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Review

Conspecific and Human Sociality in the Domestic Cat: Consideration of Proximate Mechanisms, Human Selection and Implications for Cat Welfare

1
Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, 4 Battersea Park Rd, Nine Elms, London SW8 4AA, UK
2
Brackenhurst Campus, School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences, Nottingham Trent University, Nottinghamshire NG25 0QF, UK
Academic Editors: Atsuko Saito, Saho Takagi and Minori Arahori
Animals 2022, 12(3), 298; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani12030298
Received: 7 December 2021 / Revised: 21 January 2022 / Accepted: 24 January 2022 / Published: 25 January 2022
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Cats Behaviors, Cognition and Human-Cat Interactions)
The domestic cat is the only species within the felis genus to have transitioned from a wild, solitary species to one of the most popular human-companion animals globally. In stark contrast to their closest wild ancestors, the domestic cat displays an impressive capacity to cohabit successfully with both humans and other cats. However, at an individual level, domestic cats demonstrate substantial variability in their sociability towards both species. Such variability may be influenced by a range of factors including their early life experiences, genetic selection, and individual cat and human characteristics, in addition to various factors associated with their social and physical environment. The impact of these factors may have important implications regarding a cat’s social relationships, their adaptability to various social contexts, and, ultimately, their wellbeing. In line with modern pet-keeping practices, domestic cats may often be exposed to lifestyles which present a range of complex social and environmental challenges, although it is unclear how much cats have been selected by humans for traits that support adaptability to such lifestyles. This review aims to summarise what is currently known about the various factors that may influence domestic cats’ sociality and sociability towards both humans and cats, with a predominant focus on populations managed by humans in confined environments. Current limitations, knowledge gaps, and implications for cat wellbeing are also discussed.
Sociality can be broadly defined as the ability and tendency of individuals to reside in social groups with either conspecifics and/or other species. More specifically, sociability relates to the ability and tendency of individuals to display affiliative behaviours in such contexts. The domestic cat is one of the most globally popular companion animals and occupies a diverse range of lifestyles. Despite an arguably short period of domestication from an asocial progenitor, the domestic cat demonstrates an impressive capacity for both intra- and interspecific sociality and sociability. At the same time, however, large populations of domestic cats maintain various degrees of behavioural and reproductive autonomy and are capable of occupying solitary lifestyles away from humans and/or conspecifics. Within social groups, individuals can also vary in their tendency to engage in both affiliative and agonistic interactions, and this interindividual variation is present within free-living populations as well as those managed in confined environments by humans. Considerable scientific enquiry has focused on cats’ social behaviour towards humans (and conspecifics to a much lesser extent) in this latter context. Ontogeny and human selection, in addition to a range of proximate factors including social and environmental parameters and individual cat and human characteristics, have been highlighted as important moderators of cats’ sociability. Such factors may have important consequences regarding individuals’ adaptability to the diverse range of lifestyles that they may occupy. Where limitations to individuals’ social capacities do not enable sufficient adaption, compromises to their wellbeing may occur. This is most pertinent for cats managed by humans, given that the physical and social parameters of the cats’ environment are primarily dictated by people, but that positive human-selection for traits that enhance cats’ adaptability to such lifestyles appears to be limited. However, limitations in the availability and quality of evidence and equivocal findings may impede the current understanding of the role of certain factors in relation to cat sociability and associations with cat wellbeing, although such literature gaps also present important opportunities for further study. This review aims to summarise what is currently known about the various factors that may influence domestic cats’ sociality and sociability towards both humans and conspecifics, with a predominant focus on cats managed by humans in confined environments. Current limitations, knowledge gaps, and implications for cat wellbeing are also discussed. View Full-Text
Keywords: sociability; wellbeing; stress; group living; domestication; felis sociability; wellbeing; stress; group living; domestication; felis
MDPI and ACS Style

Finka, L.R. Conspecific and Human Sociality in the Domestic Cat: Consideration of Proximate Mechanisms, Human Selection and Implications for Cat Welfare. Animals 2022, 12, 298. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani12030298

AMA Style

Finka LR. Conspecific and Human Sociality in the Domestic Cat: Consideration of Proximate Mechanisms, Human Selection and Implications for Cat Welfare. Animals. 2022; 12(3):298. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani12030298

Chicago/Turabian Style

Finka, Lauren R. 2022. "Conspecific and Human Sociality in the Domestic Cat: Consideration of Proximate Mechanisms, Human Selection and Implications for Cat Welfare" Animals 12, no. 3: 298. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani12030298

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