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Cat Foster Program Outcomes: Behavior, Stress, and Cat–Human Interaction

By Kristyn R. Vitale, Delaney H. Frank, Jocelyn Conroy, Monique A. R. Udell

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Abstract

Recent research has demonstrated that cats (Felis catus) have greater social potential and flexibility than was previously assumed. However, many traditional cat care practices have been influenced by the misconception that cats are socially aloof. This can result in less support or guidance for cat-focused programs that may promote improved success or welfare. For example, while dog fostering programs—even overnight programs—are considered highly beneficial, with research to back these claims, relatively little research has been dedicated to understanding the potential risks and benefits of cat fostering programs. Therefore, the aim of this study was to empirically evaluate the social, behavioral, and stress response outcomes associated with placing shelter cats in an overnight or short-term foster environment. While neither overnight nor 1-week fostering lead to a statistically significant improvement in human-directed social behavior or stress levels, foster cats also did not display increased fear or aggression in the foster home and did not have higher cortisol levels. Therefore, cat fostering—even short-term fostering—does not appear to be more stressful or problematic for this species than remaining in a shelter. This information could contribute to life-saving efforts by providing empirical evidence that cats can be safely moved into foster homes, even for short durations, when shelter space is limited. More research is needed to evaluate the potential effects of longer-term fostering in cats, as well as cat fostering practices that could lead to greater welfare benefits.

Publication Title Animals
Volume 12
Issue 17
Pages 2166
ISBN/ISSN 2076-2615
DOI 10.3390/ani12172166
Language English
Additional Language English
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Tags
  1. Cats
  2. open access
  3. Social behavior
  4. Stress
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  1. open access