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Animals 2015, 5(2), 245-258; doi:10.3390/ani5020245

The Use of Refuges by Communally Housed Cats

1
Programa de Pós-Graduação em Psicobiologia, Departamento de Psicologia, Faculdade de Filosofia, Ciências e Letras de Ribeirão Preto, Universidade de São Paulo, Av. dos Bandeirantes, 3900, Ribeirão Preto, SP 14040-901, Brazil
2
Centro Universitário Barão de Mauá, R. Ramos de Azevedo, 423, Jardim Paulista, Ribeirão Preto, SP 14090-180, Brazil
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Marina von Keyserlingk
Received: 11 December 2014 / Revised: 15 April 2015 / Accepted: 15 April 2015 / Published: 24 April 2015
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Management and Welfare of Shelter Animals)
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Simple Summary

Captive domestic cats frequently suffer from the lack of physical space and opportunities to perform species-typical behaviors, such as climbing or hiding. Environmental enrichment is a technique that helps transform the space available to animals into a more appropriate habitat. In this study, we tested horizontal and vertical refuge boxes as environmental enrichment for cats living communally in a cat rescue shelter. The provision of boxes in the environment increases the use of available space by the cats. We suggest this improves the cats’ welfare while in communally-housed rescue shelters.

Abstract

The increase of domestic animals kept in shelters highlights the need to ensure animal welfare. Environmental enrichment can improve animal welfare in many ways, such as encouraging captive animals to use all the space available to them. The effects of physical environmental enrichment on the spatial distribution and behavioral repertoire of 35 neutered domestic cats housed communally were analyzed. The provision of boxes in the environment increases the use of available space by the cats. We suggest this improves the cats’ welfare while in communally-housed rescue shelters. The frequencies of active and especially inactive behaviors also increased in the enriched condition. In a test with vertical environmental enrichment, the animals showed an increased length of stay in refuges located at a height of 0.5 m compared to those on the ground (0.0 m). However, the entry frequency was higher in refuges at 0.0 m. Both horizontal and vertical environmental enrichment increased the use of available space, demonstrating that box refuges as enrichment are effective in providing a refuge when at a height, or a place to explore at ground level. We suggest it enhances the welfare of cats in communally housed shelters. This information adds to the body of evidence relating to cat enrichment and can be useful in designing cat housing in veterinary clinics, research laboratories, shelters and domestic homes. View Full-Text
Keywords: animal welfare; use of space; environmental enrichment; refuges; cats animal welfare; use of space; environmental enrichment; refuges; cats
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

de Oliveira, A.S.; Terçariol, C.A.S.; Genaro, G. The Use of Refuges by Communally Housed Cats. Animals 2015, 5, 245-258.

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