Effect of a shelf-furnished screen on space utilisation and social behaviour of indoor group-housed cats (Felis silvestris catus)

Desforges, E.J., Moesta, A. and Farnworth, M.J. ORCID: 0000-0001-6226-0818, 2016. Effect of a shelf-furnished screen on space utilisation and social behaviour of indoor group-housed cats (Felis silvestris catus). Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 178, pp. 60-68. ISSN 0168-1591

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The environment of the laboratory cat can be restrictive and may impact their welfare. Enrichment is often provided to alleviate welfare impacts but is seldom assessed or validated for efficacy. This study investigated the effect of novel room furniture (a screen) on the expression of agonistic and affiliative behaviours and space utilisation amongst colony-housed laboratory cats. Video footage of cats (N = 29) housed in social rooms (N = 4) was collected for 2 days before (baseline phase), 4 days during (test phase) and 2 days following (removal phase) introduction of the novel furniture. Space utilisation data were collected using scan sampling every 10 min and analysed using a generalised linear mixed effects model and Tukey’s HSD test. Behavioural data were collected using continuous sampling for 3 h a day in 6 × 30 min episodes and analysed using a Poisson generalised mixed effects model.
Significantly more agonistic events occurred before the morning feed compared to after feeding within all phases (pre-feed mean = 0.227; post-feed mean = 0.026; P < 0.0001). However no significant differences were observed before the morning feed compared to after feeding between phases indicating that the screen had no effect on reducing pre-feed aggression at the morning feed. Agonistic behaviours occurred significantly less following the morning feed during the test phase when compared to the baseline phase (test post-feed mean = 0.011; baseline post-feed mean = 0.029; P = 0.0342). Significant differences were also observed on removal of the screen with agonistic behaviour increasing above baseline at the afternoon pre-feed time point, possibly indicative of aggression due to frustration or a rebound effect (removal pre-feed mean = 0.151; baseline pre-feed mean 0.048; P < 0.0001). Affiliative interactions between phases were not significantly affected by screen presence. Given the ratio of the screen to existing shelving (0.58:0.42) a statistical significant proportion of cats were found to be on the screen in the test phase of the study (P < 0.0001). This study suggests that exploiting the unused vertical space by the addition of stand-alone shelving should be considered a valuable resource for the cat by increasing useable space and reducing agonistic interactions.

Item Type: Journal article
Publication Title: Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Creators: Desforges, E.J., Moesta, A. and Farnworth, M.J.
Publisher: Elsevier
Date: May 2016
Volume: 178
ISSN: 0168-1591
S0168159116300661Publisher Item Identifier
Rights: © 2016 the authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license.
Divisions: Schools > School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences
Record created by: Jonathan Gallacher
Date Added: 26 Feb 2018 14:42
Last Modified: 26 Feb 2018 15:07
URI: https://irep.ntu.ac.uk/id/eprint/32804

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