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The Domestic Cat: The Biology of its Behaviour

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... While it is possible that cat behavioral problems may simply be normal behaviors that are unwanted by owners, it is also likely that exhibition of "problem" behaviors could be in response to a poor quality environment or one in which the cat is unable to cope. According to Turner [13] "many behavioral problems result from a lack of consideration of the needs of the cat, poor or changing housing conditions, unrealistic expectations of the owner or inadequate interactions between the owner and the cat" [13]. Regardless of the reason, inadequate housing and handling diminish welfare for the cat. ...
... While it is possible that cat behavioral problems may simply be normal behaviors that are unwanted by owners, it is also likely that exhibition of "problem" behaviors could be in response to a poor quality environment or one in which the cat is unable to cope. According to Turner [13] "many behavioral problems result from a lack of consideration of the needs of the cat, poor or changing housing conditions, unrealistic expectations of the owner or inadequate interactions between the owner and the cat" [13]. Regardless of the reason, inadequate housing and handling diminish welfare for the cat. ...
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Domestic cats (Felis silvestris catus) are the most commonly kept companion animals in the US with large populations of owned (86 million), free-roaming (70 million), research (13,000), and shelter (2-3 million) cats. Vast numbers of cats are maintained in homes and other facilities each year and are reliant on humans for all of their care. Understanding cat behavior and providing the highest quality environments possible, including positive human-cat interactions, based on research could help improve the outcomes of biomedical research, shelter adoptions, and veterinary care, as well as overall cat welfare. Often, however, cats' needs are inadequately met in homes and some aspects may also not be well met in research colonies and shelters, despite the fact that similar problems are likely to be encountered in all of these environments. This paper provides a brief overview of common welfare challenges associated with indoor housing of domestic cats. Essential considerations for cage confinement are reviewed, along with implications of poor cat coping, such as weakening of the human-animal bond and relinquishment to shelters. The important role that environmental management plays in cat behavior and welfare outcomes is explored along with the need for additional research in key areas.
... Robotic pets are being available in the market as social companion robots nowadays; also they are being used in the emerging fields of robot assisted activities [2]. Cats are one of the most commonly kept pet animals [3] and they have unique behavior and interaction with human. To investigate the potential implementation of these behavior, locomotion and interaction in a robotic context, we have developed a pet robot "Leo" which is specially designed to behave as a companion robot as well as to serve as a robotic platform for research and education purposes. ...
Chapter
Separation from what is familiar coupled with exposure to an unfamiliar environment makes shelters particularly stressful for cats. Environmental enrichment can improve a cat's perception of their environment, resulting in a reduced stress response and improved well‐being. Careful consideration of how to employ enrichment effectively and efficiently is key to the success of any enrichment program. A standard program of enrichment should be provided for all cats, while a more diverse range of enrichment opportunities may be prioritized to meet the needs of individuals expressing certain behaviors or health concerns or that have longer projected lengths of stay. It is also key to assess the impact of enrichment efforts so as to continually optimize the quality of the program overall and its impact on the well‐being of each individual. Placing as many appropriate cats in foster homes as possible is likely to be the most effective enrichment strategy.
Chapter
Cats are unique amongst domestic species in that they have evolved from a solitary ancestral species to become one of the most beloved household pets today. Interestingly the cat's physical appearance and sensory systems remain almost identical to their wild counterparts. Recognition of the perceptual parameters allows us to better understand how the domestic cat responds to environment and communicates with social partners. Sociality is unequivocally the aspect of feline life most affected by the domestication process. Cats can display a wide range of social behaviors, and evidence indicates that early exposure to a variety of social and environmental stimuli is the most important postnatal factor for a well‐adjusted life in a domestic setting and resiliency to basic stressors. By gaining an understanding of feline natural behavior, communication, learning, and cognition, shelter staff can provide cats with an ideal environment, change unwanted behaviors, and improve the welfare of our cats.
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Knowledge regarding the spatial behavior of the Eurasian lynx is mainly inferred from populations in Europe. We used GPS telemetry to record the spatial behavior of nine individuals in northwestern Anatolia obtaining eleven home ranges (HRs). Analyses revealed the smallest mean HR sizes (n HR♀ = 4) at 57 km 2 (95% kernel utilization distribution , KUD) and 56 km 2 (95% minimum convex polygon, MCP), ever reported for adult female Eurasian lynx. Adult males either occupied small permanent territories (n HR♂. T = 2), with a mean of 176 km 2 (95% KUD) and 150 km 2 (95% MCP), or were residents without territories (floaters, n HR♂. F = 2) roaming across large, stable HRs with a mean size of 2,419 km 2 (95% KUD) and 1,888 km 2 (95% MCP), comparable to HR sizes of Scandinavian lynx populations. Three disperser subadult males did not hold stable HRs (mean 95% KUD = 203 km 2 , mean 95% MCP = 272 km 2). At 4.9 individuals per 100 km 2 , population density was one of the highest recorded, suggesting that the presence of adult male floaters was a consequence of a landscape fully occupied by territorials and revealing a flexibility of spatial behavior of Eurasian lynx not previously recognized. Such a high population density, small HRs, and behavioral flexibility may have been aided by the legal protection from and apparent low levels of poaching of this population. The observed spatial tactics are unlikely to be seen in most of the previously studied Eurasian lynx populations, as they either suffer medium to high levels of human-caused mortality or were unlikely to be at carrying capacity. For effective and appropriate conservation planning, data from felid populations in a reasonably natural state such as ours, where space, density, prey, and pathogens are likely to be the key drivers of spatial dynamics, are therefore essential.
Chapter
Domestic cats are felid members of the class Mammalia, order Carnivora, and family Felidae. Cats are obligate carnivores, and their nutritional requirements are largely provided by meat. Pet cats' social systems can be variable and flexible, with a complex range of behaviours that allow some cats to live in groups of varying size or alone. Cats can show a variety of responses to human company, ranging from aversion to enjoyment. Cats can suffer from many diseases including 'flu', fleas, and worms. Many viral infections can be fatal, including feline leukaemia, feline infectious peritonitis, and rabies. Cats seem to express few or subtle signs of welfare problems. This may partly be because of the lack of explicit signalling by cats and partly as a result of our inability to identify their behavioural expressions. A range of strategies can be adopted to tackle overpopulation; each one must be adapted to fit the local conditions and available resources.
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Little is known about the cat’s (Felis silvestris catus) need for human contact, although it is generally believed that cats are more independent pets than e.g. dogs. In this study, we investigated the effect of time left alone at home on cat behaviour (e.g. social and distress-related) before, during and after separation from their owner. Fourteen privately owned cats (single-housed) were each subjected to two treatments: the cat was left alone in their home environment for 30 min (T0.5) and for 4 h (T4). There were no differences between treatments in the behaviour of the cat (or owner) before owner departure, nor during the first 5 min of separation. During separation, cats were lying down resting proportionally less (T = 22.5, P = 0.02) in T0.5 (0.27±0.1 (mean±SE)) compared to in T4 (0.58±0.08), probably due to a similar duration of higher activity early in the separation phase in both treatments. Comparisons of the time interval (min 20–25) in both treatments indicated no differences across treatments, which supports such an explanation. Towards the end of the separation phase (the last two 5-min intervals of separation in both treatments), no differences were observed in the cats’ behaviour, indicating that cats were unaffected by separation length. At reunion however, cats purred more (T = 10.5, P = 0.03) and stretched their body more (T = 17, P = 0.04) after a longer duration of separation (T4:0.05±0.02; 0.03±0.01; T0.5: 0.01±0.007; 0.008±0.003). Also, owners initiated more verbal contact (T = 33.5, P = 0.04) after 4 h (0.18±0.05) compared to after 30 min (0.12±0.03). There was no evidence of any correlations between the level of purring or body stretching by the cat and verbal contact by the owner implying that the behavioural expressions seen in the cats are independent of the owner’s behaviour. Hence, it seemed as cats coped well with being left alone, but they were affected by the time they were left alone, since they expressed differences in behaviour when the owner returned home. The increased level of social contact initiated by the cats after a longer duration of separation indicates a rebound of contact-seeking behaviour, implying that the owner is an important part of the cat’s social environment.
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The Ainsworth Strange Situation Test (SST) has been widely used to demonstrate that the bond between both children and dogs to their primary carer typically meets the requirements of a secure attachment (i.e. the carer being perceived as a focus of safety and security in otherwise threatening environments), and has been adapted for cats with a similar claim made. However methodological problems in this latter research make the claim that the cat-owner bond is typically a secure attachment, operationally definable by its behaviour in the SST, questionable. We therefore developed an adapted version of the SST with the necessary methodological controls which include a full counterbalance of the procedure. A cross-over design experiment with 20 cat-owner pairs (10 each undertaking one of the two versions of the SST first) and continuous focal sampling was used to record the duration of a range of behavioural states expressed by the cats that might be useful for assessing secure attachment. Since data were not normally distributed, non-parametric analyses were used on those behaviours shown to be reliable across the two versions of the test (which excluded much cat behaviour). Although cats vocalised more when the owner rather the stranger left the cat with the other individual, there was no other evidence consistent with the interpretation of the bond between a cat and its owner meeting the requirements of a secure attachment. These results are consistent with the view that adult cats are typically quite autonomous, even in their social relationships, and not necessarily dependent on others to provide a sense of security and safety. It is concluded that alternative methods need to be developed to characterise the normal psychological features of the cat-owner bond.
Article
As general veterinary practitioners, we have a duty of care that applies not only to the physical health needs of our patients but also to their mental well-being. Advising clients about how to enrich their home and kennel environments is an important part of fulfilling that duty of care and will also enrich the relationship between the veterinary practitioner and client. This article discusses how to optimize welfare for dogs and cats in the home and kenneled environments through appropriate environmental enrichment and understanding of species-typical behavioral requirements.
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