Cats Prefer Rat’s Brain For Dinner
Photo by cobalt123 (Flickr)
A slightly bizarre title but a true statement albeit slightly modified (!) based on a study of the predation and consuming of rats by house cats in 1980. The study I refer to is: Size-dependent predation of rats by house cat in urban setting by James E Childs of the John Hopkins University, Baltimore,USA.
The study found that the domestic cat, quite understandably, preferred to prey on juvenile rats that weighed under 200 grams. Comment: This is simply because young animals are easier to prey on. In the wild we can see this on TV when we watch a big cat chasing a relatively small animal. The classic is the cheetah chasing a young antelope.
Of the 27 rat carcasses recovered in the study 22 were juvenile animals. "Of the 24 rat carcasses that were obtained without interruption of observed predation.."
- 45.8% were not eaten - this mirrors the findings in another study that demonstrates that the cat kills prey and stores it. This too is common amongst the wild cats. The cougar for example, hides partly eaten prey under leaves.
- 33.3% (8 rats) were partly eaten.
- 20.8% were totally eaten except for the head, skin, tail and feet.
Of the 33.3% of caught rats that were partially eaten the "most commonly consumed tissues...were the brain (6 out of 8 rats or 75%). The second preference was muscles of the neck and back (50%) and lastly the entrails (25%).
The preference for rat's brain seems to be somewhat contradicted by the fact that when the entire rat was eaten the head was left. There is probably an explanation for this but I have only read the abstract, the summary or in this case it is more like an introduction.
In any case I think it is an interesting observation. Clearly brain tissue carries benefits and tastes nice....sorry if that is a bit unpleasant and hard to digest...!
There is a twist to this. For people, eating raw brain carries risks of transmission of prion diseases. A prion is an infectious agent composed of protein in a misfolded form1. Mad cow disease is one such disease as I understand it.
1. Wikipedia authors - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prion