Investigation into the behaviour and welfare of indoor-housed cats (Felis catus)

Foreman-Worsley, R. ORCID: 0000-0002-0275-7555, 2022. Investigation into the behaviour and welfare of indoor-housed cats (Felis catus). PhD, Nottingham Trent University.

Rachel Foreman-Worsley 2023.pdf - Published version

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Numbers of indoor-only domestic cats are rising globally, as is literature suggesting that sickness and undesirable behaviours are more prevalent in indoor-only cats. As cats have had freedom to roam throughout most of their evolutionary timeline, understanding how cats cope in indoor-only environments is important to ensure their welfare and strong cat-owner bonds.

Using surveys, this thesis explored the rationales that owners have for providing indoor-only or indoor-outdoor lifestyles, and cat or owner demographics which might be predictive of a provided lifestyle. Additionally, levels of owner-reported sickness and undesirable behaviours and hair cortisol concentration (HCC) were investigated to ascertain if differences were present between cats with these different lifestyles.

Results provided evidence that problem behaviours exist in a wider variety, and/or higher intensity in indoor-only cats compared to those with unrestricted indoor-outdoor lifestyles, and that HCC levels are higher in indoor-only cats than those with outdoor access. However, this variation cannot be attributed to lifestyle alone, as fundamental differences in levels of enrichment and social intensity were found between the indoor environments of cats across indoor-only, managed indoor-outdoor and unrestricted indoor-outdoor lifestyles. In addition, cat demographic features (e.g. sex, life stage, pedigree status), were found to be significant predictors of lifestyle, and may themselves influence problem behaviours or HCC levels.

Modelling highlighted a range of aspects of a cat’s environment that impact problem behaviour scores and HCC, demonstrating that lifestyle is but one aspect that can influence feline behaviour, and potentially wellbeing. Variables showed to significantly impact problem behaviour scores were not consistent between lifestyles, suggesting that owners providing different lifestyles need to take into account different considerations when caring for their cat.

These findings are likely to be useful to cat welfare professionals in the production of advice and guidance for cat owners. These results also highlight the importance of lifestyle classification in future studies, given the significant differences in results observed between cats with managed indoor-outdoor lifestyles in comparison to both indoor-only and unrestricted indoor-outdoor lifestyles.

Item Type: Thesis
Creators: Foreman-Worsley, R.
Date: June 2022
Rights: The copyright in this work is held by the author. You may copy up to 5% of this work for private study, or personal, non-commercial research. Any re-use of the information contained within this document should be fully referenced, quoting the author, title, university, degree level and pagination. Queries or requests for any other use, or if a more substantial copy is required, should be directed to the author.
Divisions: Schools > School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences
Record created by: Jonathan Gallacher
Date Added: 27 Jun 2023 14:01
Last Modified: 27 Jun 2023 14:01

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