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Physiol Behav. 1993 Jul;54(1):101-9.

Lasting effects on rodent anxiety of a single exposure to a cat.

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Department of Psychology, Memorial University, St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada.


The effects on anxiety and risk assessment of exposure to a cat were tested in hooded rats. Anxiety and risk assessment were measured in an elevated plus maze and hole board in a room different from the cat-exposure room. Behavior was tested either 1, 2, 7, 14, or 21 days after cat exposure in different groups of rats. A single exposure to a cat increased anxiety over controls in the plus maze from 1 to 21 days after exposure to a cat. The effects on anxiety were independent of activity or exploratory tendency. Severity of anxiety produced was predicted by the approach, but not the attack, behavior of the cat. Analogous correlations between traumatic stimuli and anxiety are seen in humans suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Risk assessment in the plus maze was reduced over the same period in rats exposed to cats. Risk assessment was weakly correlated with anxiety. The findings are discussed with respect to the potential of this phenomenon as a model of generalized anxiety disorder found in PTSD.

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