ArticlePDF Available


Recommendations to cat owners to house their cats indoors confer the responsibility to provide conditions that ensure good health and welfare. Cats maintain their natural behaviors, such as scratching, chewing, and elimination, while living indoors, and they may develop health and behavior problems when deprived of appropriate environmental outlets for these behaviors. This article divides the environment into five basic "systems" to enable identification of features that may benefit from improvement. It also addresses practical means of meeting cats' needs in each of these systems. | December 2010 | Compendium: Continuing Education for Veterinarians® E1
©Copyright 2010 MediMedia Animal Health. This document is for internal purposes only. Reprinting or posting on an external website without written permission from MMAH is a violation of copyright laws.
Enrichment for
Indoor Cats
Meghan E. Herron, DVM, DACVBa
C. A. Tony Buffington, DVM, PhD, DACVNb
The Ohio State University
Abstract: Recommendations to cat owners to house their cats in -
doors confer the responsibility to provide conditions that ensure good
health and welfare. Cats maintain their natural behaviors, such as
scratching, chewing, and elimination, while living indoors, and they
may develop health and behavior problems when deprived of appro-
priate environmental outlets for these behaviors. This article divides
the environment into five basic “systems” to enable identification of
features that may benefit from improvement. It also addresses practi-
cal means of meeting cats’ needs in each of these systems.
The AVMA advises cat owners in urban and suburban areas
of the United States to house their cats indoors. With the
decision to do so comes the responsibility to provide
conditions that sustain good health and welfare for these cats.
Cats appear quite capable of living indoors, occasionally even
in high population densities,1 especially when food resources
are abundant.2 However, cats are captives in these environ-
ments, akin to zoo animals, and as with zoo animals, cats’
health and welfare may be affected by their surroundings.3
Cats also retain their natural investigatory and communication
behaviors (e.g., scratching, chewing, elimination) when they
live indoors. Because of this, they sometimes display undesir-
able behaviors when deprived of appropriate outlets for their
expression.4 This article describes a clinical approach to the
diagnosis and treatment of environments to ensure that they
meet the behavioral and welfare needs of indoor cats.
Effective treatment of disease requires accurate assessment
and diagnosis, which depend on a pertinent history and phys-
ical evaluation. A similar approach can be used for effective
environmental enhancement and enrichment. In this domain,
taking a pertinent history means identifying features of the
cat and environment that may precipitate observed problems.
Physical evaluation of an environment involves determining
the presence and quality of physical and behavioral resources
available to the cat. Pertinent history questions are presented
in BOX 1. (A more detailed behavioral history form can be
found at: A “review of sys-
tems” questionnaire to be completed by clients is available at
Although this questionnaire is designed to evaluate the envi-
ronment and investigate problem behaviors, environmental
enrichment should not be reserved only for patients present-
ing with a specific medical or behavioral problem. Information
obtained from the questionnaire permits an organized
approach to evaluating the cat and its environment.
Aspects of the environment can be organized into five
basic “systems”—physical resource, nutritional, elimination,
social, and behavioral. Like the physical examination of
patients, methodical investigation of each system can identify
any features that may benefit from improvement. Practical
aDr. Herron discloses that she has received financial ben-
efits from Novartis.
bDr. Buffington discloses that he has received financial
benefits from commercial companies, including the Mars
Scientific Advisory Council.
E2 Compendium: Continuing Education for Veterinarians® | December 2010 |
Environmental Enrichment for Indoor Cats
means of meeting each of these environmental needs can
then be considered.
The Physical Resource System (Space)
A physical environment that ensures a reasonable level of
certainty, consistency, and predictability provides the foun-
dation of enrichment. Creation of a living space that keeps
the cat free from fear and distress and that provides a pre-
dictable daily routine over which the cat perceives it has
some control is the starting point for enhancing feline wel-
fare.5–7 Indoor cats need unrestricted access to resting areas
where stressors such as loud noises, dogs, other cats in the
household, outdoor cats approaching the windows, and
pursuit by small children are minimized. Cats seem to prefer
comfortable resting options, such as pillows or fleece beds.8
Cats also need perching options throughout the household
that offer vantage points that are safe from people and other
animals. Because of their heritage as both a predator and a
prey species, domestic cats naturally climb for observation
and safety.
A group of cats living together indoors may or may
not form subgroups or close affiliative social relationships.
Owners of multicat households need to provide enough
space to permit each cat to keep a social distance of 1 to 3
meters9 (horizontally as well as vertically) when they share
a room. Some cats within the same household rest together
and groom/rub each other, whereas most cats use common
resting, perching, and hiding locations at different times of
the day.1 Hence, it is important to provide multiple safe, com-
fortable spaces to avoid competition for these resources.
Whenever a change in a resource (e.g., food, litter) is con-
templated, offering the new resource adjacent to the familiar
resource permits the cat to display its preference for one or
the other. Preferred resources will be used; others will be
avoided. Imposing unfamiliar, undesirable resources on a cat
may create an additional stressor in the cat’s environment.
One means of providing cats with secure “microenviron-
ments” is to create “safe havens”—refuges from household
stressors for each cat in separate rooms or spaces in quiet
areas of the home. Free-access crate training (FACT), which
teaches the cat that a crate is a safe haven, is an example
of this approach.10 Fresh food and water, clean litterboxes,
appropriate scratching substrates, rotating toy options, and
comfortable resting and perching sites can be provided in
the safe havens.5 If a room is used as the secure area, an
electronic cat door can be installed to allow access only
to the individual cat wearing the door-activating collar. In
our experience, this option has been helpful when there
is social tension between household cats, or dogs in the
household from which a cat may need complete escape.
The Nutritional System (Food and Water)
Although standard diets may adequately satisfy the nutrient
needs of domestic cats, their usual presentation may not
promote expression of normal hunting (exploratory) behav-
iors. Meeting nutrient needs in ways that mimic cats’ natural
preferences provides additional enrichment. Kittens often
display strong food preferences based largely on the foods
they encountered with their mother, although these are
usually readily modified by experience in adulthood. Cats
may also show decreased preference for foods that have
formed a large part of their diet in the past, the so-called
“monotony effect,” and display preferences for novel diets.11
Although some owners perceive their cats to be “finicky eat-
ers,” recent evidence suggests that food refusal is a common
feline response to environmental threat.12
Because cats evolved as solitary hunters of small prey,13
cats in multicat households may be more comfortable feed-
ing from separate bowls placed out of sight of each other.
Locating food bowls in quiet areas protected from inter-
ruption by other animals and away from appliances such
as refrigerators, washers, dryers, or furnaces (machinery)
that may begin operating unexpectedly keeps the cat from
being disturbed while eating, which has long been known
to result in abnormal behaviors.14,15 Cats with free access to
food usually prefer to eat several small meals per day as
opposed to one or two large meals.16 However, free access
to food removes any opportunity for cats to express their
natural predatory instincts,13 and most cats will hunt for prey
when given the option. Failure to provide opportunities for
About AAFP
The American Association of Feline Practitioners improves the health and
well-being of cats by supporting high standards of practice, continuing
education, and scientific investigation. Feline practitioners are veterinary
professionals who belong to this association because they are “passionate
about the care of cats”!
American Association of Feline Practitioners
203 Towne Centre Drive
Hillsborough, NJ 08844-4693
Telephone: 800-874-0498 or 908-359-9351 | Fax: 908-292-1188
Media contact: Valerie Creighton, DVM, DABVP
Contributed by | December 2010 | Compendium: Continuing Education for Veterinarians® E3
Environmental Enrichment for Indoor Cats
predatory behavior may deprive cats of mental and physical
activity, which may contribute to development of obesity
and other health problems.17
Owners can accommodate their cats’ natural eating hab-
its and increase their daily activity by offering food in puz-
zle toys, such as balls or other devices designed specifically
to release dry food or treats when physically manipulated by
cats. Other options include hollow toys that can be stuffed
with wet food, which require cats to work to remove the
contents. Similar food toys have been successfully used in
behavior modification programs for dogs.18,19 Cats may also
benefit from an increased moisture content in their diets,
which can be accomplished by offering wet food daily and
multiple fresh water stations.20 Running water in the form of
a fountain may also be appealing to many cats.
The Elimination System (Litterboxes)
Appropriate litterbox options are another important aspect
of a cat’s environment. Normal feline elimination involves
a sequence of behaviors, including preelimination digging,
elimination posturing, and postelimination digging and cov-
ering. Large, open boxes, such as plastic storage containers,
provide distinct spaces for these normal behaviors. Self-
cleaning litterboxes offer increased cleanliness, although
cats that find their sound and movement aversive may
avoid them. Covered litterboxes may trap odors and pre-
vent cats from having a safe vantage point for the approach
of other animals during elimination, making them a less
desirable option for many cats. As with feeding contain-
ers, litterboxes should be located in a safe, quiet area to
ensure that the cat’s route to and from the box cannot be
blocked by another animal, and away from machinery that
could start unexpectedly and disrupt the normal elimination
behavior sequence. Litterboxes should also be located away
from food and water bowls. In multicat households, a box
should be provided for each cat, plus one additional box,
out of sight of each other.5,21 Most cats display a preference
for unscented and finely particulate litter material,22 making
clumping litter a desirable option. Plastic liners should be
avoided if possible because many cats with intact claws find
them aversive.23 Litterboxes should be scooped daily and
the contents fully emptied at least weekly. The box should
be washed with mild, unscented soap and water at least
monthly—more often (e.g., weekly) for cats displaying elim-
ination problems.
The Social System (Social Contact)
The social system of pet cats includes all animals that share
their home space. These may be perceived as threats (dogs,
humans), competitors for resources (other cats), or prey
(small birds, fish, and “pocket pets”). Owners should be
advised to let the cat determine the timing and duration
of contact with nonprey species to enhance the cat’s per-
ception of control. Some cats may prefer to be petted and
groomed, whereas others may prefer play interactions with
In multicat households, cats also interact with each other.
Because cats housed in groups do not appear to develop
distinct dominance hierarchies or conflict resolution strat-
egies to the extent that some other species do, they may
attempt to circumvent antagonistic encounters by avoiding
others or decreasing their activity.1 Unrelated cats housed
together in groups appear to spend less time interacting
with conspecifics than related ones do.25 Cats without close
affiliative relationships prefer to have their own separate
food and water sources, litterboxes, and resting areas to
avoid unwanted interactions and competition for resources.1
Cat and Environment History:
Environmental Assessment
• Howoldwasthecatwhenitwasobtained?Howlong
• Whatwasthecat’searlyenvironmentalexperience?
Is there any history of trauma or significant environ-
• Describethedetailsofthecat’ssocialinteractions
with people and animals in the household.
• Howoftenandforhowlongistheownerawayfrom
• Howoftendoesthehouseholdreceivevisitors?What
• Whatisthecat’sexposuretooutdoorcats?Whatis
• Doesthecatconsistentlyusethelitterboxforelimi-
• Atwhatagedidtheproblembegin?
• Wasanythingunusualgoingoninthecat’senviron-
• Howhastheproblemprogressedovertime?Hasthe
• Describedatesanddetailsofrecentincidentsofthe
E4 Compendium: Continuing Education for Veterinarians® | December 2010 |
Environmental Enrichment for Indoor Cats
Published guidelines for introducing new cats into a home
are available and may be recommended to clients who wish
to add a cat to their household.26 In our experience, intercat
conflict is common when multiple cats are housed indoors
together and/or when health problems are present. Conflict
among cats can develop because of threats to their percep-
tion of their overall status or rank in the home, from other
animals in the home, or from outside cats.
Signs of conflict between cats can be open or silent.
Signs of open conflict are easy to recognize; the cats may
stalk each other, hiss, and turn sideways with legs straight
and hair erect (piloerection) to make themselves look larger.
If neither cat backs down, the displays may increase to swat-
ting, wrestling, and biting. Silent conflict may be present
when the threatened cat spends increasing amounts of time
away from the family, stays in areas of the house that others
do not use, or attempts to interact with family members only
when the assertive cat is elsewhere. Cats become socially
mature and start to take some control of social groups and
their activities between 2 and 5 years of age. This may
lead to open conflict between males, between females, or
between males and females. The cats involved in the con-
flict may never be “best friends,” but they usually can live
together without showing signs of conflict or conflict-related
disease. In severe cases, a behaviorist may be consulted
for assistance in desensitizing and counterconditioning of
cats in conflict so they can share the same spaces more
The Behavioral System (Body Care and Activity)
An enriched indoor environment allows cats to express
their natural behaviors, including scratching, chewing, and
playing. Many of these behaviors, although normal, can be
considered undesirable by cat owners when they are dis-
played on valued household items such as plants, furniture,
and decorations. Owner frustration may be avoided by pro-
viding appealing, appropriate items as an outlet for these
behaviors. Scratching behavior maintains claw health and is
a form of visual and pheromonal marking.4 Preferred sub-
strates for scratching vary. Substrates such as sisal-covered
posts or real bark-covered logs may appeal to some cats
because they allow the cat to hook its claws in the material.
Cats tend to scratch on prominent vertical objects in areas
where they spend much of their time. They also scratch
more often when stretching after periods of rest or sleep.27
Hence, scratching posts should be placed in frequently vis-
ited areas of the home and in proximity to preferred resting
Undesirable chewing can be avoided by offering a vari-
ety of cat-safe plants and grasses.28 Live planted greens and
fresh catnip are two appealing options. Owners can rub the
designated “cat plants” with tuna juice or wet cat food to
encourage investigation and chewing. Other plants should
be clearly separated from areas where the cat spends most
of its social, resting, and feeding time and/or marked with
bitter-tasting sprays to make them less appealing. Toxic
plants should be removed from the household or kept in a
secure room to which the cat does not have access. Other
chewing options include moistened rawhide chews, dried
fish, and beef or poultry jerky.
Appropriate outlets for play behaviors are an essential
aspect of any enrichment program. Play behaviors in cats are
closely related to the natural predatory sequence of stalk-
ing, chasing, pouncing, and biting.29 Cats also enjoy playing
with items they can pick up, toss in the air, and pounce on.
A safe way for an owner to supplement the need for play
is to use toys that keep distance between the cat and the
owner’s body. Encouraging play and biting behaviors with
hands and feet may teach the cat that it is rewarding to
stalk, pounce on, and bite the owner, leading to play-related
aggression problems.15 Examples of appropriate toys include
wand toys; battery-operated, self-propelling toys that mimic
prey; balls inside a box or bathtub; catnip-filled toys; and
light-beam pointer games. A general rule among behavior-
ists about light-beam games is that they should always be
followed by the presentation of a treat or toy to reward the
cat for the extensive “hunt” and to prevent frustration. Toys
should be rotated every few days to maintain novelty and
interest. Window perches for wildlife observation and cat-
oriented DVD programs also may provide useful forms of
play enrichment and entertainment.
Cats have a variety of unique behaviors and needs; thor-
ough investigation into the physical and social environment
is crucial to an accurate diagnosis of the quality of the envi-
ronment and formulation of an effective treatment plan to
correct any deficiencies. The objective is never to blame”
the client, but to identify areas of improvement that the
client believes can be changed. Further information about
environmental enrichment for indoor cats is available at
1. Bernstein PL, Strack M. A game of cat and house: spatial patterns and behavior of
14 domestic cats (Felis catus) in the home. Anthrozoos 1996;9:25-39.
2. Crowell-Davis SL, Curtis TM, Knowles RJ. Social organization in the cat: a modern
understanding. J Feline Med Surg 2004;6:19-28.
3. Buffington CAT. External and internal influences on disease risk in cats. JAVMA
4. Landsberg GM, Hunthausen W, Ackerman L. Feline destructive behaviors. In:
LandsbergGM,HunthausenW,AckermanL,eds.Handbook of Behavior Problems of
the Dog and Cat. 2nd ed. Philadelphia: Elsevier; 2003:341-347. | December 2010 | Compendium: Continuing Education for Veterinarians® E5
Environmental Enrichment for Indoor Cats
5. Overall KL, Rodan I, Beaver BV, et al. Feline behavior guidelines from the American
Association of Feline Practitioners. JAVMA 2005;227:70-84.
6. Broom DM, Johnson KG. Stress and Animal Welfare. London: Chapman and Hall;
7. CarlsteadK,BrownJ,StrawnW.Behavioralandphysiologicalcorrelatesofstress
in laboratory cats. Appl Anim Behav Sci 1993;38:143-158.
8. Crouse SJ, Atwill ER, Lagana M, et al. Soft surfaces: a factor in feline psychological
well-being. Contemp Top Lab Anim 1995;34:94-97.
9. Barry KJ, Crowell-Davis SL. Gender differences in the social behavior of the neu-
tered indoor-only domestic cat. Appl Anim Behav Sci 1999;64:193-211.
10. Milani MM. Crate training as a feline stress reliever. Feline Pract 2000;28:8-9.
11. Bradshaw JW.Theevolutionary basisfor thefeeding behaviorof domesticdogs
(Canis familiaris) and cats (Felis catus). J Nutr 2006;136:1927S-1931S.
12. Stella JL, Lord LK, Buffington CAT. Sickness behaviors in domestic cats. JAVMA
2010;in press.
13. Morris JG. Idiosyncratic nutrient requirements of cats appear to be diet-induced
evolutionary adaptations. Nutr Res Rev 2002;15:153-168.
14. Wolpe J. Experimental neuroses as learned behaviour. Br J Psychol 1952;43:
15. Masserman JH. Experimental neuroses. Sci Am 1950;182:38-43.
16. BradshawJWS,ThorneCJ.Feedingbehavior.In:ThorneCJ,ed.Waltham Book of
Dog and Cat Behaviour. Oxford: Pergamon; 1992:115-129.
17. Rochlitz I. A review of the housing requirements of domestic cats (Felis silvestris
catus) kept in the home. Appl Anim Behav Sci 2005;93:97-109.
18. Schwartz S. Separation anxiety syndrome in dogs and cats. JAVMA 2003;222:
19. Frank D. Animal behavior case of the month. Separation anxiety. JAVMA 2005;
20. Markwell PJ, Buffington CT, Smith BHE. The effect of diet on lower urinary tract
diseases in cats J Nutr 1998;128:2753S-2757S.
21. Neilson J. Thinking outside the box: feline elimination. J Feline Med Surg 2004;6:5-
22. Horwitz DF. Behavioral and environmental factors associated with elimination be-
havior problems in cats: a retrospective study. Appl Anim Behav Sci 1997;52:129-
23. LandsbergGM,HunthausenW,AckermanL.Felinehousesoiling.In:Landsberg
GM,Hunthausen W,Ackerman L, eds.Handbook of Behavior Problems of the Dog
and Cat. 2nd ed. Philadelphia: Elsevier; 2003:365-384.
24. Turner DC. The human-cat relationship. In: Turner DC, Bateson P, eds. The Domes-
tic Cat: The Biology of Its Behaviour. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press;
25. BradshawJWS,HallSL.Afliativebehaviourofrelatedandunrelatedpairsofcats
in catteries: a preliminary report. Appl Anim Behav Sci 1999;63:251-255.
26. Bohnenkamp G. From the Cat’s Point of View. San Francisco: Perfect Paws, Inc;
27. Houpt KA. Communication. In: Houpt KA, ed. Domestic Animal Behavior. 4th ed.
Ames, Iowa: Blackwell; 2005:21-30.
28. Houpt KA: Ingestive behavior: food and water intake. In: Houpt KA, ed. Domestic
Animal Behavior. 4th ed. Ames, IA: Blackwell; 2005:329-334.
29. LandsbergGM,HunthausenW,AckermanL.Felineaggression.In:LandsbergGM,
HunthausenW,AckermanL,eds.Handbook of Behavior Problems of the Dog and Cat.
2nd ed. Philadelphia: Elsevier; 2003:427-452.
©Copyright 2010 MediMedia Animal Health. This document is for internal purposes only. Reprinting or posting on an external website without written permission from MMAH is a violation of copyright laws.
... Environmental modulation in the context of a cat suffering from DJD refers to adding or modifying one or more factors within its environment in order to improve its physical and psychological welfare that has been affected by the disease (Ellis, 2009, Robertson andLascelles, 2010). These factors refer to aspects of the cat's environment, and can be organised into five "systems": physical resource, nutritional, elimination, social and behavioural (Herron and Buffington, 2010). ...
... • Physical resource system: Cats need to have unrestricted access to resting areas and vantage points where stressors are minimised and/or where they can feel safe at (Herron and Buffington, 2010). The importance of vertical space cannot be overlooked in a cat with DJD, and therefore adding steps or ramps in the environment for cats that have difficulty jumping will facilitate access to raised beds, window ledges and other surfaces (Ellis, 2009. ...
Full-text available
Degenerative joint disease (DJD) is one of the most common causes of chronic pain in cats. Two studies were designed to identify risk factors for DJD in 6-year-old cats by examining prospective data from a longitudinal cohort study, and compare the activity profiles and quality of life of cats with (cases) and without (controls) early owner-reported signs of impaired mobility using orthopaedic examination, accelerometry and owner-completed questionnaires (Feline Musculoskeletal Pain Index (FMPI), VetMetrica). Binomial logistic regression using backwards elimination identified four risk factors for increased owner- reported mobility impairment score in 6-year-old cats: entire neuter status at six months of age (OR=1.97, 95%CI 1.26–3.07), sustained trauma before six years of age (OR=1.85, 95%CI 1.3–2.6), outdoor access at six years of age (OR=1.67, 95%CI 0.96–2.9), and overweight/obese status at six years of age (OR=1.62, 95%CI 1.13–2.33). Case cats scored significantly lower than control cats for the FMPI (p=0.003) and the VetMetrica domain of comfort (p=0.002), but not vitality (p=0.009) or emotional wellbeing (p=0.018). Total pain (p<0.0001), crepitus (p=0.002) and thickening (p=0.003) scores were higher in case cats. Accelerometry differentiated cases from controls with a 90.9% accuracy. Risk factor analysis demonstrated that obesity, outdoor access, and a history of trauma predispose cats to developing DJD, whereas neutering appears to decrease that risk. Changes in joint health as detected by orthopaedic examination and accelerometry reflected owner-reported mobility changes, differentiating cats with early DJD-related signs from healthy cats, whilst the VetMetrica comfort domain score indicated an impaired quality of life of cats with early DJD compared to healthy cats. Being able to recognise signs of mobility impairment earlier would allow interventions aimed at slowing DJD progression, thereby improving feline health and welfare. These findings have identified that orthopaedic examination, FMPI and accelerometry are effective in identifying early DJD-related mobility changes in cats.
... An interesting question here is whether owners of indoor only cats or cats with less frequent outdoor access compensate for this unfulfilled motivation by offering more opportunities to play, either with the owner or with other cats (social play) or with toys (object and locomotion play). In indoor-only cats, enrichment is crucial, as this environment may not provide the necessary stimuli to the cat and can lead to behavioural problems when the environment lacks appropriate stimuli (Herron and Buffington, 2014). For instance, social play alone may not satisfy the drive to perform predatory behaviour. ...
Owners may enhance their cats’ welfare by social enrichment (e.g. positive human-animal interactions), and physical enrichment (e.g. play objects). The purpose of this study was to investigate associations between owner characteristics (e.g. attitudes, attachment), household characteristics (the keeping of one or more cats) and owner behaviours enriching their cats’ lives. Another aim was to use the Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB, using question sets targeting attitudes towards behaviours directed/activities provided to cats, normative and control beliefs) to identify predictors of owner behavior, represented by duration of a play session, number of toys constantly available/cat and frequency of outdoor access. Finally, we aimed to investigate associations between owner and cat behaviours. To this end, an online survey was conducted among cat owners. Questions assessing general attitudes, beliefs about cats’ needs, attachment, frequencies of owner-cat interactions, access to play opportunities and cat behaviour (play, unwanted behaviours) were summarised to components after principal component analyses. Owner attitudes and attachment systematically correlated with frequencies of human-cat interactions (e.g. tactile and non-tactile) and access to various play objects (p < 0.05). The general attitude that cats are ‘Beneficial’ and the TPB attitude ‘Important to play with cats’ were significant predictors of the duration of a play session (β = 0.15/0.14), accounting for 8% of the variance. Owner age, the husbandry decision to keep one or more cats and the TPB attitude ‘Important to offer different toys’ significantly predicted the number of toys constantly available/cat (β = -0.12/-0.47/0.45), accounting for 36% of the variance. Predictors of the frequency of outdoor access were the TPB attitude ‘Important to offer outdoor access’ and the control belief that the outdoors were too dangerous (β = 0.23/-0.60), accounting for 62% of the variance. According to structural models, an effect of attachment on owner behaviour is mediated by attitudes. Owner behaviours systematically correlated with cat play (p < 0.05) but not problem behaviours. The overall results suggest clearly identifiable relationships between attitudes, owner and animal behaviour. They provide insight into attitudes and owner behaviours to target when designing interventions to influence cat owner behaviour. Since positive owner–cat interactions were associated with cat play behaviour, a potential indicator of enhanced welfare, this study underlines the important role of the owner for cat welfare.
... Although domesticated cats are capable of living in close proximity to each other [19,91], the presence of other cats in their living environment can be pleasant or stressful, depending on the number of cats, the size of the area, access to food and other resources (litter boxes, water bowls, scratching posts, places to sleep/hide out), and the quality of the relationships between the cats [92,93]. As owners that see their cats as children less often provide outdoor access, the welfare of these cats might be compromised when the indoor environment is suboptimal (small, limited resources and absence of environmental enrichment such as food puzzles or (scented) toys) [94,95]. Although the categorization of relationship perceptions is not one-on-one comparable between studies, our results are concordant with Ines et al. [64] who showed that the number of owned cats and outdoor access are associated with relationship perception. ...
Full-text available
Describing the relationship with one’s cat in human terms might reflect an underlying anthropomorphic view of the relationship which might be associated with an owner’s behavior towards their cat and the cat’s living environment. Owners self-categorized the relationship with their cat as either a ‘member of the family’, ‘as a child’, ‘best friend’, or ‘a pet animal’. The extent to which owner- and cat-related factors influence these four relationship descriptions are examined in survey data of approximately 1800 cat owners. Differences in outdoor access, care during absence of the owner, and access to the bedroom are examined between the four relationship perceptions. The owner’s age and household composition, ideas about their cat’s equality, support, and dependency, and whether their cat is a pedigree were significantly associated with relationship description and explained 46% of the variance. Owners who perceive their cat as a child or best friend see their cat as loyal, empathetic, equal to family, and dependent on them for love and care. Their cats are less often left in the care of others, are allowed more often in the bedroom and have less often (unrestricted) outdoor access. Moreover, cats perceived as children are more likely to live in a multi-cat household. Our results provide insight in the factors that are related to different (anthropomorphic) perceptions of the human–cat relationship and how perceptions relate to the living environment of cats.
... This modification consists of ending LLP play by having the light land on a small toy that resembles catchable prey (e.g., a stuffed toy mouse) [16], or a high-value food treat. In their recommendations for environmental enrichment for indoor cats, Herron and Buffington [17] list laser toys as an 'appropriate toy' given their ability to simulate the natural predatory sequence, but caution that the "general rule among behaviorists about light-beam games is that they should always be followed by the presentation of a treat or toy to reward the cat for the extensive 'hunt' and to prevent frustration" (p. 5). ...
Full-text available
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.
... The percentages of direct predation found here indicate that cats pose a higher risk than dogs. For cats, indoor environmental enrichment can provide a suitable habitat in which they can exhibit natural behaviors such as scratching, chewing and playing (Herron and Buffington, 2010) and thus reduce the time they spend outdoors. In addition, there are tools that can help prevent direct cat predation, such as belled collars (Gordon et al., 2010), collars with sonic devices (Nelson et al., 2005), the Birdsbesafe, ...
Full-text available
Predation of free-living birds by cats (Felis silvestris catus) and dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) is one of the main urbanization impacts on avifauna worldwide. In addition to direct predation, these pets capture birds after window collisions, an unexplored human cause of avian mortality. In this study we (1) estimated the number of cats and dogs in Argentina, (2) calculated the metrics of direct bird predation by cats and dogs, (3) analyzed factors that influence the probability of pets capturing birds, and (4) estimated annual bird mortality due to pet predation following bird-window collision events. To this end, we conducted an online survey to collect information on bird predation by cats and dogs in Argentina, both direct and indirect after bird-window collisions. We found that more than 68% of participants had at least one dog or cat, and of these, 45.3% reported having observed at least one case of bird predation by cats or dogs in their household. We estimated that the rough annual bird mortality rate due to predation following bird-window collisions could reach approximately 6 million birds in Argentina (range = 1–11 million birds). Our results show that direct bird predation by pets but also indirect predation after bird-window collisions represents a considerable source of avian mortality, which requires further attention in pursuit of solutions.
... 57 The roles of environmental modification on feline health and welfare can be visualized in the illustration (Figure 1). Cats' perceptions of threat may be reduced by increasing safety through provision of separate sets of resources, opportunities to express species-typical behaviors, and elimination of conflict, 58 and their perception of control can be enhanced by offering resources as choices, and providing only those the cat chooses. 59 Changing the environment changes the context and the cat's expectations, which over time changes its history, permitting it to cope with its environment and benefitting its health and welfare. ...
In the health sciences, stress often is defined in terms of stressors; events that are perceived as threats to one's perception of control. From this perspective, a stressor is anything that activates the central threat response system (CTRS). Recent research shows that the CTRS can be sensitized to environmental events through epigenetic modulation of gene expression. When CTRS activation is chronic, health and welfare may be harmed. Environmental modification can mitigate the harmful effects of chronic CTRS activation by reducing the individual's perception of threat and increasing its perception of control, which improves health and welfare.
... Some suggest that we can allow cats to exercise their hunting capacity by providing them with human-made outlets for hunting behavior (Bradshaw and Ellis 2016, 265;Herron and Buffington 2010). Relatedly, Nussbaum (2006) speculates that while a predator usually experiences pain and frustration when her capacity to exercise her predatory nature is impaired, it is unlikely that she experiences pain and frustration when she is denied the capacity to kill small animals. ...
Full-text available
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 significant 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 any cat should be permanently kept indoors.
Safety and sanitation concerns in animal sheltering can interfere with the ability to provide optimal welfare and well‐being for cats. Because of the unique biology of cats, sheltering additionally presents a number of potential stressors that can adversely affect feline welfare, including unfamiliar people, altered routines, inconsistent husbandry, and the disruption of social bonds. The greatest stressor is the inability to control or escape from confinement. Appropriately designed feline housing is a critical tool and starting point in reducing the stress experienced by shelter cats and ensuring their medical and behavioral health. The quantity and quality of housing spaces should be enriched, functionally complex settings that allow for cats to not only cope with their environment but to encourage them to engage in a wide range of normal behaviors. Housing that upholds the Five Freedoms as well as the Five Pillars of a Healthy Feline Environment that allow cats to meet their physical and behavioral needs not only enhances feline welfare but also facilitates adoption potential. Shelters should provide a variety of housing and enrichment options to help each cat acclimate to the sheltering environment in their own way.
Full-text available
Despite the passage of over 30 years since its discovery, the importance of feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) on the health and longevity of infected domestic cats is hotly debated amongst feline experts. Notwithstanding the absence of good quality information, Australian and New Zealand (NZ) veterinarians should aim to minimise the exposure of cats to FIV. The most reliable way to achieve this goal is to recommend that all pet cats are kept exclusively indoors, or with secure outdoor access (e.g., cat enclosures, secure gardens), with FIV testing of any in‐contact cats. All animal holding facilities should aim to individually house adult cats to limit the spread of FIV infection in groups of animals that are stressed and do not have established social hierarchies. Point‐of‐care (PoC) FIV antibody tests are available in Australia and NZ that can distinguish FIV‐infected and uninfected FIV‐vaccinated cats (Witness™ and Anigen Rapid™). Although testing of whole blood, serum or plasma remains the gold standard for FIV diagnosis, PoC testing using saliva may offer a welfare‐friendly alternative in the future. PCR testing to detect FIV infection is not recommended as a screening procedure since a negative PCR result does not rule out FIV infection and is only recommended in specific scenarios. Australia and NZ are two of three countries where a dual subtype FIV vaccine (Fel‐O‐Vax® FIV) is available and offers a further avenue for disease prevention. Since FIV vaccination only has a reported field effectiveness of 56% in Australia, and possibly lower in NZ, FIV‐vaccinated cats should undergo annual FIV testing prior to annual FIV re‐vaccination using a suitable PoC kit to check infection has not occurred in the preceding year. With FIV‐infected cats, clinicians should strive to be even more thorough than usual at detecting early signs of disease. The most effective way to enhance the quality of life and life expectancy of FIV‐infected cats is to optimise basic husbandry and to treat any concurrent conditions early in the disease course. Currently, no available drugs are registered for the treatment of FIV infection. Critically, the euthanasia of healthy FIV‐infected cats, and sick FIV‐infected cats without appropriate clinical investigations, should not occur.
Objectives The aim of this study was to investigate whether Australian cat owners are effectively meeting their cats’ environmental needs and to identify areas of deficiency that may have an impact on the cats’ health and welfare. Methods An online survey investigating lifestyle factors and provision of environmental resources was distributed to Australian cat owners. Results In total, 12,010 respondents, representing cat-owning households, completed the survey. Altogether, 45.5% were single-cat households and 54.5% were multi-cat households, with a mean number of two cats per household. In total, 46.3% of households contained indoor cats, 51.8% contained indoor–outdoor cats and 1.8% had mostly outdoor cats. Dry food was the predominant food type in 59% of households and few respondents fed their cats in a manner that stimulates natural predatory behaviours. Altogether, 17.1% of households reported cats with urinary problems such as haematuria or urethral obstruction, and 19.8% reported inappropriate urination outside of the litter tray. The incidence of urinary problems was found to be significantly increased in multi-cat households, those with a low number of litter trays, less frequent cleaning of the trays of faeces and the use of crystal type litter. The veterinary clinic was the most common place to obtain advice about feeding and toileting management. Conclusions and relevance An increased number of Australian households now contain multiple cats that live restricted or indoor lifestyles. Despite the majority of respondents claiming to have a lot of knowledge about cats and obtaining veterinary advice, deficiencies were identified in toileting facilities and feeding practices, which raises significant welfare concerns. Urinary tract disorders are an important cause of morbidity, mortality and relinquishment and the presence was associated with inadequate toileting facilities. Ongoing education of cat owners and an increased effort by veterinarians to include basic husbandry in preventative care consultations is critical to improving the welfare of pet cats.
Full-text available
This is a book. The Preface describing contents is uploaded.
Full-text available
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.
Conference Paper
The dentition, sense of taste and meal patterning of domestic dogs and cats can be interpreted in terms of their descent from members of the order Carnivora. The dog is typical of its genus, Canis, in its relatively unspecialized dentition, and a taste system that is rather insensitive to salt. The preference of many dogs for large infrequent meals reflects the competitive feeding behavior of its pack-hunting ancestor, the wolf Canis lupus. However, its long history of domestication, possibly 100,000 years, has resulted in great intraspecific diversity of conformation and behavior, including feeding. Morphologically and physiologically domestic cats are highly specialized carnivores, as indicated by their dentition, nutritional requirements, and sense of taste, which is insensitive to both salt and sugars. Their preference for several small meals each day reflects a daily pattern of multiple kills of small prey items in their ancestor, the solitary territorial predator Felis silvestris. Although in the wild much of their food selection behavior must focus on what to hunt, rather than what to eat, cats do modify their food preferences based on experience. For example, the "monotony effect" reduces the perceived palatability of foods that have recently formed a large proportion of the diet, in favor of foods with contrasting sensory characteristics, thereby tending to compensate for any incipient nutritional deficiencies. Food preferences in kittens during weaning are strongly influenced by those of their mother, but can change considerably during at least the first year of life.
Crate training is a technique that can be used to curb inappropriate elimination problems in cats with chronic behavior or medical problems, and promote limited territoriality in kittens. The process has evolved in response to the increased number of owners dealing with medical and/or behavior conditions, resulting in inappropriate elimination, which were undermining their relationship with the animal and, hence, the treatment process for the specific problem at hand.
Sixteen domestic cats were used to investigate the pituitary-adrenal, pituitary-gonadal and behavioral consequences of an unpredictable handling and husbandry routine. After a 10-day baseline period of standard laboratory procedures, eight cats (‘stressed cats’, STR) were subjected to a 21-day period of altered caretaking characterized by irregular feeding and cleaning times, absence of talking and petting by humans, and daily unpredictable manipulations. Eight control cats (CON group) were maintained for 21 days on the standard caretaking schedule. Behavior was recorded on time-lapse video 24 h day−1, urine was collected daily for cortisol analyses, and hormone stimulation tests with synthetic adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone (LHRH) were conducted before and after the 3-week treatment period. Results indicate that the STR cats were chronically stressed by the altered caretaking routine. Urinary cortisol concentrations were consistently elevated throughout the 3-week period, adrenal sensitivity to ACTH was enhanced and pituitary sensitivity to LHRH was reduced. Active exploratory and play behavior was suppressed, and STR cats spent more time awake/alert and attempting to hide. Hiding was negatively correlated with cortisol concentration and, therefore, may be an important behavior for coping with uncontrollable and unpredictable captive environments. These results indicate that qualitatively poor caretaking is a potent psychological stressor for confined cats that may eventually compromise reproduction through behavioral or physiological mechanisms. To promote well-being, caged cats should be provided with appropriate places for concealment.
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.
Feline inappropriate elimination is a widespread behavioral complaint of pet owners. This study looked at data collected on 100 housesoiling cats from the referral behavioral practice of the author. These cats were referred for depositing urine, stool, urine and stool or spraying in the home. The information was contrasted and compared to similar information collected on 44 cats that did not have a history of persistent housesoiling. Litter type, litter pan type, household disruption, number of cats in the home, history of urinary tract disorders and elimination of covering behaviors were evaluated for both groups. Chi-squared analyses revealed that scented litter type (P < 0.01), history of urinary tract disorders (P < 0.05), and covering behaviors (P < 0.01) differed significantly between housesoiling and non-housesoiling cats.