Domestic cats treat the Kanizsa contour illusion as they do real square contours by spontaneously sitting or standing inside. [“If I fits, I sits”—is this the real reason cats love to sit down on your book or magazine when you’re trying to read‽ But why do they like to lay or sleep in squares in the first place? It is presumably evolved from their desert ancestor, but for what? Finding shade to sleep in during the hot day? Protection in mini-caves? (“Her birthing den is a sheltered place like dense grass, a burrow or hollow tree…”)]
Utilizing cats’ natural behaviors is effective for the study of cat behavior and cognition.
The citizen science paradigm is successful at conducting ecologically valid research into the cognition of domestic cats.
A well-known phenomenon to cat owners is the tendency of their cats to sit in enclosed spaces such as boxes, laundry baskets, and even shape outlines taped on the floor. This investigative study asks whether domestic cats (Felis silvestris catus) are also susceptible to sitting in enclosures that are illusory in nature, utilizing cats’ attraction to box-like spaces to assess their perception of the Kanizsa square visual illusion.
Carried out during the COVID-19 pandemic, this study randomly assigned citizen science participants Booklets of 6 randomized, counterbalanced daily stimuli to print out, prepare, and place on the floor in pairs. Owners observed and video-recorded their cats’ behavior with the stimuli and reported findings from home over the course of the 6 daily trials. This study ultimately reached over 500 pet cats and cat owners, and of those, 30 completed all the study’s trials. Of these, 9 cat subjects selected at least one stimulus by sitting within the contours (illusory or otherwise) with all limbs for at least 3 seconds. This study revealed that cats selected the Kanizsa illusion just as often as the square and more often than the control, indicating that domestic cats may treat the subjective Kanizsa contours as they do real contours. Given the drawbacks of citizen science projects such as participant attrition, future research would benefit from replicating this study in controlled settings.
To the best of our knowledge, this investigation is the first of its kind in 3 regards: a citizen science study of cat cognition; a formal examination into cats’ attraction to 2D rather than 3D enclosures; and study into cats’ susceptibility to illusory contours in an ecologically relevant paradigm. This study demonstrates the potential of more ecologically valid study of pet cats, and more broadly provides an interesting new perspective into cat visual perception research.
…Previous research reveals that cats are, indeed, susceptible to certain visual illusions. De Weerd et al 1990 found that domestic cats could discriminate illusory contour orientation via contour-inducing semicircles. In 2019, Szenczi et al revealed that cats are susceptible to the size distorting Delboeuf illusion. Further, 2 studies found that both lions (Panthera leo) (Regaiolli et al 2019) and domestic cats (Bååth et al 2014) are susceptible to the Rotating Snake illusion, comprising a “moving” image caused by peripheral drift eliciting hunting-related behavior.
Perhaps most relevant, a study by Bravo et al 1988 examined domestic cats’ susceptibility to subjective contours via operant response to the Kanizsa square illusion. 2 young, female cats were trained to indicate where they viewed a subjective contour on an array of sectored disks in various orientations. The researchers controlled for other potential cues like luminance, temporal changes, and local patterns by introducing and modifying variables like motion and duration of stimuli exposure. They found that the cats demonstrated susceptibility to the Kanizsa illusion, indicating that cats likely perceive subjective contours as humans do (see Table 1 for a summary for illusion studies in cat species)…The present study supplements the results of Bravo et al 1988’s experiment with the addition of an increased sample size and a more inclusive sex and age range, in pet, rather than laboratory, cats. Moreover, rather than using standard operant conditioning procedures, the current study utilizes a more ecologically valid, real-world setting in which to evaluate spontaneous behavior. As cats transferred to novel environments can exhibit stress-related behaviors and thus not behave naturally (Amat et al 2015), this study also offers an at-home environment to explore domestic cats’ susceptibility to Kanizsa square contours in a natural setting.
In response to my (2019) defense of house-based, free-roaming cats, Bob Fischer (Acta Analytica 35 (3): 463–468, 2020) argues that cat guardians have a duty to permanently confine their felines to the indoors. His main argument is that house-based cats cause an all-things-considered harm to the animals they kill and that this harm is not outweighed by the harm cats endure as a consequence of feline imprisonment. He moreover claims that while we can justify the restriction of feline liberty because cats are not “full agents” and are under our care, we cannot justify restricting the liberty of “full agents” who are not under our care. Against Fischer, I argue that even if cats cause an all-things-considered harm to wildlife, the harm of permanent confinement is a greater harm. Moreover, I challenge Fischer’s claim that cats are not full agents and his claim that we can justify permanently confining creatures under our care. Thus, as I previously argued, cat guardians have a duty to, under certain conditions, provide outdoor access to their felines.
Adoption of temperament screened shelter cat may benefit children with ASD.
Positive exploratory findings indicate need for study with larger sample.
Purpose: The diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) occurs in one in 54 children and companion animals (CA) are common in families of children with ASD. Despite evidence of CA ownership benefits forchildren with ASD, little is known aboutcats. The purpose was to explore the impact of shelter cat adoption by families of children with ASD.
Design and methods: This was the first randomized controlled trial of adoption of a temperament screened cat by families of children with ASD. Families assigned to the treatment group adopted acat and were followed for 18 weeks. Families assigned to the control group were followed for 18 weeks without intervention, then converted to treatment, by adopting a cat and were followed another 18 weeks. Adopted cats were screened using the Feline Temperament Profile to identify a calm temperament. Surveys measured children’s social skills and anxiety and parent/child cat bonding.
Results: Our study (n = 11) found cat adoption was associated with greater Empathy and less Separation Anxiety for children with ASD, along with fewer problem behaviors including Externalizing, Bullying and Hyperactivity/Inattention. Parents and children reported strong bonds to the cats.
Conclusion: This exploratory study found introduction of a cat into the home may have a positive impact on children with ASD and their parents. Based on this initial finding, future studies with larger sample sizes are recommended.
Practice implications: If parents of children with ASD are considering cat adoption, health care providers might consider recommending adoption of a cat screened for calm temperament.
[Keywords: children with autism spectrum disorder, companion animals, cats, social skills, pets]
Humans, wildlife, and domestic animals are intimately linked through shared infections. Many parasites and pathogens use multiple host species, either opportunistically or sequentially, such that managing disease risk frequently requires a broader understanding of the ecological community. The coccidian protozoan Toxoplasma gondii infects more than one hundred species of vertebrates, ranging from bats to beluga whales. In humans, acute toxoplasmosis can have serious health consequences for immunocompromised individuals. Even amongst asymptomatic patients, however, toxoplasmosis has been linked to a range of behavioral alterations and conditions, such as changes in risk tolerance, neuroticism, mental illness, suicide, and accident proneness. Whether such links are causal or simply correlational has been the subject of intense study and debate; from an evolutionary standpoint, selection may favor parasite-induced alterations in host behavior that increase the likelihood a host is consumed by the definitive host—in this case a domestic or wild felid. Here, we examine current evidence for parasite-induced manipulations of host behavior, in both humans and other animals. We critically evaluate proposed mechanisms through which infection might influence host behavior, which range from inflammation in the brain to changes in hormones or neurotransmitters. Considering estimates that T. gondii may infect up to one-third of the global human population, we conclude by examining the implications of these changes for human behavior, individual fitness, and emergent cultural properties.
Abbate (2019) argues that, under certain conditions, cat guardians have a moral duty to allow their feline companions to roam freely outdoors. She contends that outdoor access is crucial to feline flourishing, which means that, in general, to keep cats indoors permanently is to harm them. She grants that, in principle, we could justify preventing cats from roaming based on the fact that some cats kill wildlife. However, she points out that not all cats are guilty of this charge, and she argues that, in any case, cats do not cause more harm to wildlife—and may actually cause less—than those animals would suffer anyway. I criticize both of these replies, arguing that cat guardians have a responsibility not to let their cats harm wildlife; that cat guardians usually do not know whether their cats kill wildlife; and that, on balance, cat caused harms to wildlife may well outweigh the harms that cats suffer when confined.
Domestic cats (Felis catus) are a conservation concern because they kill billions of native prey each year, but without spatial context the ecological importance of pets as predators remains uncertain. We worked with citizen scientists to track 925 pet cats from six countries, finding remarkably small home ranges (3.6 ± 5.6 ha). Only three cats ranged > 1 km2 and we found no relationship between home range size and the presence of larger native predators (ie. coyotes, Canis latrans). Most (75%) cats used primarily (90%) disturbed habitats. Owners reported that their pets killed an average of 3.5 prey items/month, leading to an estimated ecological impact per cat of 14.2–38.9 prey ha−1 yr−1. This is similar or higher than the per-animal ecological impact of wild carnivores but the effect is amplified by the high density of cats in neighborhoods. As a result, pet cats around the world have an ecological impact greater than native predators but concentrated within ~100 m of their homes.
The growing population of outdoor free-ranging cats poses an increasingly serious threat to biodiversity. Identifying the strategies that outdoor free-ranging cats apply to live with humans is an interesting research topic. In this study, we provided robust estimates of free-ranging cat density in 30 universities in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, China. We found that the population density of free-ranging cats is linearly related to the proportion of female students in the university. An online questionnaire confirmed that human females were more concerned about the living conditions of free-ranging cats than human males in China. By contrast, a socialization test on 27 free-ranging cats suggests that the cats may have the ability to distinguish human sex and adopt a sociable skill to human females. This study leaves an interesting coevolution story between humans and cats and suggests that human sex may be an important factor to consider in cat population managements and wildlife conservation.
[Keywords: Free-ranging cat, Feral cat, Human sex ratio, Socialization test]
Two cases of feral cat (Felis catus) scavenging were documented at the Forensic Investigation Research Station in Whitewater, Colorado. Human remains at the facility are placed outside, observed daily, documented with field notes, and photographed; decomposition is scored on a Likert scale. Scavenger activity is monitored with game cameras.
The cases documented included: preferential scavenging of the soft tissue of the shoulder and arm, differential consumption of tissue layers, superficial defects, and no macroscopic skeletal defects. This pattern more closely parallels the documented pattern of bobcat (Lynx rufus) scavenging than that of domestic cats. Scavenging among felids is relatively rare, as felids typically prefer to hunt. Such cases studied in detail are relatively few, spatially relative, and lack statistical robustness.
While only 2 examples are reported here, these cases are rare overall, and this documentation may help field investigators understand the place of feral cats within a local scavenger guild.
There is a widespread belief that for their own safety and for the protection of wildlife, cats should be permanently kept indoors. Against this view, I argue that cat guardians have a duty to provide their feline companions with outdoor access. The argument is based on a sophisticated hedonistic account of animal well-being that acknowledges that the performance of species-normal ethological behavior is especially pleasurable. Territorial behavior, which requires outdoor access, is a feline-normal ethological behavior, so when a cat is permanently confined to the indoors, her ability to flourish is impaired. Since cat guardians have a duty not to impair the well-being of their cats, the impairment of cat flourishing via confinement signifies a moral failing. Although some cats assume substantial risks and sometimes kill wild animals when roaming outdoors, these important considerations do not imply that all cats should be deprived of the opportunity to access the outdoors. Indeed, they do not, by themselves, imply that anycat should be permanently kept indoors.
[Conference abstract reporting cat owner survey (n = 1021) about plant-eating & health, with similar results as dogs. Cats are frequently seen eating plants (only 11% never), usually appear healthy, vomit semi-frequently afterwards, and do so more frequently when younger.]
…71% of cats had been seen eating plants at least 6 times, 61% over 10 times, and 11% never eating plants. Comparing cats seen eating plants at least 10 times with those never seen eating plants, there were no differences in age range, neuter status, source or number of cats in the household. Of cats seen eating plants at least 10 times, 67% were estimated to eat plants daily or weekly. When asked about how their cat seemed to feel prior to eating plants, 91% of respondents said their cat was almost always appeared normal, beforehand. Vomiting was a bit more common—27% reported the cat frequently vomiting after eating plants. The prior study on plant eating by dogs had very similar findings with regard to frequency of plant eating, appearing normal beforehand, and vomiting 20–30% of the time afterwards. Among young cats, 3 years of age or less, 39% engaged in daily plant eating compared to 27% of cats 4 years or older (p < 0.01). While percentage of younger cats showing no signs of illness prior plant eating was similar to older cats, just 11% of the younger cats were observed to frequently vomit after eating plants compared to a statistically-significantly higher 30% of older cats (p < 0.001).
Animal-born mini-cameras allow video-tracking of free-ranging domestic animals.
Video-tracking allows reliable behavioural data collection without observer effects.
A comprehensive cat ethogram is validated for cat-camera footage.
Video-tracking could be used for conservation and animal welfare studies.
Suggested applications include the study of predation behaviour of domestic cats.
Free roaming domestic animals can have a profound effect on wildlife. To better understand and mitigate any impact, it is important to understand the behaviour patterns of the domestic animals, and how other variables might influence their behaviour.
Direct observation is not always feasible and bears the potential risk of observer effects. The use of animal-borne small video-cameras provides the opportunity to study behaviour from the animal’s point of view. While video-tracking has been used previously to study specific aspects of the behaviour of a species, it has not been used so far to determine detailed time-budgets.
The aim of this study was to provide and validate an ethogram based on cat-camera footage collected from 16 cats (Felis catus). The methodology was validated comparing films recorded simultaneously, from both collar-mounted video recorders and hand-held video recorders. Additionally, the inter-observer reliability of scorers was measured. Continuous and instantaneous recording regimes were compared, and behavioural accumulation curves were evaluated to provide further technique recommendations for video-tracking cats.
Video-tracking allows scoring of behaviour as reliably as direct observation (linear mixed effects model: t < 0.001, p = 0.99; df = 14 in 7 cats; Cohen’s κ = 0.88). Furthermore, inter-observer reliability was high (Cohen’s κ = 0.72) and was not statistically-significantly different from 0.8 (one-sample t-test: t = 1.15. df = 5, p = 0.30), indicating that the method is not subject to bias in observers. Recommendations are given for the most efficient scoring protocol to reliably record feline behaviour.
While the validation was concerned with cat behaviour, the approach can be easily adapted for a variety of domestic species, as well as some captive animals. Video-tracking offers a new avenue to investigate both general time-budgets and more specific behaviours such as foraging or space use from the animal’s point of view and in its normal environment, without restrictions to movement. Insights gained through video-tracking will be relevant to various conservation and animal welfare issues.
We provide an extensive review of the cat play empirical literature to date.
Play is highly influenced by biological factors, social context, and stimuli features.
Predation likely develops via multiple experiential routes, not only from play.
We propose several future research directions related to cat play.
Clear, consistent definitions of play behaviors are recommended for future research.
Although attention to domestic cat (Felis silvestris catus) behavior and cognition has increased in recent years, numerous questions remain regarding their play. Few studies have included play as a variable of interest, and to the best of our knowledge no behavioral studies focusing on cat play have been published in the last 15 years, and there is no recent review of our current understanding of its development, behavioral components, function, or outstanding research questions. This is despite the accessibility of the cat as a convenient model for more difficult to study members of the Carnivora, as recognized by pioneering studies of cat play in the 1970s and 1980s.
We address this gap by reviewing and synthesizing the existing literature on play development, identifying and discussing eliciting factors and possible functions of play in cats. Additionally, we conducted an extensive review of the literature to identify how play has been operationalized in peer-reviewed publications (n = 46).
We identified 138 behaviors measured in these studies, with 84 of them unique behavioral labels. Our findings demonstrate the diversity—and sometimes commonalities—of descriptions of play behavior across these studies, while highlighting the challenge of inconsistent operationalization of cat play in the literature. We conclude by proposing and exploring several open questions and offering suggestions for future research, particularly related to pet cats.
[Keywords: play behavior, play functions, domestic cat, Felidae, predatory behavior, ethogram]
There is anecdotal and empirical evidence for black cat bias, the phenomenon where cats (Felis silvestris catus) with black coats are viewed more negatively, adopted less often, and euthanized more often than lighter colored cats. Despite the anecdotal claims, there is scarce empirical evidence for black cat bias. Using evaluations of cat photos, the researchers examined differences in people’s attitudes toward black and non-black cats of various colorations on measures of perceived aggression, perceived friendliness, and willingness to adopt. The researchers also explored whether participants’ levels of religiosity, superstitious beliefs, and prejudicial racial attitudes were related to black cat bias. Finally, the researchers explored whether black cat bias was related to difficulties people had in reading the emotions of black cats compared to non-black cats. This study provided evidence of black cat bias in the sample. People exhibiting higher degrees of black cat bias had higher levels of superstition, but not religiosity or racial prejudice. Additionally, people who had difficulty reading the emotions of black cats tended to exhibit a stronger bias against adopting black cats.
The comparative study of the perception of visual illusions between different species is increasingly recognized as a useful noninvasive tool to better understand visual perception and its underlying mechanisms and evolution. The aim of the present study was to test whether the domestic cat is susceptible to the Delboeuf illusion in a manner similar to other mammalian species studied to date.
For comparative reasons, we followed the methods used to test other mammals in which the animals were tested in a 2-way choice task between same-size food stimuli presented on different-size plates. In 2 different control conditions, overall the 18 cats tested spontaneously chose more often the larger amount of food, although at the individual level, they showed interindividual differences. In the Delboeuf illusion condition, where 2 equal amounts of food were presented on different-size plates, all cats chose the food presented on the smaller plate more often than on the larger one, suggesting that they were susceptible to the illusion at the group level, although at the individual level none of them performed statistically-significantly above chance.
As we found no correlation between the cats’ overall performance in the control conditions and their performance in the illusion condition, we propose that the mechanisms underlying spontaneous size discrimination and illusion perception might be different. In the discussion, we compare the results of the present study with the results for other previously tested mammals and highlight some possible reasons for their similarities and differences.
2017-ottoni.pdf: “The palaeogenetics of cat dispersal in the ancient world”, Claudio Ottoni, Wim Van Neer, Bea De Cupere, Julien Daligault, Silvia Guimaraes, Joris Peters, Nikolai Spassov, Mary E. Prendergast, Nicole Boivin, Arturo Morales-Muñiz, Adrian Bălăşescu, Cornelia Becker, Norbert Benecke, Adina Boroneant, Hijlke Buitenhuis, Jwana Chahoud, Alison Crowther, Laura Llorente, Nina Manaseryan, Hervé Monchot, Vedat Onar, Marta Osypińska, Olivier Putelat, Eréndira M. Quintana Morales, Jacqueline Studer, Ursula Wierer, Ronny Decorte, Thierry Grange, Eva-Maria Geigl (2017-06-19; backlinks):
The cat has long been important to human societies as a pest-control agent, object of symbolic value and companion animal, but little is known about its domestication process and early anthropogenic dispersal. Here we show, using ancient DNA analysis of geographically and temporally widespread archaeological cat remains, that both the Near Eastern and Egyptian populations of Felis silvestris lybica contributed to the gene pool of the domestic cat at different historical times. While the cat’s worldwide conquest began during the Neolithic period in the Near East, its dispersal gained momentum during the Classical period, when the Egyptian cat successfully spread throughout the Old World. The expansion patterns and ranges suggest dispersal along human maritime and terrestrial routes of trade and connectivity. A coat-colour variant was found at high frequency only after the Middle Ages, suggesting that directed breeding of cats occurred later than with most other domesticated animals.
A period of hospitalization is essential at some point for many cats, but keeping cats in an unfamiliar environment and away from their families can negatively impact their welfare and recovery. A veterinary practice’s goals for hygiene and patient monitoring often conflict with the hospitalized patient’s ability to cope in an unfamiliar environment. Additionally, clients are often anxious about their cats and how they will do away from home. When these stressors are understood, steps can be taken to reduce both feline and client stress and ensure staff safety.
Most cages used to house cats do not meet essential feline needs; they are often too small for the cat to stretch, sleep in a comfortable position, and move around, and most caging setups do not allow cats to hide. Hiding is an important coping strategy for cats in an unfamiliar environment, and they also need a place to perch so they can “monitor” their environment. Consistency in routine, smells, sounds, and handlers is also important in the unfamiliar veterinary practice environment. This chapter provides practical advice for adapting cages and developing standard operating procedures for staff to address these important feline requirements.
Although caging for cats in shelters and catteries is beyond the scope of this chapter, the points discussed here will enhance cat care in those environments as well. These potentially long-term conditions make meeting the needs of cats even more important.
…Food and Water: Feeding the cat its regular diet during hospitalization or boarding helps with familiarity, as well as with prevention of food aversion by not introducing a new diet in a stressful environment. The client can be asked to bring the cat’s favorite food and treats to help entice the cat to eat. If a dietary change is needed, it is ideal to start introducing it gradually once the cat has gone home. It is rare for a cat to need an immediate dietary change; it can usually wait until discharge. However, there are certain situations when a dietary change should be made during hospitalization, such as if the cat’s normal diet has made it sick or if the cat has developed a food aversion because it became nauseous or sick when it ate that food.
In order to find out what food the cat is most likely to accept, questions should be asked about the cat’s preferred diets, brands, and flavors, as well as its preference for dry and/or canned food. Providing frequent, small offerings of food allows for more normal feeding behavior and also prevents the food from becoming stale or dried. Flat food dishes with low sides are often easier for caged cats to eat from. If dry food is fed, it can be placed in feeding balls or toys to increase the cat’s normal hunting behavior.
Many cats prefer warmed canned food. Microwaving the food for a few seconds on high can increase its palatability, but care must be taken to stir the food after heating in this way to avoid hot spots. This is especially true if the food was refrigerated. As cats are individuals, some do not prefer warmed food but do like food from a newly opened can, and some even want refrigerated food. This is often seen in nauseous cats or in cats whose nausea has not been effectively controlled; the intense smell of warmed canned food makes these cats more nauseous.
If the cat has always eaten dry food, it is unlikely that its diet can be changed to canned food. Adding tepid water to dry food may be more acceptable to the cat if it needs increased liquids.
If the cat displays signs of possible food aversion (eg., getting as far away as possible from the food, attempting to bury it, lip smacking or drooling), the food should be removed immediately. It is important to then wait before adding a different food.
If the cat is not nauseous, or if the nausea has been controlled but the cat is still inappetant, appetite stimulants can be helpful. Mirtazapine is an excellent appetite stimulant in cats. It is also an antiemetic, so it can be particularly helpful in these cats.
The authors explored a possible relationship between coat color and aggressive behaviors in the domestic cat.
This study used an Internet-based survey to collect information on coat color, affiliative behaviors toward cats/humans, agonistic behaviors toward cats/humans, other “problem” behaviors, and cat and guardian demographic data. A total of 1,432 cat guardians completed the online survey; after exclusions based on study protocol, data analysis included 1,274 completed surveys.
Guardians reported sex-linked orange female (tortoiseshells, calicos, and “torbies”), black-and-white, and gray-and-white cats to be more frequently aggressive toward humans in 3 settings: during everyday interactions, during handling, and during veterinary visits. Kruskal-Wallis 1-way analysis of variance was used to compare possible differences between the 2 sexes and among different coat colors. Analyses of aggression due to handling, as well as aggression displayed during veterinarian visits, showed little difference among coat colors in these settings.
Domestic cats are exposed to a variety of stressful stimuli, which may have a negative effect on the cats’ welfare and trigger a number of behavioural changes.
Some of the stressors most commonly encountered by cats include changes in environment, inter-cat conflict, a poor human-cat relationship and the cat’s inability to perform highly motivated behaviour patterns. Stress is very likely to reduce feed intake, and stress-related anorexia may contribute to the development of potentially serious medical conditions. Stress also increases the risk of cats showing urine marking and some forms of aggression, including redirected aggression. A number of compulsive disorders such as over-grooming may also develop as a consequence of stressful environments.
Some of the main strategies to prevent or reduce stress-related behavioural problems in cats are environmental enrichment, appropriate management techniques to introduce unfamiliar cats to each other and the use of the synthetic analogue of the feline facial pheromone. As the stress response in cats depends, to a large extent, on the temperament of the animal, breeding and husbandry strategies that contribute to the cat developing a well-balanced temperament are also very useful.
The annual number of feline visits to veterinarians decreased 14% from 2001 to 2011, according to the 2012 US Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook published by the AVMA, despite an increase in the cat population during that period.1 Earlier research conducted by Bayer Healthcare Animal Health in cooperation with Brakke Consulting Inc and the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues (NCVEI) showed that feline resistance to carriers and transportation was a formidable obstacle for many cat owners in taking their pet to the veterinarian.2
To probe more deeply into why cats are not taken to the veterinarian more often and to determine what veterinarians can do to improve feline medical care, Bayer and Brakke collaborated with the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) to examine the issue moreclosely. Bayer, Brakke, and the AAFP conducted focus group sessions as well as nationally representative surveys with cat owners and veterinarians.
…Four major reasons cat owners did not take their cats to the veterinarian for routine annual examinations were identified: lack of knowledge, feline resistance to pet carriers and travel, stressful experiences in the veterinary hospital, and cost.
Unlike the situation for dogs, most cats were acquired for free and without forethought. Many were gifts from family or friends or simply strays that showed up on the doorstep. Consequently, most cat owners received little or no initial instruction on proper veterinary care for their new pet. Only 48% of cat owners surveyed had taken their cat to the veterinarian within the preceding year. Many (37%) did not recall their veterinarian ever recommending annual examinations. Further, owners perceived that indoor cats were less likely to get sick and were unaware that cats are adept at hiding signs of illness or injury. The first phase of the Bayer veterinary care usage study2 established that feline resistance to pet carriers and travel was a major obstacle to veterinary visits. During focus group sessions conducted for the present phase of the study, cat owners were asked to make collages demonstrating what taking their cat to the veterinarian is like. Most of the collages used pictures from horror films and other sources that reflected a terrible and stressful experience for the cat and owner. Yet, only 18% of cat owners surveyed said they had received any instruction from their veterinarian on how to make bringing the cat to the hospital less stressful.
Once the owner dealt with getting the cat to the veterinary practice, the stress did not end there. More than half of cat owners (57%) were less than completely satisfied with waiting room comfort for their cats, and nearly the same percentage were less than completely satisfied with waiting room comfort for themselves. It was clear from the focus group sessions that for most owners, a veterinary visit was something to be dreaded and endured.
Finally, when asked how satisfied they were with their veterinary experience, cat owners were least satisfied with the value obtained for the money they spent, with 59% rating this factor lowest in satisfaction. When asked which items on a list of 16 concepts would motivate them to take their cat to the veterinarian more often, the top 3 items were cost related: a coupon for 50% off the cost of a veterinary visit (50% of respondents), a low-cost preventive care plan paid monthly (40%), and a 20% discount for multiple pets if brought in within a 30-day period (30%). The cost issue was all the more important because many owners indicated during focus group sessions that they had cats primarily because they perceived cats as low-cost pets.
…Many veterinarians recognized that transporting cats to the veterinary hospital was a major obstacle; however, most had not taken action to address the issue. Only 24% of respondents to the veterinary survey said they always (3%) or often (21%) provided specific instructions to clients on making the visit less stressful. However, 41% of veterinarians said they had made changes to reduce feline stress within their practice, and 70% had conducted some type of staff training.
…59% of respondents to the cat owner survey agreed with the statement that “I didn’t necessarily find the cat, the cat found me.”
…In focus group discussions, cat owners were generally incredulous when told that their cat could be sick without them knowing it because cats are adept at hiding signs of illness. In the quantitative survey, only 70% of cat owners said they believed the following statement: “Cats have the ability to endure pain and suffering without any outward signs and could be sick without your knowing about it unless it has periodic checkups at the veterinarian.” Interestingly, this statement scored the lowest (in terms of percentage of owners who believed the statement) of 6 truthful statements about cat health.
Research conducted by Bayer Animal Health in cooperation with Brakke Consulting Incorporated and the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues and published earlier this year1 identified 6 key factors that have contributed to a 10-year-long decline in patient visits to veterinary practices. The 6 factors were fragmentation of veterinary services, with more points of care and a wider variety of veterinary services available to pet owners; increased use of the Web by pet owners to obtain information regarding pet health issues, rather than calling or visiting a veterinarian; the negative impact of the economic recession of 2007 to 2009 on spending for veterinary services, which exacerbated an existing issue; inadequate understanding of the need for routine examinations on the part of pet owners; the cost of veterinary care; and feline resistance (ie, many cat owners have deferred taking their cat to the veterinarian because the cat aggressively resisted being put in a carrier for transport to the veterinary clinic and showed signs of stress during veterinary visits). The findings were based on interviews with pet owners and veterinarians and a national online survey of 2,188 US dog and cat owners.
The second phase of the Bayer veterinary care usage study was a national study of companion animal practice owners. The objectives were to measure visit trends and their impact at the practice level, confirm the findings of the first phase, measure current use or interest in use by veterinarians of certain service concepts identified in the first phase of the study that could potentially motivate pet owners to visit their veterinarian more often, identify factors common to practices that had had an increase in the number of pet visits, and identify opportunities for building patient traffic.
…Feline resistance—According to the AVMA,2 there are approximately 13% more cats than dogs in the United States. Yet respondents indicated that dogs represented 59% of their patients and cats 39%. 70% of respondents agreed that cat owners seemed more reluctant than dog owners to schedule visits to the practice. Although most (84%) respondents said that they provided training to all staff members on cats and their care, only 33% said they provided instructions to cat owners on how to make travel to the clinic less stressful. In the first phase of the study, 58% of cat owners said their pet “hated” going to the veterinarian, and during interviews, cat owners said that getting the cat into the carrier and taking it to the clinic were the greatest obstacles to visiting the veterinarian.1
We took advantage of cat regulations enacted within differing subdivisions in the City of Armadale, Western Australia, to test the hypotheses that the species diversity (measured by the Shannon-Weiner index) and abundance of small and medium-sized mammals should be higher in native bushland within or adjacent to subdivisions where cats are restricted compared to similar areas where cats are not restricted. There were three different regimes of cat regulation: no-cat zone (strict prohibition of cat ownership applying in one site), compulsory belling of cats and night curfew at one site, and unregulated zones (free-roaming cats applying at two sites). Both sets of cat regulations were in place for approximately 10 years prior to our survey. We also measured structural and floristic features of the vegetation at each site that might influence the species diversity and abundance of small and medium-sized mammals independently or interactively with cat activity. No statistically-significant differences in species diversity were found across the sites and KTBA (known-to-be-alive) statistics for Brushtail Possums Trichosurus vulpecula and Southern Brown Bandicoots Isoodon obesulus, the two most abundant medium-sized mammals present, were similar across all sites. The smaller Mardo Antechinus flavipes, which could be regarded as the most susceptible to cat predation of all the native species trapped because of its size, was trapped mostly at an unregulated cat site. Total mammals trapped at the unregulated cat sites exceeded those caught at the two sites with restrictions, but these unregulated sites also had significantly denser vegetation and there was a borderline (p = 0.05) rank correlation between vegetation density and mammal captures across all sites. It appears that pet cats are not the major influence on the species diversity or abundance of small and medium-sized mammals at these sites and that vegetation characteristics may be more important.
This study explored the influence of 5 types of visual stimulation (1 control condition [no visual stimulation] and 4 experimental conditions [blank television screen; and, televised images depicting humans, inanimate movement, animate movement]) on the behaviour of 125 cats housed in a rescue shelter. 25 cats were randomly assigned to one of the five conditions of visual stimulation for 3 h a day for 3 days. Each cat’s behaviour was recorded every 5 min throughout each day of exposure to the visual stimuli.
Cats spent relatively little of the total observation time (6.10%) looking at the television monitors. Animals exposed to the programmes depicting animate and inanimate forms of movement spent statistically-significantly more of their time looking at the monitors than those exposed to the moving images of humans or the blank screen. The amount of attention that the cats directed towards the television monitors decreased statistically-significantly across their 3 h of daily presentation, suggesting habituation. Certain components of the cats’ behaviour were influenced by visual stimulation. Animals in the animate movement condition spent statistically-significantly less time sleeping, and displayed a non-significant trend to spend more time resting, and in the exercise area of their pens, than those in the other conditions of visual stimulation.
Overall, the results from this study suggest that visual stimulation in the form of two-dimensional video-tape sequences, notably that combining elements of prey items and linear movement, may hold some enrichment potential for domestic cats housed in rescue shelters. Such animals, however, may not benefit from this type of enrichment to the same degree as species with more well-developed visual systems, such as primates.
Cats are popular companion animals, particularly in Europe and North America, and appear in correspondingly large numbers in animal shelters. Temperament tests are not widely used to assess cats before adoption from shelters. However, cats exhibit a wide range of temperaments as do the families adopting them and ensuring compatibility between the two could increase the rate of successful placement.
Scores on a feline temperament profile (FTP), which measures a cat’s responses to standardized interactions with an unfamiliar person, were compared between cats and over time and related to responses of cats to familiar and unfamiliar persons and to basal salivary cortisol levels. Cats showed statistically-significantdifferences in FTP scores (p < 0.001). Ranking catsaccording to FTP scores resulted in three distinct groups of cats. Over eight months, changes in FTP scores were minor, with cats scoring somewhat more acceptably and less questionably following adoption. Acceptable scores on pre-adoption FTPs were positively correlated with (1) positive responses to familiar caretakers in housing rooms (p = 0.01) and (2) average percentages of time spent near either unfamiliar men or women in open field tests in novel rooms (p = 0.01 in both instances). Thus, cats displaying general positive responses to humans did so in both familiar and test environments and with familiar and unfamiliar persons. No correlation was seen between FTP scores and basal salivary cortisol levels (p>0.05), though there were statistically-significant differences in cortisol levels between cats (p = 0.04).
The data indicate that the FTP was relatively stable over time for adult cats, and test scores correlated well with ethological observations of cats’ interactions with humans. The FTP could provide an accurate, consistent assessment of cat temperament, leading to more successful placement of cats.
We have investigated the role of habituation and disinhibition in the control of object (predatory) play by adult domestic cats Felis silvestris catus both with and without prior experience of hunting. We hypothesised that object play is terminated by rapid habituation to the sensory characteristics of the object played with, and therefore should be disinhibited if the sensory characteristics of the object are changed. Three sequential sessions of play with an unchanging object (a toy) caused almost complete habituation of the play response; replacing the toy with one of contrasting colours in a fourth session elicited intense disinhibited play, suggesting that motivation for play itself had not diminished substantially during the first three sessions. The time interval between sessions affected the extent of disinhibition. After a long delay (25–45 min) between each session play was less intense in the fourth session than in the first; if the interval was 5 min, it was more intense, indicative of post-inhibitory rebound, possibly caused by initial positive feedback of play on its own performance. We suggest that object play by adult cats is controlled by two mechanisms derived from predatory behaviour: one responds to prey-like stimulus characteristics, such as texture and small size, which elicit play, while the second detects change in the toy. The behavioural default towards any object is initial interest if it possesses relevant stimulus characteristics, followed by rapid habituation unless these stimulus characteristics change.
There is evidence that different gland areas in animals of the cat family have different functions.
This study showed that 9 cats gave more positive and fewer negative responses to petting by their owners in the temporal region (between the eyes and ears), the reverse to petting in the caudal region (around the tail), with the perioral (chin and lips) and non-gland areas intermediate.
This suggests that cats prefer being petted in certain body areas.
The so-called domestic cat occupies a unique position within the truly domestic animals since it freely interbreeds with feral populations, and there is considerable gene flow in both directions. This is possible because the likelihood of an individual cat forming a relationship with people is strongly affected by its experiences during the socialisation period (3–8 weeks of age), although this does not preclude differences between owned and feral populations in the relative frequencies of alleles which affect social behaviour towards humans.
We suggest a hitherto unconsidered reason why a separate domesticated population of cats (apart from pedigree breeds) has not yet emerged: the unusual and stringent nutrient requirements of the cat may historically have militated against successful breeding on a completely human-provided diet, and led to the retention of the ability to achieve a nutritionally complete diet by scavenging and/or hunting. More recently, the widespread availability of nutritionally complete manufactured foods and veterinary care in western countries appears to be leading towards a rapid change in the population dynamics and population genetics of both owned and feral cats.
[Keywords: domestication, feral populations, population dynamics, cat]
Social ties between free-ranging cats are largely confined to related females, yet multicat households often contain unrelated cats. We have investigated whether unrelated pairs of cats from the same household are less affiliative towards one another than pairs of littermates, by observing their behaviour while confined in catteries. We found that littermates spent more time in physical contact with one another, groomed one another more often, and were more likely to feed close to one another than unrelated cats. The most likely explanation for this difference is that ties are established between individual cats during the socialisation period (3–8 weeks), and persist throughout life if the cats continue to live together.
[Keywords: cat kinship, social behaviour, socialisation, spacing behaviour]
This study investigated the behavior and communication of captive brown-nosed coatis, Nasua nasua.
An ethogram was obtained by observing and recording the behaviors of a group of five animals at the Denver Zoological Gardens in Denver, Colorado. Contact calls were recorded and analyzed using sound spectrographs. All vocalizations heard were paired with the behavioral context in which they were emitted to reveal the potential function of the call.
Ethogram results indicated behaviors that are similar to those found in wild coatis. Vocalization analysis indicated that the coati contact calls contain signature frequencies. These individual contact calls would be beneficial to this social species in maintaining contact with relatives. The coatis also emitted ultrasonic frequencies in their contact calls.
Individual acoustic frequencies and ultrasound use would be beneficial for this social species in maintaining contact in dense vegetation while minimizing detection by predators.
We present the first evidence that a non-human species (the cat) is able to discriminate the orientation of illusory contours.
Following Vogels and Orban, we used 2 types of illusory contours. In one type, the illusory contour was defined by a number of contour-inducing semicircles, of which the endpoints were separated by a gap. In the other pattern, the inducing semicircles were shifted in phase along their diameter and their endpoints were aligned along the contour. Just noticeable differences in orientation were measured (at the 73.5% correct level), using a Wetherill and Levitt staircase procedure.
Values in the order of 11° were obtained when using the first type of illusory contour. Just noticeable differences with the second type were in the order of 17°. Reducing the salience of the illusory contour, whether by scrambling the contour, or by decreasing the number or the contrast of inducing semicircles, systematically increased discrimination thresholds.
The focus of this dissertation was on species in the genus, Felis, maintained in captivity. With the exception of the domestic cat, all species of small cats (Felis) are threatened or endangered in at least some portion of their original range and although captive propagation of some groups of animals has facilitated their preservation, zoos have not been particularly successful in breeding small cats. These felids reproduce inconsistently, at best, in captivity. The purpose of this dissertation research was to examine behavioral aspects of reproduction of small cats (Felis) in a captive environment, to determine why reproductive success is limited, and to offer suggestions for improving their reproductive potential.
Part I of the dissertation examined whether or not estrus could be detected and monitored solely through systematic behavioral observations. The behavior of 61 individuals representing 15 species of felids housed at 7 zoological institutions was systematically recorded for a total of 485 hours. Estrus was detectable using behavioral observations. In addition, it was found that compatibility of a pair and specific behavioral indicators of estrus could be determined through behavioral observations. Other reproductive parameters, eg., length of estrus and gestation, birth season, litter size, and age at maturity, were gleaned from zoo records. Information on size of captive populations and level of inbreeding for these species was also collected and analyzed.
In Part II of this dissertation, the effects of early rearing experience on subsequent adult sexual behavior were examined. It is a pervasive opinion among zoo professionals that hand/human-raised felids are less likely to reproduce than are maternally-raised cats. However, numerous exceptions, ie., hand-raised cats, have reproduced. An experiment was conducted to examine the effects of hand-rearing on adult sexual behavior, using domestic cats as a model for captive small exotic cats. Results from this experiment demonstrate that hand-rearing substantially reduces the cats’ ability to reproduce. Implications for rearing techniques in zoo nurseries are discussed.
Part III of this dissertation presents suggestions for the management of these cats in captivity, both at the level of the individual (husbandry protocol) and at the level of the captive population (population management).