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Potential Risk Factors for Aggression and Playfulness in Cats: Examination of a Pooling Fallacy Using Fe-BARQ as an Example

By Noema Gajdoš Kmecová, Barbara Petková, Jana Kottferová, Rachel Sarah Wannell, Daniel Simon Mills

Category Journal Articles

Using a popular method of behaviour evaluation which rates the intensity of behaviour in different contexts, we demonstrate how pooling item scores relating to a given construct can reveal different potential risk factors for the dependent variable depending on how the total score is constructed. We highlight how similar simple total scores can be constructed through very different combinations of constituent items. We argue for the importance of examining individual item score distributions, and the results from different intensity thresholds before deciding on the preferred method for calculating a meaningful dependent variable. We consider simply pooling individual item scores which conflate context with intensity to calculate an average score and assuming this represents a biologically meaningful measure of trait intensity is a fallacy. Specifically using four items that describe intercat aggression and eleven that describe playfulness in cats in Fe-BARQ, we found sex and neuter status, social play and fearfulness were consistently significant predictors for intercat aggression scores; and age, age when obtained, social play and fearfulness were significant predictors of playfulness scores. However, the significance of other factors such as scratching varied with the threshold used to calculate to the total score. We argue that some of these inconsistent variables may be biologically and clinically important and should not be considered random error. Instead they need to be evaluated in the context of other available evidence.


Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Date 2021
Publication Title Frontiers in Veterinary Science
Volume 7
Pages 13
DOI 10.3389/fvets.2020.545326
Language English
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Aggression
  2. Animal behavior
  3. Animal roles
  4. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  5. Cats
  6. Mammals
  7. open access
  8. Pets and companion animals
  9. play
  1. open access