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The burden of domestication: A representative study of welfare in privately owned cats in Denmark

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Abstract

The way in which domestic cats are kept and bred has changed dramatically over the last two centuries. Notably, a significant number of cats are kept indoors, most of them are neutered and many are selectively bred. This likely has consequences for their welfare. A few studies link housing, neuter status and breeding in cats to risks of welfare problems. However, the study presented here is the first to quantify the risks and document the prevalence of risk factors. It builds on results from a questionnaire sent to a representa- tive sample of the Danish population. Using the responses from cat owners who keep cats in the home (n = 378), the paper aims to investigate how indoor confinement, neutering and selective breeding affect health, behaviour and other factors relating to cat welfare. The paper reports that confined cats had significantly more behavioural problems than free-roaming cats; that a smaller proportion of the free-roaming cats suffered from the behavioural problems investigated; and that entire cats had significantly more behavioural problems than neutered cats. Finally, significantly more purebred cats than domestic shorthair cats were found to have diseases. Being confined, being intact and being purebred are therefore significant risk factors for behavioural or health problems associated with reduced welfare in privately owned cats.
university of copenhagen
Københavns Universitet
The burden of domestication
Sandøe, Peter; Nørspang, Annika Patursson; Forkman, Björn; Bjørnvad, Charlotte Reinhard;
Kondrup, Sara Vincentzen; Lund, Thomas Bøker
Published in:
Animal Welfare
DOI:
10.7120/09627286.26.1.001
Publication date:
2017
Document Version
Peer reviewed version
Citation for published version (APA):
Sandøe, P., Nørspang, A. P., Forkman, B., Bjørnvad, C. R., Kondrup, S. V., & Lund, T. B. (2017). The burden of
domestication: a representative study of welfare in privately owned cats in Denmark. Animal Welfare, 26(1), 1-
10. DOI: 10.7120/09627286.26.1.001
Download date: 23. okt.. 2018
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1
The burden of domestication A representative study of welfare in
privately owned cats in Denmark§
Peter Sandøe*1,2, Annika Patursson Nørspang1, Björn Forkman1, Charlotte Reinhard Bjørnvad3,
Sara Vincentzen Kondrup2 & Thomas Bøker Lund2
*Corresponding author: pes@sund.ku.dk, +4535333059. 1University of Copenhagen, Department
of Large Animal Sciences, Grønnegårdsvej 8, 1870 Frederiksberg C., Denmark; 2University of
Copenhagen, Department of Food and Resource Economics, Rolighedsvej 25, 1958 Frederiksberg
C., Denmark; 3University of Copenhagen, Department of Veterinary Clinical and Animal Sciences,
Dyrlægevej 16, 1870 Frederiksberg C., Denmark
Abstract
The way in which domestic cats are kept and bred has changed dramatically over the last two
centuries. Notably a significant number of cats are kept indoors, most of them are neutered and
many are selectively bred. This likely has consequences for their welfare. A few studies link
housing, neuter status and breeding in cats to risks of welfare problems. However, the study
presented here is the first to quantify the risks and document the prevalence of risk factors. It builds
on results from a questionnaire sent to a representative sample of the Danish population. Using the
responses from cat owners who keep cats in the home (N=378) the paper aims to investigate how
indoor confinement, neutering and selective breeding affect health, behaviour and other factors
relating to cat welfare. The paper reports that confined cats had significantly more behavioural
problems than free-roaming cats; that a smaller proportion of the free-roaming cats suffered from
the behavioural problems investigated; and that entire cats had significantly more behavioural
problems than neutered cats. Finally, significantly more purebred cats than domestic shorthair cats
were found to have diseases. Being confined, living as an intact female and being purebred are
therefore significant risk factors for behavioural or health problems associated with reduced welfare
in privately owned cats.
Keywords: animal welfare, behavioural problems, confinement, health issues, neuter status,
purebred cats
Introduction
In the last fifty years there has been a dramatic increase in the number of people who keep cats as
companion animals. For example, in the UK between 1965 and 2004 the number of cats kept per
hundred inhabitants increased from fewer than 8 to more than 16 (Sandøe et al 2016a Ch 1). Today
in most Western societies cats enjoy popularity as companions that is comparable to dogs, and in
§ The reference of the printed version is:
Sandøe, P., Nørspang, A. P., Forkman, B., Bjørnvad, C. R., Kondrup, S. V., & Lund, T. B. (2017). The burden of
domestication: a representative study of welfare in privately owned cats in Denmark. Animal Welfare, 26(1), 1-10.
The definitive version is available at
https://doi.org/10.7120/09627286.26.1.001
This is a post-print version of an article published in Animal Welfare by UFAW.
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2
Europe there are more households with a cat than households with a dog (FEDIAF 2014). In
Denmark, although there are fewer households with cats than with dogs, the total number of
domestic cats kept is higher than that of dogs (Danmarks Statistik 2000), as is the case in the United
States (AVMA 2012), whereas in Australia domestic cats are reported to be the second most
common companion animal, with numbers just below those of dogs (Richmond 2013). Over this
period of rapidly rising popularity of the cat as a companion animal, dramatic changes in the way
cats are bred, kept and cared for have taken place. However, little is known about how these
changes affect the welfare of the cats.
One important shift concerns the housing of cats. Today many cats are confined indoors; seemingly
this happens more commonly in the US than in Europe (Rochlitz 2005; Bayer 2013). Confinement
protects the cat from road accidents, injuries from fights and other dangers, but it may at the same
time prevent the cat from performing important natural behaviours (Palmer & Sandøe 2014). It
appears that it also puts the cat in higher risk of developing certain diseases (Robertson 1999; Rand
et al 2004; Slingerland et al 2009). The main cause of this is believed to be an inactive lifestyle,
which can put individuals at greater risk of developing certain lifestyle related diseases. Similarly,
behavioural problems have been linked to confinement, and specifically cats’ inactivity and their
uniform, unchanging life and environment (Heidenberger 1997; Amat et al 2009; Bain & Stelow
2014). A bored or stressed cat might also perform unwanted behaviour, such as excessive
vocalization, aggressiveness or house soiling.
A second shift is that the majority of domestic cats are now neutered (Chu et al 2009; Sandøe et al
2016b). The surgical removal of reproductive organs permanently to prevent cats from breeding has
an impact on welfare for various reasons. The neutered cat needs to undergo surgery and recovery,
and complications may develop from anaesthesia or surgical trauma. In the longer term neutering
increases the risk of obesity, which can lead to diabetes and other health-related diseases (Robertson
1999; Rand et al 2004; Colliard et al 2009). On the other side, neutering also protects cats from
disease; and in both males and females it seems to reduce aggressiveness (Finkler & Terkel 2010).
In males, neutering significantly reduces roaming and fighting activity, thereby indirectly reducing
the risk of traffic injuries and bite wounds with associated complications such as abscesses,
transmission of feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and feline leukemia virus (FeLV) (Hart &
Barrett 1973). Neutering in female cats reduces the risk of developing estrogen responsive
mammary tumours (Overley et al 2005) and it indirectly decreases malnutrition and disease in
kittens, by reducing the population density in a given area.
The third major shift of note concerns organized cat breeding for specific traits. Although feline
domestication has existed for long period, selective breeding of purebred cats is relatively recent
(O'Brien & Johnson 2007). Despite the good intentions of breeders pure-breeding can have a
negative effect on animal welfare. Sandøe and others (2016a Ch 7) have divided these negative
effects into three groups: breeding of extreme phenotypes which in themselves create health and
welfare problems; increased prevalence of diseases caused by a lack of genetic diversity; and
increased prevalence of behavioural problems.
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In sum, then, domestic cats may suffer from a number of serious welfare problems as a result of the
way they are housed, taken care of, and bred. However, to the authors’ knowledge no representative
studies which link different factors in the breeding and lifestyle of companion cats to the prevalence
of welfare problems in the domestic cat population have been published. The purpose of the current
study is to make a start on filling this research gap.
The paper is based on results from a questionnaire sent to a representative sample of the Danish
population. Based on the responses of cat-owning respondents (n=415) we examine how indoor
confinement, neuter status and selective breeding affect cat health and behaviour.
The paper does not look into effects selective breeding on specific breeds but only looks at how
purebred cats as a group are affected. To look at specific breeds would not have been feasible given
the limited number of owners of purebred cats participating in the questionnaire and the wide
diversity of breeds owned. However, the study does seek to clarify whether purebred cats as a group
have a higher frequency of behavioural and health problems than domestic shorthair cats and/or
mixed breed cats.
The study uses results relating to Danish domestic cats, but the correlations it identifies can most
likely be generalized beyond Denmark, and its findings should therefore be of interest to authorities,
private organizations, veterinarians and other professionals with an interest in the welfare of
privately owned cats worldwide.
Material and methods
Survey design
The data are based on a survey containing 45 questions (Questionnaire 1; 2). All participants were
asked a number of demographic questions as well as questions relating to their attitudes to cats in
general, to roaming and to stray cats. Additional questions were given to cat owners about their cat,
such as age, breed, gender, neuter status, regarding the number of cats in the household, the cat’s
behaviour, health status, the type of activities provided by the owner, environmental enrichment,
feeding, veterinary care, housing of the cat and potential problems related to housing. Data
collection was carried out by a Danish survey company (Norstat) in October 2015. The respondents
belonged to Norstat’s pre-recruited panel. A gross sample from this panel (N=6120) was invited to
participate in the survey. Sampling had quotas on age, gender and geography (NUTS2 regional
level) according to Danish census data.
A combined online and telephonic design was performed. Respondents aged between 18-64 years
responded online and respondents over the age of 65 years were interviewed by phone. This mixed
mode design was chosen with a view to obtaining a high degree of representativeness while holding
data collection costs down. Specifically, while Internet data collection is less expensive, it is known
that Danes in the +65 age segment use the Internet less frequently and are best reached by
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telephone. The final, net sample was N=2003, resulting in a response rate of 33%. To account for
non-response bias the cases were weighted according to official statistics on gender x age x region.
Of the 2003 people who responded, 415 (weighted frequency) were cat owners. Cat owners were
instructed to complete the survey for their oldest cat, and those responses form the basis of the
results presented here.
Statistical analysis
Descriptive analyses were conducted to display the prevalence of cats in Denmark, breed type,
neutering status, how the cats were kept, behavioural problems, and health issues (i.e. the cat being
overweight or suffering from one of the following diseases: arthritis, oral disease, kidney disease,
urinary disease, diabetes, metabolic disease). After this the data were analysed to discover whether
the main explanatory variables under investigation, i.e. breed type, neutering status, and how cats
are kept, were associated with behavioural problems. This was done by reporting the unadjusted
prevalence of behavioural problems across the different categories of the explanatory variables.
Following this, odds ratio results were reported (with 95% CI) from multivariate logistic regression
models for each main explanatory variable after adjustment for the age of the cats (cat age was
inserted as a categorical variable with 5 brackets (“0-1 year” to “more than 7 years”) and the two
other main explanatory variables. The data were also analysed to find whether breed type and
neutering status were associated with health issues. Results from this were again reported with
prevalence and odds ratio results (with 95% CI) from logistic regression models after adjustment for
the age of the cats and the two other main explanatory variables.
Confined cats were defined as cats that are either indoor cats with no access to the outdoors or
indoor cats with limited access to the outdoors part of the year (e.g. in a summer house). Garden
cats were defined as cats with access to a closed garden, and free-roaming cats were defined as
indoor cats with the opportunity to roam freely outside. A final category was outdoor cats that
rarely or never came inside the house. Apart from featuring in the demographic characteristics of
the cat population (Table 1) these outdoor cats were excluded from the study, as welfare problems
are difficult to study in them.
All statistical analyses were performed using IBM SPSS Statistics Version 21. In all analyses,
statistical significant difference was set at the 95% level.
Results
Size of the cat owner population
In all 2003 people were asked if they had cats (i.e. at least one cat) in their household or had
previously done so. The majority of people, 1327 (66.2%), answered negatively, 261 (13.0%)
people had previously had a cat in the household, and 415 (20.7%) persons currently had at least
one cat. Thus 33.7% of the sampled Danish households keep or have previously kept at least one
cat.
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Demographic characteristics of the cat population
Table 1 displays the distribution of the three variables that are linked in this paper to behavioural
and health problems in privately owned cats: breed of the cat, neuter status, and housing type.
As can be seen 15% of domestic cats in Denmark are purebred. The prevalence of the reported
breeds were as follows: Abyssianian 0.7%, British Shorthair 0.5%, Burmese 1.2%, European
shorthair 0.5%, Birman 0.7%, Maine Coon 3.9%, Norwegian Forest cat 2.9%, Persian 1.2%,
Ragdoll 0.7%, Russian Blue 0.5%, Siamese/Oriental shorthair 0.5%, other breeds 1.5%; 0.2% of
Table 1. Prevalence of cat breeds,
sex/neutering status, and housing in Danish
households with cats
Breed (N=415)
Domestic shorthair
61.5%
Mixed breed
20.5%
Purebred
15%
Don’t know
3%
Sex/neutering status (N=415)
Intact male
3.9%
Intact female
9.2%
Neutered male
47%
Neutered femal e
39.1%
Don’t know
0.9%
How cats are kept (N=415)
No outdoor accessa
16.8%
Only outdoor access part of the timea
3.6%
Access to a closed gardenb
7.8%
Outdoor access through cat flapc
25%
Outdoor access when owner lets the
cat outc
38%
Outdoor cats that rarely or seldom
come inside
8.8%
How cats are kept
(reduced sample: N=378)
Confined
22.4%
Garden access
8.5%
Free-roaming
69.1%
a Defined as confined in the remainder of the
analysis;
b Defined as garden-cat in the remainder of the
analysis;
c Defined as free-roaming in the remainder of
the analysis
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respondents did not know which breed their purebred cat was. Since most of the breeds involve
small numbers of individuals we decided to treat purebred cats as a single undifferentiated group.
Regarding neuter status it can be seen from the survey that 86% of the cats are neutered while 4%
of the male cats and 9% of the female cats are intact. Owners house their cats in a wide variety of
ways. Around 9% of cats live more or less permanently outdoors, and since it is likely that the
owners have limited knowledge of their cats’ welfare and behaviour they are excluded from the
remainder of the study. Among the remaining cats, a significant minority, 22%, are classified as
‘confined’ in that they never have access to outdoors or are only allowed out on specific occasions
(e.g. when the family is in a summer house), and a small fraction, 9%, have access to an enclosed
garden (‘garden access’), but the large majority, 69%, are allowed to roam freely outdoors either by
using a cat flap or by being let out by the owner (‘free-roaming’).
Prevalence of behavioural problems and health issues
When asked about behavioural problems 21.7% of owners report that their cat damages furniture or
things, e.g. by scratching, 15.1% report fear of other cats, dogs or people, 12.4% report problems
with house soiling, 11.0% report that their cat displays signs of boredom, e.g. excessive
vocalization, 4.4% report aggressive behaviour towards owner, 4.0% towards guests, and 3.8%
towards other pets in the household. Furthermore 5.4% report that they have “other behaviour
problems”. About half of the owners report that they have none of the problems listed. In sum it
can, based on our study, be said that half of all cats in Denmark shows one or more behaviours that
the owner views as a problem.
When asked about their cats’ health, owners reported the following: 9.5% of the cats are
overweight, 4.9% have arthritis, 4.0% have oral disease, 2.1% have kidney disease, 2.1% have
urinary disease, 1.3% have diabetes, and 0.6% have metabolic disease. A large proportion, 75.9%,
of the cats were reported by their owners as having none of the mentioned diseases, and just 2.9%
of the owners did not know if their cat had any of the mentioned diseases. Except for being
overweight, the health problems at issue were reported quite infrequently. In the remainder of the
analysis diabetes, arthritis, oral disease, kidney disease, urinary disease and metabolic disease were
therefore collapsed into one variable: disease. After this, as can be seen from Table 5 (Total
column), which displays the prevalence of health issues, 13.8% of the cats were found to have one
or more of these diseases, 10.3% of the cats were overweight, whilst 75.2% had none of these
conditions.
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What explains behavioural problems?
Table 2 reports prevalence of the behavioural problem for confined, garden and free-roaming cats.
Prevalence
(in %)
Adjusted OR
(95% CI)*
Confined
Garden
Free-
roaming
Total
Confined
Garden
OR
(95% CI)
OR
(95% CI)
House soiling
18.2%
18.4%
9.8%
12.4%
2..38
(1..12
5..02)
4..17
(1..41
12..32)
Damage furniture or
things
35.5%
25.1%
16.8%
21.7%
2..44
(1..35
4..42)
2..10
(0..85
5..21)
Aggressive behaviour
towards owner
5.4%
11.4%
3.2%
4.4%
1..08
(0..28
4..13)
2..56
(0..61
10..69)
Aggressive behaviour
towards guests
6.6%
4.0%
3.1%
4.0%
1..99
(0..58
6..87)
1..57
(0..21
11..54)
Aggressive behaviour
towards other pets in the
household
5.1%
3.6%
3.4%
3.8%
0..70
(0..15
3..29)
0..78
(0..10
6..14)
Displays signs of
boredom
19.1%
6.1%
9.0%
11.0%
2..63
(1..28
5..40)
0..65
(0..14
3..10)
Fears other cats, dogs or
people
13.1%
8.6%
16.5%
15.1%
0..93
(0..44
1..94)
0..71
(0..19
2..65)
Other problems
9.5%
3.3%
4.4%
5.4%
3..03
(1..14
8..09)
1..21
(0..15
9..62)
None of the problems
listed
37.1%
44.7%
54.7%
49.9%
0..51
(0..30
0..86)
0..59
(0..27
1..29)
Significantly more owners of free-roaming cats than those of confined cats report that their cats
have none of the studied behavioural problems. Specifically, confinement increases the probability
of house soiling and that the cat damages furniture or other things and displays signs of boredom.
On the other hand, few differences in behavioural problems were seen between purebreds,
domestic shorthair and mixed breed cats (Table 3).
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Prevalence
(in %)
Adjusted OR
(95% CI)*
Purebred
Mixed
breed
Domestic
shorthair
Total
Purebred
Mixed breed
OR
(95% CI)
OR
(95% CI)
House soiling
1.4%
12.2%
14.5%
12.4%
0.06
(0.01
0.55)
0.93
(0.41
2.13)
Damage furniture or things
18.3%
26.7%
19.8%
21.7%
0.74
(0.34
1.58)
1.59
(0.84
3.01)
Aggressive behaviour
towards owner
9.1%
3.0%
3.3%
4.4%
2.23
(0.65
7.67)
0.81
(0.17
3.90)
Aggressive behaviour
towards guests
4.1%
5.7%
3.1%
4.0%
1.11
(0.24
5.25)
2.07
(0.57
7.52)
Aggressive behaviour
towards other pets in the
household
6.8%
1.5%
3.0%
3.8%
2.36
(0.64
8.71)
0.53
(0.07
4.14)
Displays signs of boredom
13.1%
17.0%
9.2%
11.0%
1.39
(0.56
3.48)
2.15
(0.98
4.71)
Fears other cats, dogs or
people
8.1%
25.6%
14.4%
15.1%
0.58
(0.21
1.60)
2.21
(1.13
4.32)
Other problems
1.8%
7.3%
6.0%
5.4%
0.24
(0.03
1.81)
1.30
(0.43
3.87)
None of the problems
listed
47.9%
46.5%
52.2%
49.9%
0.98
(0.54
1.79)
0.76
(0.44
1.32)
However, significantly fewer purebred cats than domestic shorthair cats have house soiling
problems; and significantly more mixed breed cats than domestic shorthair cats fear other cats, dogs
or people.
In the analysis of associations between neutering status and behavioural problems (Table 4) non-
neutered female and male cats were collapsed (non-neutered cat; N=41). Likewise neutered female
and male cats were collapsed (N=335).
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Significantly fewer owners of non-neutered cats report that none of the behavioural problems listed
are present. Among specific problems, non-neutered cats have significantly more aggressive
behaviour towards guests and “other problems”.
What explains health issues?
Table 5 displays the prevalence of health issues for domestic shorthair, purebred and mixed breed
cats.
Prevalence
(in %)
Adjusted OR
(95% CI)*
Purebred
Mixed
breed
Domestic
shorthair
Total
Purebred
Mixed breed
OR
(95% CI)
OR
(95% CI)
Overweight
3.3%
15.5%
9.4%
10.3%
0.34
(0.08
1.49)
1.78
(0.80
3.96)
Disease**
36.1%
14.1%
7.2%
13.8%
7.11
(3.30
15.29)
1.95
(0.84
4.52)
None of the
diseases listed
57.4%
69.0%
82.6%
75.2%
0.29
(0.15
0.55)
0.47
(0.26
0.88)
Prevalence
(in %)
Adjusted OR
(95% CI)*
Not neutered
Neutered
Total
Not neutered
OR
(95% CI)
House soiling
14.6%
11.9%
12.4%
1.55
(0.56
4.28)
Damage furniture or things
11.9%
22.7%
21.7%
0.52
(0.19
1.45)
Aggressive behaviour towards owner
2.6%
4.6%
4.4%
0.41
(0.05
3.19)
Aggressive behaviour towards guests
10.7%
3.2%
4.0%
3.73
(1.06
13.16)
Aggressive behaviour towards other pets in the
household
2.6%
4.0%
3.8%
0.80
(0.10
6.29)
Displays signs of boredom
17.8%
10.2%
11.0%
1.68
(0.65
4.35)
Fears other cats, dogs or people
17.5%
14.9%
15.1%
1.64
(0.64
4.19)
Other problems
12.9%
4.5%
5.4%
4.13
(1.32
12.97)
None of the problems listed
28.6%
52.5%
49.9%
0.32
(0.15
0.68)
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Significantly more purebreds than domestic shorthair cats had one or more of the previously
mentioned diseases (arthritis, oral disease, kidney disease, urinary disease, diabetes, or metabolic
disease); and significantly more domestic shorthair cats had none of the studied health issues.
Also when owners were asked their opinion on their cat’s general health there was a significant
difference between purebreds and the two other breed types (Chi2 29.456, df.2; p<0.000; N=368).
Thus, 62.3 % of owners of purebred cats responded that their cat was “generally healthy” compared
to 85.9% and 90.6% of owners of mixed breed and domestic shorthaired cats, respectively.
An additional analysis shows that there is a clear difference in the prevalence with which owners of
purebred (75%), mixed breed (35%), or domestic shorthaired cats (48%) have their cat vaccinated
(Pearson’s chi2 20.88; df 2; p<0.000). To check whether the differences found in observed disease
occurrences between purebred and other cats were confounded by the difference in vaccination
levels – as a proxy for concern about the health of the cats – we ran the analysis of the relationship
between cat breed and disease (cf. Table 5) with additional explanatory variables inserted indicating
whether the cat is vaccinated. However, the significant differences laid out in Table 5 were retained
also after controlling for vaccination.
Table 6 displays the prevalence of health issues for non-neutered and neutered cats.
As can be seen, no significant differences were found here; neuter status did not affect the
probability of health issues.
Discussion
Behavioural problems
The current study found a correlation between confinement and behavioural problems. This is
important since there are strong voices arguing in favour of more confined cats, particularly in the
US and in Australia. Still, as we saw, above 69.1% of cats in Denmark are allowed to roam freely
Prevalence
(in %)
Adjusted OR
(95% CI)*
Not neutered
Neutered
Total
Not neutered
OR
(95% CI)
Overweight
7.3%
10.4%
10.3%
0.82
(0.23
2.86)
Disease**
17.1%
13.7%
13.8%
1.51
(0.57
4.01)
None of the diseases listed
75.6%
75.2%
75.2%
0.93
(0.41
2.10)
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outside, and only 22.4% are confined indoors. Across the world the proportion of cats confined
indoors varies. In the UK, like Denmark, the majority of the cats are allowed to roam outdoors
(Rochlitz 2005). In the US, by contrast, it is estimated that 50–60% of cats are confined indoors
(Patronek et al 1997; Bernstein 2007). In recent years some studies have investigated the benefits
and other consequences of keeping cats confined as opposed to allowing roaming; both ways of
living seem to be associated with risks and benefits.
The current study found confined cats to have a higher prevalence than free-roaming cats of nearly
all of the studied behavioural problems. Confined cats also had a higher frequency of behavioural
problems than garden cats in every respect assessed except aggressiveness towards the owner and
house soiling. Our results are supported by other work, such as the study of Amat and others
(2009), which identified five risk factors for the development of behavioural problems, with no
outdoor access being one of them.
The reasons for higher levels of behavioural problems in confined cats are numerous and vary from
one problem to another. In general, behavioural problems are likely to be due to increased stress,
insufficient mental stimulation and lack of physical activity (Bain & Stelow 2014). Confinement
reduces space and the variety and forms of potential activity available to most cats, and it locates
cats in places designed around human convenience and comfort (Palmer & Sandøe 2014). The
current study confirms that there is an association between the way the cat is kept and behavioural
problems, and that being confined increases the likelihood of behavioural problems. Although
confinement does provide some advantages, not all cats adapt to an indoor environment equally
well (Jongman 2007).
We did not get information relating to the owners previous experience and knowledge about cat
behaviour. One study showed a reduction in behavioural problems in kittens where owners were
given advice on feline behaviour and on the appropriate education of their kitten by veterinary
behaviourists during initial vaccination visits (Gazzano et al 2015). It is likely that behavioural
problems can be reduced if owner awareness of feline behaviour and education is increased and
veterinarians show a responsibility to support this awareness.
We also found a correlation between neuter status and behavioural problems. Neutered cats had
significantly fewer behaviour problems than intact cats. Among specific behaviour problems, the
amount of aggressive behaviour towards guests was significantly higher in intact cats than it was in
neutered cats. This supports the widespread belief that neutering not only prevents reproduction but
also curbs problems humans encounter with the behaviour of cats (Knol & Egberink-Alink 1989;
Scarlett et al 2002; Fatjó et al 2006).
The link between behavioural problems and welfare is not simple. Some behavioural problems may
just be a sign of the cat enjoying natural behaviour, such as scratching, and chewing, which is only
a problem for the cat when it is deprived of appropriate environmental outlets for these behaviours
(Herron & Buffington 2010). Other motivations or emotions causing behavioural problems, e.g.
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12
increased anxiety, may be a sign that the cat actually has a welfare problem (Levine 2008). Some
may be more difficult to interpret. Inappropriate elimination, for example, may both be a perfectly
natural behaviour (e.g. marking behaviour or preference for an alternative substrate for the
elimination) or a consequence of increased anxiety (Neilson 2004a). Furthermore, there may be an
indirect link here with welfare in that cats with increased levels of welfare problems may have a
more difficult time with their owner, making it more likely that the cat is relinquished or euthanized
(Salman et al 2000; Kass et al 2001). Although it is true that behavioural problems are only to some
extent direct signs of compromised cat welfare, they may indirectly affect welfare and longevity
through owner reactions. Thus problem behaviour may need to be redirected to avoid owner
frustrations (Jongman 2007).
The most frequently reported behavioural problem with cats in this study was the display of
destructive behaviour. This behaviour is not a direct problem for the cat, but it will typically be a
problem for the owner. Cats can damage furniture and other things in the home in several ways, but
scratching probably accounts for most of the reported problems in our study. Scratching is a natural
marking behaviour for the cat. It causes scent marks to be deposited from the inter-digital glands,
leaving olfactory and visual signs, and it helps to maintain the cat’s claws (Rochlitz 2007; Herron &
Buffington 2010). Surfaces for scratching, such as scratching posts, should therefore be provided in
attractive places in order to avoid unwanted scratching on furniture (Rochlitz 2005). Indoor cats
may be short of suitable places to perform their scratching behaviour, and the display of destructive
behaviour can therefore be a sign of boredom and lack of stimulation. Damage to household objects
will often draw the owners’ attention, and even if the consequence is scolding the cat will still learn
to link the destructive behaviour and owner-attention. In time some cats will develop the habit of
scratching as a means of attracting the owner’s attention.
Significantly more confined and garden cats than free-roaming cats had house soiling problems and
eliminated in places other than their litter box or outside. A cat’s house soiling can be a cause of
considerable frustration to the owner, and cats that show inappropriate elimination behaviour have a
higher risk of relinquishment (Sung & Crowell-Davis 2006). The problems here can be categorized
under three main categories: medical problems, marking, and toileting problems (Neilson 2004).
They may have underlying motivations that owners find hard to understand. It is important to find
the underlying motivation for the house soiling problem and to rule out or remedy any medical
problem before wider adjustments are made. Urine marking is a natural behaviour that has a variety
of communicative functions, including identification, and laying down emotional, temporal, and
spatial information (Crowell-Davis et al 2004), but it is problematic when performed indoors. The
motivation for indoor urine marking can be anxiety/stress, whereas toileting problems are often
caused by medical issues, anxiety, aversions or preferences over litter boxes (Neilson 2004).
Marking behaviour is primarily performed by fertile cats, but it can also occur in neutered cats.
Amat and others (2009) report an increased prevalence of behavioural problems in purebred cats.
This finding is not supported by this study, since purebred cats did not have a significantly higher
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frequency of any of the studied behavioural problems as compared with domestic shorthair and
mixed breed cats.
It should be noted that other factors than those we study may have an effect on the prevalence of
behavioural problems, e.g. the age of the cat when adopted, its provenance, how long the person has
been the owner of the cat and how long the cat has lived in the same environment. It is a limitation
of our study that we have not looked at these factors.
Health issues
Recent studies of confinement and free-roaming in cats have found that both ways of living are
associated with risks and benefits. It has been found, for example, that indoor cats are at greater risk
of developing such diseases as feline urologic syndrome, hyperthyroidism, dental disease
(Buffington 2002; Buffington et al 2006; Rochlitz 2007), of suffering from diabetes mellitus (Rand
et al 2004; Slingerland et al 2009), and of being ‘skinny fat’ (Bjornvad et al 2011). None of these
diseases can be confirmed by this study, which found that confined cats did not have more health
issues than garden cats or free-roaming cats. Part of the explanation for this may be that owners of
confined animals spend more time stimulating their cats and give them extra resources indoors to
compensate for missing behavioural opportunities.
Several studies have described a relation between confinement and obesity in cats (e.g. Sloth 1992;
Robertson 1999). It is worth mentioning that not all studies confirm this association (Colliard et al
2009; Courcier et al 2010), and neither did this study. The proportion of overweight cats found in
our study is lower than that found in other studies (Allan et al 2000; Lund et al 2005; Colliard et al
2009). This may be because the owners reported in this study were not given any tool to estimate
their cats’ body condition and made subjective assessments. Also, studies show that owners
underestimate their cats body condition and are unable to recognise that their pet is overweight
(Colliard et al 2009; Courcier et al 2010). Furthermore, a recent Danish study of confined, adult
neutered cats found that body condition score (BCS) underestimates the level of body fat percent
(BF%) in these cats (Bjornvad et al 2011). The study suggests that confined cats have higher BF%
as a result of low activity level, resulting in less muscle mass, and thus a higher BF%, as compared
with control cats. The cats are skinny fat or suffer from sarcopenic obesity. The current study did
not isolate sarcopenic obesity as a health issue, but it may be reasonable to expect that some of the
confined cats in it were skinny fat.
Owing to a lack of genetic diversity, purebred cats are predisposed to various diseases (Sandøe et al
2016 Ch 7). Since only 62 of 415 (15.0%) of the cats in this survey were purebred cats, no breed
specific analyses were performed. However, when purebred cats as a group were compared with
domestic shorthair and mixed breed cats, the result was evident: a significantly higher prevalence of
disease was reported by owners in the purebred group.
Selective breeding has led to purebred cat breeds that are fancied by many cat owners, but it has
also compromised the health of purebred cats as a result of limited genetic diversity (Sandøe et al
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14
2014). More than 20 diseases linked to inbreeding are seen within purebred cats, although not all
breeds are affected (Lipinski et al 2008). According to our study, the two most popular breeds in
Denmark are the Maine Coon and Norwegian Forest cat. Both breeds suffer from chronic gingivo-
stomatitis (Kortegaard et al 2006; Fødevareministeriet 2013) and approximately 6.3% of Maine
Coons suffer from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (Godiksen et al 2011).
It may be suspected that the finding that purebred cats suffer from higher levels of disease
compared to the other groups of cats is a reflection of the fact that the owners of these cats in
addition to the higher monetary investment at the time of procurement also in general invest more
and that they are more engaged in their cats’ well-being than owners of non-purebred cats. Thus
these owners could be more likely to notice and/or report health problems than owners of non-
purebred cats; and the reported higher levels of disease could be a reflection of this rather than of a
level of disease that is actually higher.
It is indeed the case that owners of purebred cats show a higher level of engagement, in that, for
example, they more often have their cats vaccinated. However, even when we control for level of
vaccination we still find a higher level of disease among purebred cats. Thus, the findings of this
study leave little doubt that, viewed as a group, purebred cats suffer more from health issues than
mixed breeds and domestic shorthairs. However, it should be stressed that it is compatible with the
findings in our study that some breeds of purebred cat may not be particularly prone to diseases.
Animal welfare implications and conclusion
The aim of this study was to investigate how the ways in which cats are bred, live and are taken
care of affects their welfare. The study focused on three factors, which were linked to risks of
welfare problems. These are confinement, being intact and being purebred. The link with reduced
welfare in purebred cats proceeds through increased disease load. By contrast, in the case of
confinement and being intact there is a more indirect link to welfare via behaviour problems. Only
some of the latter problems will directly affect welfare, but they all have an indirect effect via
negative owner reactions.
For purebred cats there is clearly a need for more research into the disease problems linked to
different breeds, and for greater focus on health in the breeding of cats. On both counts, research
into purebred cats lags behind the canine sector by some distance. As regards the way cats are
housed, there is a need for better information to be provided for prospective cat owners on the need
to accommodate the behavioural needs of their cats if they are confined indoors; and clearly our
findings are also of relevance to the often polarized indoor-outdoor debate. Finally our findings
support the already widespread view that there are good reasons for neutering cats that are not kept
for breeding purposes.
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15
Acknowledgements
We would like to thank the Danish Knowledge Centre for Animal Welfare for economic support,
Merete Fredholm for advice on breeding issues and Paul Robinson and Clare Palmer for checking
the paper’s English.
Conflicts of Interest
None
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... Due to the low reporting of experiencing problems with behavior and temperament (18%) it is clear that cat owners in the present study might not be representative of the Swedish cat owning community. Studies from Denmark [31], Germany [10], the U.S. [32], and an international survey focusing on urinary house soiling [33] show that approximately 50.1%, 54.7%, 61%, and 53.9% of cats display undesired behavior(s) from the owner's point of view, respectively. The difference between the present and previous published results could also be attributed to differences in the formulation of questions, the questionnaire design, or legislation and cultural differences in pet keeping between countries. ...
... The majority of cats in this study were reported to be neutered (90%), which is slightly higher than previous reports (e.g., 79.8% in the U.S. [12], 81% in the U.S. [32], 86.1% in Denmark [31], and 78.7% in Germany [10]. Previous studies have reported a lower prevalence of undesired behaviors in neutered compared to intact cats [31], which might also be a contributing factor to the low incidence of reported behavioral and temperamental problems in this study. ...
... The majority of cats in this study were reported to be neutered (90%), which is slightly higher than previous reports (e.g., 79.8% in the U.S. [12], 81% in the U.S. [32], 86.1% in Denmark [31], and 78.7% in Germany [10]. Previous studies have reported a lower prevalence of undesired behaviors in neutered compared to intact cats [31], which might also be a contributing factor to the low incidence of reported behavioral and temperamental problems in this study. ...
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... In recent years people's preference for having domestic cats as pets (Felis silvestris catus) has increased, generating the need for a greater understanding of how these animals are kept and treated (Sandøe et al 2017(Sandøe et al , 2018. Regarding the management of cats, there is a lot of disagreement as to which strategy is the most appropriate (Wald et al 2013;Yeates & Yates 2017). ...
... Free-roaming, or free-ranging, owned cats are free-circulating cats that have a residence but spend most of their time outdoors (Levy & Crawford 2004;Crowley et al 2019). While others contend that the most appropriate way to keep cats is exclusively confined (indoors), with the owner controlling their animals' feeding, reproduction, and movements, with limited access to external environments (Rochlitz 2003(Rochlitz , 2004aJongman 2007;Sandøe et al 2017). ...
... In terms of feline welfare, both management practices (indoor or outdoor) might encompass risks and benefits, generating a debate about which is more appropriate (Yeates & Yates 2017). For instance, indoor cats are generally more likely to develop obesity as well as certain types of behavioural problems, such as separation-related problems, urination in inappropriate places, destructive behaviour and aggression (Rochlitz 2005;Stella & Croney 2016;Sandøe et al 2017;Yeates & Yates 2017;Finka et al 2019;Machado et al 2020a,b). On the other hand, outdoor cats might be exposed to contagious diseases, car accidents and other hazards, such as mistreatment and poisoning (Shamir et al 2002;Rochlitz 2004a,b;Lockwood 2005;Natoli et al 2005;Yeates & Yates 2017;Chalkowski et al 2019). ...
Article
A need exists for research that contributes to estimating the risk factors associated with the management of outdoor cats ( Felis silvestris catus ) and addresses the lack of such surveys in Brazil and other Latin American countries. With this in mind we aimed to: i) identify the causal factors affecting the practice of owners allowing their cats to roam freely and; ii) evaluate potential welfare risks associated with the allowance of outdoor access, based on cat owners' reports. An online questionnaire consisting of 25 questions was answered by 8,485 Brazilian cat owners and logistic regression models used to obtain odds ratios. A number of the factors significantly related to owners allowing their cats to have outdoor access were unneutered cats, the manner in which the cat was acquired, residence in rural areas, the number of cats owned, the presence of other pets in the house, younger owner age, owner declaration of not being responsible for the cat, owner perception about the role of the cat in the house, owner knowledge about cats' potential for transmitting diseases, a lack of knowledge about zoonoses, and a lack of knowledge regarding toxoplasmosis. The practice of allowing outdoor access was associated with significantly higher odds of owners reporting several welfare issues, such as frequent flea contamination, sporotrichosis, going missing, poisoning, mistreatment, and accidents. We conclude that the practice of allowing outdoor access, as reported by 37.1% of our respondents, may result in risks to feline welfare. Increasing public awareness through campaigns that highlight the risks associated with outdoor access would improve feline management practices and welfare.
... Cats are the most popular companion animals in many countries ( Turner and Bateson, 2014 ;Crowley et al., 2020b ), and the majority of cats are allowed some kind of outdoor access ( Slater et al., 2008 ;Thomas et al., 2012 ;Sandøe et al., 2017 ). Access to free outdoor roaming meets the behavioral needs of domestic cats by providing opportunities to express normal behaviors ( Rochlitz, 2005 ;Ellis et al., 2013 ). ...
... As only a few generations have passed since cats can fully rely on food provided by their owners, predatory behavior is still a very important aspect of a cat's life. Preventing cats from hunting, for example, by keeping them indoors and failing to provide opportunities for alternatives to predatory behavior, causes frustration and boredom ( Rochlitz, 2005 ;Sandøe et al., 2017 ), and is a well-known factor contributing to the development of behavioral problems, for example, misdirected aggressive behavior . Although, around four out of five cats readily accept predation-deterrent devices such as the CatBib® or the Birdsbe-safe® collar cover, there are some that do not adapt well or do not tolerate a collar-mounted predation deterrent at all ( Calver et al., 2007 ;Willson et al., 2015 ). ...
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There are multiple reasons for cats to wear collars, among the most relevant are identification and mounting of radiofrequency tracking devices or predation deterrents. Reports on severe incidents with cat collars indicate that both, entrapment of the collar on an object or a body part, have the potential to lead to serious injury or death. Therefore, expert opinions and guidelines concerning the safety of cat collars are controversial. This review focuses on the current state of knowledge weighing welfare risks against potential benefits of collar use in domestic cats (Felis catus). The results of this review show that even “safety collars” (collars with a breakaway clip or elastic parts) do not fully prevent severe incidents, albeit rarely reported. Nevertheless, the use of breakaway collars is considered vital. To further reduce risk of entrapment, good fit (i.e., the collar must not be too loose nor too tight), undamaged material and close monitoring during adjustment periods are recommended. Behaviors such as excessive scratching or rubbing and coat or skin problems such as matting, alopecia or erythema were reported in association with collars. These adverse effects on behavior, coat or skin can be manageable in pet cats. The propensity of a breakaway collar to open/release varies between types of collars and brands. For unsupervised use, a collar that opens/releases easily is recommended to reduce risk of entrapment. However, this feature can limit the benefits of collar use as the intended functions of the collar might no longer be maintained. The main benefits provided by a collar are visible identification and mounting of radiofrequency tracking devices (to locate cats via GPS) or predation deterrents (to reduce the impact of predation on wildlife). Given the risks associated with collars, there are no benefits to cats wearing collars solely for “fashion”. Comparatively, collars have a lower inherent risk than other scenarios cats encounter while free-roaming. Yet risks and benefits regarding collar use should be assessed for each individual case. Future directions of research should focus on ways to further reduce or prevent risks of collars. One interesting research direction is whether training cats to tolerate collars can reduce discomfort and risk of entrapment or skin irritation. Paper collars have not been investigated yet, but are cheap and can be replaced at low cost, they can be inscribed with owner contact details and tear easily.
... In the matter of pet welfare, the issue of neutering is a chapter unto itself. In contemporary Western society, there is a broad consensus supporting the neutering of cats that are not kept for breeding purposes [47,48]. Taking into consideration that "complications may develop from anesthesia or surgical trauma," the main arguments for neutering are: (i) the prevention of potentially unwanted kittens; (ii) a reduction in behavioral problems in relation to owners or other people (e.g., increased aggression) [46]. ...
... Added to this is the reality that the safety associated with keeping cats indoors has its downsides as well (boredom, obesity, stress), which further calls into question the veterinary conception of welfare [45]. A representative study of pets raised in Denmark has shown that while cats who are not allowed outdoors exhibit an increased degree of behavioral problems, pedigree cats are burdened with a higher incidence of disease [48] (Figure 3). The appropriateness of neutering cats is not a purely scientific question, but to a significant degree also a valuative and sociocultural question. ...
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Urban environments are inhabited by several types of feline populations, which we can differentiate as feral cats, free-roaming pets, and confined pets. Due to a shift in the cultural representation of cats from pest controllers to companion animals, cats living semi-independently of humans are perceived increasingly negatively, while the pet population has become the object of intense care. A regulative approach converges with a concern for welfare in the operation and educational campaigns of municipal shelters, which through their implementation of neutering policies have proven to be key players in the contemporary relation of urban cats and humans. The generally widespread notion of cat welfare associated with a secure life comes into tension with the fact that the psychobiological needs of feral cats are significantly different than those of pets. It becomes apparent that individual interactions between humans and cats in urban environments in the Anthropocene are increasingly influenced by the intervention of institutions that can be characterized as seeking to administer the wild.
... In the United States of America (USA), 63% of domestic cats are kept entirely indoors [3]. In contrast, many European countries, including the United Kingdom (UK) [4] and Denmark [5], as well as Australia [6,7], typically provide owned domestic cats with outdoor access, in addition to allowing them to occupy the house. There is, however, a growing trend towards keeping cats exclusively indoors. ...
... There is, however, a growing trend towards keeping cats exclusively indoors. The UK is seeing a rapid increase in the number of indoor-only cats, with the PDSA (People's Dispensary for Sick Animals) producing estimates of 15% in 2011, increasing to 24% in 2015 [4], and a more recent UK study indicating 26.1% in 2019 [8]. ...
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Outdoor access for owned domestic cats (Felis catus) is a divisive issue. Cat safety, mental and physical wellbeing, infectious diseases, and wildlife depredation are cited as factors influencing owners; however, the degree of consideration each factor receives has not been quantified. This study (i) analysed which demographic variables are associated with greater odds of cats having indoor or outdoor lifestyles, (ii) identified which factors owners consider when making a choice on lifestyle and any regional variations, and (iii) identified if owners consider the different lifestyle options available and recognise their associated benefits. A series of online surveys were used for data collection. Binary logistic regression models were used to generate odds ratios assessing if demographic variables were significantly associated with cat lifestyle. Quantitative analysis of factors considered when deciding on cat lifestyle was accompanied by a thematic analysis of rich-text open-ended responses, providing nuanced insight into the rationale and elucidating additional factors considered. Of the demographic variables tested, 10/12 were significantly associated with lifestyle. Variables with higher odds of indoor-only lifestyles were owners being 26-35 years old, multi-cat households,
... The inability to perform natural behaviors indoors has also been suggested to lead to frustration or boredom, resulting in the development of problematic behaviors (e.g., aggression, furniture scratching, or inappropriate elimination). Studies involving owner-completed surveys have found that some behavior problems are more prevalent in indoor cats than cats with outdoor access (11)(12)(13)(14). However, another study found that behavior problems in indoor-restricted cats can be reduced through provision of some forms of enrichment (15). ...
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While uncontrolled outdoor access can increase opportunities for cat physical and mental stimulation, it can also increase risks of injury and illness, and result in predation of wild birds and small animals. In Canada and the United States, it is often recommended to keep cats indoors, but many owners still provide some level of outdoor access. The objectives of this study were to use a cross-sectional survey to explore the attitudes and practices of cat owners in Canada and the United States toward outdoor access and to identify factors that influence the provision of uncontrolled outdoor access. A convenience sample of cat owners ( N = 7,838) were recruited to complete an online survey, and a mixed logistic regression model was used to examine associations between cat and owner-related factors, and uncontrolled outdoor access for cats, with province/state included as a random effect. In total, 57% of owners kept their cats indoors, and 43% provided some form of outdoor access, with 21% of total owners providing uncontrolled outdoor access. Provision of uncontrolled outdoor access was associated with factors related to cat characteristics (e.g., sex, breed, presence of health, and behavioral issues), the home environment (e.g., living with other pets, types of enrichment provided), owner perspectives on outdoor access (e.g., level of agreement with potential benefits and consequence of outdoor access), and owner demographics (e.g., gender, education, area of residence). For cats with uncontrolled outdoor access, few owners reported their cats having a collar or a microchip, suggesting a need to increase education about precautionary measures to protect the welfare of outdoor cats. Results reveal how owners are caring for their cats in terms of providing outdoor access and generate hypotheses for future research to examine the influence of the owner-pet bond and educational programs on owner practices around providing outdoor access.
... Cats originally evolved to live an outdoor lifestyle, and indoor-only cats in particular may show increased stress from the presence of (incompatible) conspecifics, competition for resources, insufficient mental stimulation, and lack of physical exercise [24]. Provision of some form of outdoor access is recommended by some cat welfare organizations [25], and a number of studies have found that behavioral problems, such as unacceptable indoor elimination (often termed inappropriate elimination), destructive scratching, and aggression, as well as feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) are more common in indoor-only cats vs. indoor/outdoor cats [20,[26][27][28][29][30]. Compulsive behaviors are often seen in geneticallypredisposed individuals exposed to chronic or recurrent stressors (motivational conflict, frustration, etc.), or whose behavioral needs are not adequately met [8,23]. ...
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Use of laser light pointers for feline play is popular with many companion cat guardians. It can be an enjoyable shared interaction and provide an opportunity for feline exercise. Laser light play alone, however, does not allow cats to complete the hunting sequence and it has been suggested that this may trigger frustration and stress, common contributors to compulsive behaviors. This study examined the potential relationship between the use of laser light pointers for play and excessive or abnormal repetitive behaviors (ARBs) often linked to diagnosis of feline compulsive disorders. Using an online, anonymous, cross-sectional survey, we explored cat guardians’ use of laser toys and reported ARBs in their cats. A total of 618 responses were analyzed, primarily female participants from the United States. We found significant associations between the frequency of laser light play and the occurrence of all surveyed ARBs, apart from overgrooming. Provision of outdoor access and cat age were also significant predictors of reported ARBs: indoor-only cats, and young (1–2 years) cats were more likely to display ARBs. The strongest patterns were seen for behaviors which may be connected to laser light play: chasing lights or shadows, staring “obsessively” at lights or reflections, and fixating on a specific toy. Although correlational, these results suggest that laser light toys may be associated with the development of compulsive behaviors in cats, warranting further research into their use and potential risks.
Article
The present is a study of the data collected through an online survey which investigated satisfaction of Italian cat-caretakers with their pet, considering health and behavioural complaints. The survey was advertised using social media and a virtual snowball sampling method was applied. The questionnaire collected information about caretaker’s demographics, their cat’s origin, health problems and behavioural complaints, and their satisfaction with the cat. 6096 respondents completed the questionnaire. Logistic regression was applied and some cats’ and caretakers’ demographics predicted both the presence of behavioural problems and the assignment of maximum score in satisfaction. House soiling was the most frequently reported behavioural complaint (4.7%) and it was predicted by both management factors (i.e., number of cats in the household, p<0.05), and cat-related ones (e.g., cat’s age, anxiety level, and health problems, all p<0.001). House soiling, aggression (both intra and inter-species), fear, hyperactivity and eating disorders decreased caretakers’ satisfaction (all p<0.001), whereas the presence of what respondents identified as health problems did not. Moreover, some cat features as “being affectionate” increased the caretaker’s satisfaction (p<0.001). The results of this study highlighted the impact of behavioural complaints on the cat caretaker’s satisfaction with their pet, supporting the need of prevention and/or treatment of behavioural problems or inappropriate behaviours to avoid unsatisfactory relationship between cats and their caretaker and to improve cat welfare.
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Veterinarians play an important role in establishing and sharing the welfare of companion animals by carrying out regular health checks and informing owners about the specific needs of the animal's environment and conditions of good husbandry. A survey among German cat owners revealed which role advice about cat behavior plays in daily practice and its influence on the cat owner's compliance. Some owners (29.6%, n = 263/889) reported behavioral problems in their cat. Not all owners considered their veterinarian as their contact of choice for behavioral advice, although veterinarians who met owners' expectations for advice on cat behavior are significantly more often described as feline-friendly (P < 0.000). Owners who expected an empathetic treatment of their cat will show a better compliance (P = 0.003). Owner compliance can be improved by providing accurate and effective veterinary advice about cat behavior and behavioral problems (P = 0.003). Thus, a sound foundation in cat behavior and knowledge of current treatment recommendations for feline behavioral problems can be worthwhile to ensure good husbandry for cats.
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Cats are a popular companion animal in the United States, the United Kingdom and most of western Europe. While a few studies on cat behaviour and interactions between cats and humans have been conducted in the home setting, most refer to cats housed in laboratories, catteries and shelters. Nevertheless, the findings from these studies can be extrapolated to the home environment. The Five Freedoms were developed as minimal standards of welfare for farm animals; it is proposed that five provisions, based on the Freedoms, can be used to assess the welfare of cats in the home. The provision of a suitable environment, with opportunities to express most normal behaviours and with protection from conditions likely to lead to fear and distress, requires the application of environmental enrichment techniques. Examples of physical, social, sensory, occupational and nutritional approaches to enrichment of the cat's home are presented. The majority of pet cats in the United Kingdom are allowed outdoors but in the United States between 50 and 60% are housed indoors. The advantages and disadvantages of allowing cats outdoor access or confining them indoors are discussed.
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Although challenging at times, managing cats with elimination issues can be rewarding. The frustration in management of these cases is often a result of the lack of a proper diagnosis and random treatment application. A systematic approach to these cases should help to achieve treatment success. Also, new information should lead to further advancements in treatment.
Article
Although most cat owners believe that cats have a need to roam outdoors and that this activity benefits their welfare, roaming also carries welfare risks for the cat. On the other hand, most cats have not been selectively bred to be “house cats” that live indoors 24 hours a day. Until recently, most domestic cats were allowed to roam freely, and they contributed to the large population of stray and feral cats. In turn many pet cats come from the stray and shelter population. A large proportion of domestic cats have not been selected for easy adaptation to live in confinement and in close contact with people, and socialization to people may also not have been complete in these cats. However, cats are adaptable to a wide range of environments and are generally not known to show clear behavioral signs of problems, such as stereotypic behavior. Problem behaviors of cats are often not abnormal behaviors per se but natural behaviors that need to be redirected to appropriate substrates. The most frequent behavior problems cited by cat owners are: inappropriate elimination, scratching, aggression, anxiety, eating problems, vocalizations, and excessive activity. Despite the frequent reporting of these behaviors, most cats will generally adapt to indoor housing provided there is sufficient space and that they are accustomed to these conditions from an early age. The Five Freedoms, developed to assess the welfare of farm animals in intensive systems, can be modified to assess the welfare of cats housed in confinement. Specific features of the environment that can enhance the welfare of cats in confinement are discussed.
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Housing conditions and behavioural problems of a sample of 1177 cats were described by their 550 owners. Indications for inadequate housing in the light of species-specific needs were analysed.A total of 65.1% of the cats were Domestic European Shorthairs and 78.7% were castrated animals. A total of 87% of the responding cat owners were female. A total of 59% of the households had more than one cat (mean 2.2). On average 1.8 of the 2.3 members living in a household dealt with the animals. The average cat could use 34 m2 of the living space and had five different resting places, whereas the owner's bed being the favourite in 52% of the cases. 14% of the owners allowed their cats to run free outside without restriction; 55% let their cats out under various levels of control. Feeding most often took place (79%) in the kitchen; 24% of the cats had communal food bowls. A total of 51% of the cats had to share their cat-toilet, and 22% of the cats were fed in the same room as they had to use for elimination behaviour. More than one toilet in different rooms were available to 28% of the cats.In 644 cats (54.7% of the sample) the owners complained of one or more behavioural problems with their cats. The self-assessed problems most often mentioned were: states of anxiety (16.7% of 1177 cats); scratching on furniture (15.2%); feeding problems (10.9%); aggression (10.5%); inappropriate urination and spraying (8.2%) and defecation in the house (5.1%). The relationship between the occurrence of problems (yes / no) and animal-, owner- and housing- related factors was analysed by chi2-test. Neutered females exhibited problems most often. People without children kept cats more often than others, but they also complained more often about their cats. Quality of the human-cat relationship was also relevant: people who interacted with their pets for several hours spread over the day mentioned problems with them less often. In 568 cats the owners had tried to treat the problems themselves. States of anxiety and scratching on furniture caused relatively fewer attempts to correct the behaviour than other problems. In many cases the owners were unable to solve the problems on their own. These findings show that there are deficiencies in indoor cat housing and that owners need help to correct them.
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A retrospective study was carried out on feline behaviour problems presented at the Animal Behaviour Clinic at the Barcelona School of Veterinary Medicine to identify the main risk factors. Three hundred thirty six cats presented for a behaviour problem between 1998 and 2006 were included in the study group. A total of 189 presented at the Hospital of the Barcelona School of Veterinary Medicine for problems other than behavioural and having no record of behaviour problems were used as control group. The main owner's complaint was aggression (47%) followed by inappropriate elimination (39%). 64% of aggression cases involved conflicts between cats and 36% of cases were aggression towards people, owners being the most common target of aggression (78% of all cases of aggression were directed towards people). Play-related aggression and petting-related aggression were the main causes of aggressive behaviour towards people (43.1 and 39.6% of cases respectively). Most housesoiling problems involved urination (59%), followed by urination and defecation (32%) and defecation (9%), and the most common diagnosis was aversion to the litterbox (63.4%). Persian cats were presented more frequently for elimination problems than other breeds (χ2=6.40; p
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The etiopathogenesis of feline mammary carcinoma is not well understood. Although putative, risk factors include breed, reproductive status, and regular exposure to progestins. An association between age at ovarihysterectomy (OHE) and mammary carcinoma development has not been established. Therefore, a case-control study was performed to determine the effects of OHE age, breed, progestin exposure, and parity on feline mammary carcinoma development. Cases were female cats diagnosed with mammary carcinoma by histological examination of mammary tissue. Controls were female cats not diagnosed with mammary tumors selected from the same biopsy service population. Controls were frequency matched to cases by age and year of diagnosis. Questionnaires were sent to veterinarians for 308 cases and 400 controls. The overall questionnaire response rate was 58%. Intact cats were significantly overrepresented (odds ratio [OR] 2.7, confidence interval [CI] = 1.4–5.3, P < .001) in the mammary carcinoma population. Cats spayed prior to 6 months of age had a 91% reduction in the risk of mammary carcinoma development compared with intact cats (OR 0.9, CI = 0.03-0.24). Those spayed prior to 1 year had an 86% reduction in risk (OR 0.14, CI = 0.06-0.34). Parity did not affect feline mammary carcinoma development, and too few cats had progestin exposure to determine association with mammary carcinoma. Results indicate that cats spayed before 1 year of age are at significantly decreased risk of feline mammary carcinoma development.
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A cross-sectional questionnaire study of cat owners registered with a first opinion veterinary practice was undertaken in July 2008. The body condition score (BCS) of the cats was assessed by the interviewer using a validated five point scale. Owners also rated their cat’s BCS using five word descriptions. In total, 118 questionnaires were collected. The prevalence of overweight or obese cats (BCS 4 or 5) was 39% (30.2–47.8%, n = 61). Risk factors associated with overweight or obesity were frequency of feeding and neutered status. There was moderate agreement between owner and interviewer rating of BCS. Owner misperception was more likely when owners rated cats with BCS 1 (very thin) and 4 (overweight) and in longhaired cats. The study highlights the continuing need for owner education in feline nutrition and specifically the requirement for veterinarians to develop strategies to help owners correct their assessment of their cat’s BCS.
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Obesity is the most common form of malnutrition encountered in small animal practice in the western world. In a survey of cats presented to the author's clinic, 40 per cent were overweight or obese; the incidence of obesity was highlighted in neutered cats, those that were kept indoors and those over 36 months of age. A number of clinical conditions of dogs and cats can be associated with obesity, therefore its prevention and control represents an important challenge for the small animal veterinarian and its success is largely dependent on effective client education. Treatment of obesity involves a suitable diet formulation and continual patient monitoring to maintain the owner's enthusiasm and cooperation. Commercial low calorie diets provide an effective and convenient means of weight loss in obese dogs and cats.