Socialization and Stress in Cats (felis Silvestris Catus) Housed Singly and in Groups in Animal Shelters
Abstract:Single- and group-housing conditions for cats in animal shelters represent spatially and socially very different housing types. This study investigated whether the socialization of the cat towards conspecifics and people influences adaptation to these two housing types. Socialization towards conspecifics and people was determined in 169 rescued cats by means of two behavioural tests and a socialization questionnaire. Stress levels of the cats in the single- and group-housing condition were recorded by the non-invasive Cat-Stress-Score. Cats which were non-socialized towards conspecifics (n-SC) were more stressed than cats socialized towards conspecifics (SC) in the group enclosure. During the first hour and on days 6 and 7 in the observation cage, the n-SC were significantly less stressed under the single- than under the group-housing condition. The other members of the group had a higher stress level when a n-SC entered the group than if the new cat was a Sc. Among the SC. there was no detectable difference in stress levels between the single- and group-housing condition. Cats which were non-socialized towards people (n-SP) were more stressed than cats socialized towards people (SP) during the whole stay under both single- and group-housing conditions.
It was concluded that n-SC should be held under single-housing conditions in animal shelters. For SC both the single- and group-housing condition are equally recommended for stays of a few weeks. For n-SP, stays in animal shelters should be avoided because of their high stress levels.