Doctoral thesis, 2016
Feline stressHirsch, Elin Netti
AbstractGroup-housing of domestic cats (Felis silvestris lybica) may induce a stress response with consequences such as cats developing infectious disease or problem behaviours. Still, there is no validated behavioural protocol to assess stress in cats. The aim of this thesis was to investigate the effect of group-housing of cats, and how this can be assessed non-invasively, by advancing a behavioural assessment tool. In Study I, frequency of group-housing and related issues such as management was investigated using a survey sent to Swedish shelters. The majority of shelters practised group-housing and had routines and/or protocols for management and care. Despite a high rate of group-housing, many shelters reported low occurrence of disease. In Study II suitability of saliva sampling as a non-invasive method to assay cortisol in naïve awake shelter cats was investigated by association with plasma cortisol levels and prevalence of respiratory disease. Few samples yielded enough saliva for analysis and there was no correlation with plasma cortisol levels. Few cats tested positive for respiratory agents. In Study III cats housed in groups or singly were observed to investigate which stress related behavioural elements (BEs) can predict time from available for adoption until adoption (Time at Shelter). Fourteen BEs could predict short and nine long time until adoption. Significantly fewer BEs were recorded in single-housed cats, so housing in itself seems to have an effect on the possibility to use the BEs to assess cats. In Study IV research cats kept under stable conditions, in stable groups, were observed using repeated measures to investigate stability of the BEs found to predict Time at Shelter. Close to 80% were stable in 75% of the cats. Group-housing is common in Swedish shelters, but does not necessary result in negative consequences. Salivary cortisol was not suitable for studies on cats not trained for sample collection. The majority of the BEs associated with Time at Shelter were stable within an individual and were used to develop a first version of the further advanced assessment tool to determine coping in group-housed cats.
KeywordsAssessment; Behaviour; Domestic Cat; Group-Housing; Shelter; Stress
Published inActa Universitatis Agriculturae Sueciae
2016, number: 2016:91
ISBN: 978-91-576-8684-8, eISBN: 978-91-576-8685-5
Publisher: Department of Animal Environment and Health, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences