Preliminary Report of Assessment of Stress and Relaxation Related Behaviors of Kennel-Housed Cats (Felis catus) in a No-Kill Rescue Shelter
J. Berger, F. Ho
The study of animal welfare has been largely targeted to farm, laboratory, and zoo animals. Only in the last decade research was conducted on companion animals in shelter settings. The five freedoms model, widely accepted to define welfare standards, is violated by exposing animals to stressors associated with confinement. Not only do such stressors decrease welfare they create undesirable in-kennel behaviors which are directly related to length of stay in a shelter.
This study aimed to assess stress and relaxation related behaviors in shelter cats.
The San Francisco Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SF SPCA), California, USA was the study site. Sixteen (n=16) cats were observed in 3 different locations. The subjects were representative of cats admitted to SF SPCA based on breed, age, and size. Each cat was observed for 1 minute every 10 minutes for 6 hours by a trained observer.
Stress behaviors were exhibited by all subjects and varied based on location in the shelter. Cats exhibited stress signals 9.14% of observation time in location one, 6.49% in location two, and 2.65% in the third location. Stress exhibited varied greatly by age; older cats (>12 years) exhibited stress related behaviors in 45% of time observed.
Overall, the results suggest that kennel-housed cats in this no-kill rescue shelter exhibited stress-related behaviors three times more likely based on their location. Senior cats were the most stressed subset of cats in this rescue shelter setting.