animals exist in a completely different sensory world than humans and scents that humans would find offensive or unattractive are often found to be a draw for our four-legged friends. An article in New Scientist recently revealed research by Carnivore Ecologist Max Allen showing gray foxes in California rubbing themselves in “community scrapes” left by male mountain lions.

Discerning foxes wear Puma N°5. While rubbing oneself in puma scent may not sound appealing to us for the fox it could possibly be the equivalent of Chanel N°5 with the added bonus of providing life saving camouflage. Allen tells New Scientist that he was surprised to find foxes frequenting the sites where camera traps had been set up to monitor and film mountain lions. Footage, taken over four years at 26 different sites “revealed the foxes were rubbing their cheeks on bits of ground that had been freshly marked by the mountain lions, often within hours of a big cat’s visit.”

Why are foxes resorting to rubbing Eau de Mountain Lion on them? Coyotes. Foxes are in direct competition with the much larger coyote and are often killed by them, Allen says this is a way for the foxes to evade detection. “Coyotes are very reliant upon smell when hunting and are much bigger than the foxes. The foxes have a hard time fighting back, so they use this to give themselves a chance to escape.” To a coyote if it smells like a puma it must be a puma.

It was found that no other animals, coyotes or bobcats, exhibited this behavior even though they were documented to have visited the community scrapes, but 85% of the foxes did. Predator avoidance seems the most likely explanation and in order to confirm, Allen and his team are planning to tag some gray foxes to determine if puma scents are in fact helping them survive predation.

Left or Right?

Here is a fun experiment that you can do at home which will determine whether your cat is left or right handed…or pawed. Just like humans cats tend to favor either the right or the left and, the more complex a task the more prevalent the favored paw becomes.

To perform this at home you will need treats, a glass and a willing cat. Maru and his sister Hana demonstrate in their video how to carry out the experiment.

In case you were wondering a genuine, controlled experiment by real scientists was carried out and they found that out of 42 cats studied preference was linked to gender “females had a greater preference for using their right paw; males were more inclined to adopt their left paw.” Some cats were even shown to be ambidextrous, switching from paw to paw, when the task was repeated over a few times. Besides the treat jar test they had the cats reach for a toy suspended overhead as well as moving along the ground.

Do try this at  home I tried this with Spinner, see video below, who used his right paw on all attempts, after he tried to stick his head in the glass. He clearly favors his right not even attempting to lift his left which is not quit in line with the study. However, I am not sure if right pawed male cats are more prevalent outside of the original study group or, that it has something specifically to do with the fact that Spinners has Vestibular Syndrome.

If you try this at home please leave a comment below letting me know the gender of your cat and outcome of the test.