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Increasing shelter cat welfare through enrichment: A review

By Bridgette Houser, Kristyn R. Vitale

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Research into cat behavior has gained more attention in recent years. As one of the world’s most popular companion animals, work in this field has potential to have wide-reaching benefits. Cats living in shelters are posed with distinct welfare concerns. Shelter cat welfare can be increased through use of environmental enrichment to promote natural behaviors. This review focuses on relevant literature published to date on shelter cat enrichment. Several key areas of research were identified. These included sensory enrichment, feeding enrichment, physical enrichment, social enrichment, and assessments to determine cat preference for enrichment stimuli. Existing studies have examined the efficacy of enrichment to promote species-specific behaviors and to reduce stress in shelter cats. Studies have also explored housing conditions for shelter cats such as cage size, communal housing, or the general quality of the environment. Applications of this information are discussed in order to promote natural cat behavior and find ways to increase the welfare of shelter cats. A review of the literature highlights the importance of supplying novel items in shelter environments, providing a rotation of individually preferred items, the use of human social interaction as a way to increase interactive behaviors in shelter cats, and the importance of considering potentially aversive impacts of enrichment under certain situations.

Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 248
Pages 105585
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2022.105585
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. Cats
  3. Enrichment
  4. Socialization
  5. welfare