Predictors of proximity to others in colony housed shelter cats (Felis silvestris catus)

Main Article Content

Malini Suchak
Michael Piombino
Kalina Bracco


Colony housing of cats allows shelters to maximize the number of cats housed in limited space. Most research on colony-housed cats examines stress in relation to group size or enclosure size.  While this is important for evaluating welfare, it is equally important to understand how cats are interacting socially in these colonies. We observed 259 adult cats housed in groups of two to eight individuals. Scan samples were used to assess how frequently individual cats were in close proximity to other cats. These data were used to measure individual differences in sociability and patterns of proximity to certain partners. We used information about the past history of the cat, which was collected upon admission to the shelter to identify predictors of time spent in proximity. There was a high degree of inter-individual variability in sociability. Strays tended to spend less time in proximity to other cats, and this effect was most pronounced in females.However, none of the information collected upon admission predicted patterns of proximity to certain partners, or which cats spent time in association witheach other. Future studies should explore the implications of differences in sociability by associating observations of social behavior and stress behaviors.

Article Details

Research papers


Barry, K.J., and Crowell-Davis, S.L. 1999. Gender differences in the social behavior of the neutered indoor-only domestic cat. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 64: 193-211.

Bernstein, P.L., and Strack, M. 1996. A game of cat and house: Spatial patterns and behavior of 14 domestic cats (Felis catus) in the home. Anthrozoos 9: 25-29.

Bradshaw, J. (2009). Behaviour of cats. In The ethology of domestic animals, 2nd ed., 204-216, ed. P. Jensen. Oxfordshire, UK: CABI.

Bradshaw, J.W.S., and Hall, S. (1999). Affiliative behaviour of related and unrelated pairs of cats in catteries: A preliminary report. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 62: 251-255.

Bradshaw, J.W.S., Casey, R.A., and Brown, S.L. 2012. The Behaviour of the Domestic Cat, 2nd edition. Oxfordshire, UK: CABI press.

Cafazzo, S., and Natoli, E. 2009. The social function of tail up in the domestic cat (Felis silvestris catus). Behavioural Processes 80: 60-66.

Casey, R.A., and Bradshaw, J.W.S. 2007. The assessment of welfare. In The welfare of cats, 23-46, ed. I. Rochlitz. Doordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.

Connor, R.C., Smolker, R., and Bejder, L. 2006. Synchrony, social behaviour, and alliance affiliation in Indian Ocean bottlenose dolphins, Tursiops aduncus. Animal Behaviour 72: 1371-1378.

Crowell-Davis, S.L., Barry, K., and Wolfe, R. 1997. Social behavior and aggressive problems of cats. Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice 27: 549-568.

Crowell-Davis, S.L., Curtis, T.M., and Knowles, R.J. 2004. Social organization in the cat: A modern understanding. Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery 6: 19-28.

Curtis, T., Knowles, R., and Crowell-Davis, S. 2003. Influence of familiarity and relatedness on proximity and allogrooming in domestic cats (Felis catus). American Journal of Veterinary Research 64: 1151-1154.

Dards, J.L. 1983. The behaviour of dockyard cats: Interactions of adult males. Applied Animal Ethology 10: 133-153.

Dunbar, R.I. and Shultz, S. 2010. Bondedness and sociality. Behaviour 147: 775-803.

Ellis, S. 2009. Environmental enrichment: Practical strategies for improving animal welfare. Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery 11: 901-912.

Finka, L.R., Ellis, S.L.H., Stavisky, J. 2014. A critically appraised topic (CAT) to compare the effects of single and multi-cat housing on physiological and behavioural measures of stress in domestic cats in confined environments. BMC Veterinary Research 10: 73. Doi: 10.1186/1746-6148-10-73

Gourkow, N., and Fraser, D. 2006. The effect of housing and handling practices on the welfare, behaviour, and selection of domestic cats (Felis sylvestris catus) by adopters in an animal shelter. Animal Welfare 15: 371-377.

Houpt, K.A. 2011. Domestic animal behavior for veterinarians and animal scientists. Wiley-Blackwell.

Kessler, M.R., and Turner, D.C. 1997. Stress and adaptation of cats (Felis silvestris catus) housed singly, in pairs, and in groups in boarding catteries. Animal Welfare 6: 243-254.

Kessler, M.R., and Turner, D.C. 1999. Socialization and stress in cats (Felis silvestris catus) housed singly and in groups in animal shelters. Animal Welfare 8: 15-26.

Kry, K., and Casey, R. 2007. The effect of hiding enrichment on stress levels and behaviour of domestic cats (Felis silvestris catus) in a shelter setting and the implications for adoption potential. Animal Welfare 16: 375-383.

Landsberg, G. 1996. Feline behavior and welfare. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 208: 502-505.

Macdonald, D.W., and Apps, P.J. 1978. The social behaviour of a group of semi-dependent farm cats, Felis catus: A progress report. Carnivore Genetics Newsletter 3: 256-268.

Ottaway, D.S., and Hawkins, D.M. 2003. Cat housing in rescue shelters: A welfare comparison between communal and discrete-unit housing. Animal Welfare 12: 173-189.

Perry, S. 1996. Female-female social relationship in wild white-faced capuchin monkeys (Cebus capucinus). American Journal of Primatology 40: 167-182.

Silk, J., Cheney, D., Seyfatrth, R. 2013. A practical guide to the study of social relationships. Evolultionary anthropology: issues, news, and reviews 22: 213-225.

Stoinski, T.S., Kuhar, C.W., Lukas, K.E., and Maple, T.L. 2004. Social dynamics of captive western lowland gorillas living in all-male groups. Behaviour 141 169-195.

Turner, D.C. and Bateson, P. 2014. The Domestic Cat: The Biology of its Behaviour. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

van den Bos, R., and Bruning, T.D.C. 1994. Social behaviour of domestic cats (Felis lybica f. catus L.): A study of dominance in a group of female laboratory cats. Ethology 98 14-37.