The effect of hiding enrichment on stress levels and behaviour of domestic cats (Felis sylvestris catus) in a shelter setting and the implications for adoption potential
Abstract:This study investigates the effect of hiding enrichment on stress and behaviour of kennelled cats. Forty-three cats were studied either with a BC SPCA Hide & Perch™ box as enrichment, or with an open bed as control. Observations consisted of Stress Score, approach test and scan sample, recorded daily over the five days following a cat's entrance into the adoption centre, and again on the 14th day if the cat was still present. Days until adoption was noted for cats adopted during the study period. A survey was given to adopters of study cats in an attempt to determine the motivations underlying their choice of cat.
A significant reduction in stress was noted between all study days in the enriched group. Stress levels in this group declined further between the fifth and the 14th day, while those of the control group increased. Cats in the enriched group were significantly more likely to approach and displayed relaxed behaviours much more frequently. No significant difference was found between the two groups in days until adoption, percentage adopted, or in the reasons provided by the new owners in the adoption survey; however temperament was found to be the highest ranked reason for choosing a cat from either group.
Results of this study suggest that the welfare of kennelled cats is greatly improved if they are provided with the opportunity to perform effective hiding behaviour, and that the ability to perform such a behaviour does not decrease the likelihood of those cats being adopted.