Today, cats are one of the most widespread and beloved companion animals: they share their life with people and are perceived as social partners by their owner. The knowledge and understanding of cat-human communication and of the behavior exhibited in response to different emotions is essential to improve the management of housed cats. The aim of this study is to analyze and compare the behavior of cats in three different situations that can occur in house cats’ lives.
Ten Maine Coon cats, four males and six females, ranging in age from one to 13 years, belonging to a single private owner and managed under the same conditions, were exposed randomly to three different contexts for five minutes (Waiting for food, Isolation in unknown environment and Brushing). All the situations were video-recorded and subsequently analyzed. The behaviors oriented to environment, oriented to food bowl, locomotion, active interactions, yawning, lip licking & swallowing and salivation mainly characterized Waiting for food, while Isolation appears principally characterized by behaviors like hiding, scratching, worried positions and exploration. Withdrawal, passive interactions, aggressive behaviors, facial discomfort and purring characterized Brushing. Vocalizations were significantly more frequent during Isolation and Brushing than during Waiting for food, but it is possible that the characteristics of the vocalizations in these two situations are different. Our principal finding is that cats showed different behavioral patterns in the three situations and, in particular, their behavior during Brushing was very different than in the two other situations. It can be hypothesized that these different behavioral responses are due to the different emotional states elicited by each of the three challenging and potentially stressful situations. Further investigation is being carried out in order to better understand cats’ behaviors and emotions to improve cats’ management in the household.