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Animals 2018, 8(2), 29;

A Comparison of Cats (Felis silvestris catus) Housed in Groups and Single Cages at a Shelter: A Retrospective Matched Cohort Study

Department of Animal Behavior, Ecology and Conservation, Canisius College, Buffalo, NY 14208, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 8 December 2017 / Revised: 15 January 2018 / Accepted: 11 February 2018 / Published: 14 February 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Animal Sheltering)
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Simple Summary

When cats are relinquished to shelters, they frequently experience a great deal of stress. Shelters often try to control certain aspects of their environment, such as housing, to help them relax. Some cats are placed in small group rooms upon entry, whereas others are placed in single cages. There are tradeoffs to both systems. We wanted to compare the experience and outcomes of cats placed in single housing and group housing in shelters. We found that their experiences while at the shelter were similar, however single-housed cats were moved to the isolation unit more frequently than group-housed cats, which reduced their visibility to the public by pulling them off the adoption floor. Single-housed cats were also sent to the offsite location more frequently, which means they spent more time in transport than group-housed cats. Both groups were adopted at approximately the same rate and after similar lengths of time. However, the rate of return was high, especially in group-housed cats, and live release rate after return was lower than after a cat’s initial stay. More research is needed to know why this is happening and how to reduce returns after adoption.


The merits of various housing options for domestic cats in shelters have been debated. However, comparisons are difficult to interpret because cats are typically not able to be randomly assigned to different housing conditions. In the current study, we attempted to address some of these issues by creating a retrospective matched cohort of cats in two housing types. Cats in group housing (GH) were matched with cats in single housing (SH) that were the same age, sex, breed, coat color, and size. Altogether we were able to find a match for 110 GH cats. We compared these two groups on several measures related to their experience at the shelter such as moves and the development of behavioral problems. We also compared these groups on outcomes including length of stay, live release, and returns after adoption. We found that while the frequency of moves was similar in both groups, SH cats were more likely to be moved to offsite facilities than GH cats. SH cats also spent a smaller proportion of time on the adoption floor. Length of stay and, live release and returns after adoption did not significantly differ across groups, however GH cats were two times as likely to be returned after adoption. Future research should look at the behavioral impacts of shelter decision-making regarding moving and management of cats in different housing systems. View Full-Text
Keywords: cat; Felis silvestris catus; animal shelter; group housing; social housing cat; Felis silvestris catus; animal shelter; group housing; social housing

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Suchak, M.; Lamica, J. A Comparison of Cats (Felis silvestris catus) Housed in Groups and Single Cages at a Shelter: A Retrospective Matched Cohort Study. Animals 2018, 8, 29.

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