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Open AccessArticle

A Case-Controlled Comparison of Behavioural Arousal Levels in Urine Spraying and Latrining Cats

1
Psicovet Canine and Feline Behaviour and Welfare Center. Rua Inhambu 1080, São Paulo 04520-013, Brazil
2
Department of Medical Clinics, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Science, University of São Paulo, São Paulo 05508-270, Brazil
3
Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Veterinary Medicine, Veterinärplatz 1, 1210 Vienna, Austria
4
Department Experimental Psychology, Psychology Institute, University of São Paulo, São Paulo 05508-030, Brazil
5
School of Life Sciences, College of Sciences, University of Lincoln, Lincoln, LN6 7DL, UK
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2020, 10(1), 117; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10010117
Received: 5 December 2019 / Revised: 26 December 2019 / Accepted: 6 January 2020 / Published: 10 January 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Fundamentals of Clinical Animal Behaviour)
Urination outside the litterbox (also known as periuria) is a very frequent problem seen by veterinary behaviourists and is a common reason for the relinquishment of cats. Veterinary behaviour textbooks describe two forms of periuria (spraying and latrining), including characteristics of both, and speculations, such as spraying is more closely associated with stress. With the aim of evaluating the arousal underpinning emotional stress in cats showing periuria, we studied recorded behaviours as well as faecal cortisol metabolite (FCM) levels of 11 “sprayer” and 12 “latriner” cats along with their controls (i.e., cats that did not show periuria) from the same multi-cat homes of three to nine cats. The results indicated that households in which a cat exhibits urine spraying are generally more aroused than households with latrining cats, but “sprayers” are not more aroused than their housemates. In practical terms, such results suggest that behaviour management to control periuria in these households should be focused on all cats not just the “sprayers”.
It is often suggested that both latrining and spraying in the home are associated with increased stress in cats. However, the scientific evidence for this is weak. We therefore examined faecal cortisol metabolite (FCM) levels in subjects using a case-control design. Eleven spraying and 12 problematic latrining cats (assessed as healthy after detailed medical examinations on an initial population of 18 spraying and 23 latrining cats) were assessed along with behaviourally normal and similarly healthy control subjects from the same multi-cat (n = 3–9) households. Individual faecal samples were collected by owners from both “case” and “control” cats after observing them defecate in all but one pair in each group. A total of five samples per cat (typically taken on a weekly basis) were collected and submitted to extraction procedures prior to FCM analysis via an 11-oxoaetiocholanolone enzyme immunoassay (EIA). Participant cats, both “cases” (nine “sprayers” and eight “latriners”) and controls, were also individually video recorded (together with the owner) for 5 min in a dedicated room. FCM levels were significantly higher in individuals (“sprayers” and their controls) from spraying households than from the latrining households (“latriners” and their controls), but there was no significant difference between cats from the same household. Within a video observation test, cats from spraying houses spent proportionally more time moving (as opposed to stationary), but again there was no difference between cats from the same house. These results indicate that households in which a cat exhibits urine spraying, are generally more aroused, but “sprayers” are not more aroused than their housemates. Accordingly, we suggest appropriate management needs to be applied to the whole household to help alleviate the potential stress of all the cats in the home, and not just the one expressing this through urinary spraying behaviour.
Keywords: feline; housesoiling; stress; marking behaviour. feline; housesoiling; stress; marking behaviour.
MDPI and ACS Style

Ramos, D.; Reche-Junior, A.; Luzia Fragoso, P.; Palme, R.; Handa, P.; Chelini, M.O.; Simon Mills, D. A Case-Controlled Comparison of Behavioural Arousal Levels in Urine Spraying and Latrining Cats. Animals 2020, 10, 117.

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