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Beyond “Doing Better”: Ordinal Rating Scales to Monitor Behavioural Indicators of Well-Being in Cats

By Jacklyn J. Ellis

Category Journal Articles

Safeguarding the well-being of cats is essential to the mission of any responsible animal shelter. Environmental enrichment and behaviour modification are often key to this goal. Measuring response to these interventions is essential to ensure strategies are successful. There are often many staff and volunteers involved in these efforts, and a lack of standardised language can make monitoring progress difficult. Ordinal rating scales of key behaviours can be a useful way to summarise observations and ensure that common language is used. However, it is crucial that these scales have good interobserver agreement and reliability, so operational definitions and training systems are important. This paper presents a method for evaluating four different expressions of cat welfare on a 0–5 scale: modified Fear, Anxiety, and Stress score; Response to Petting score; Participation in Play score; and Food Intake Summary score. All scales showed almost perfect average interobserver agreement (linear weighted κ) and excellent average interobserver reliability (interclass correlation coefficient). These scales may prove useful to other shelters, or any other environment where evaluating response to interventions is important to the welfare of cats, such as research facilities or home environments. The exceptional interobserver agreement and reliability of this study compared with some others highlights the importance of standardised training programs.

Publication Title Animals
Volume 12
Issue 21
Pages 2897
ISBN/ISSN 2076-2615
DOI 10.3390/ani12212897
Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  2. Cats
  3. Observation
  4. Quality of life
  5. Scales
  6. shelters
  7. welfare
  8. Well-being