Enrichment strategies that modify cat behavioral pattern: Their applications in improving welfare
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This dissertation aimed to identify effective environmental enrichment strategies for cats over both the short- and long-term. In study I, preferences of scratchers differing in shapes and covering materials were evaluated in adult household cats. Preference indexes (PI) calculated based on the frequency and duration of scratching and interactions were shown to be significantly higher with the standing cardboard scratcher compared to the laying S-shaped cardboard (N = 7 houses, P < 0.01). Standing scratchers covered with rope and cardboard received more scratching and interactions (N = 14 houses, P < 0.05) compared to scratchers covered with sofa fabric, and scratchers with carpet were intermediate. Standing scratchers covered with cardboard and rope are preferred scratching devices for adult cats. In study II, fecal and urinary samples were compared between adult intact male and female cats for volatiles using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry in order to identify sex-related semiochemicals that might attract cats. Males had higher concentrations of 3-Mercapto-3-Methyl Butanol (MMB, N = 7/sex, P < 0.001) in the urine and butanioc acid (N = 8 females, 10 males, P = 0.02) in the feces than females. Standing cardboard scratchers treated with the mixed solution of MMB and butanoic acid (i.e., estimated amount from one elimination) through hanging sock had aversive effects on the use of scratcher in cats (N = 28), as indicated by the significantly decreased scratching duration and frequency, as well as the interaction duration compared to the placebo scratchers. The male-representative mix of MMB and butanoic acid may reduce inappropriate scratching in cats. In study III, cat attractants such as catnip (CN) and silver vine (SV) that known to induce active responses in cats, were tested for their efficacies of modifying the use of scratchers. The feline interdigital semiochemicals (FIS) shown by other study to increase the scratching behavior in cats, was also included. Each treatment (i.e., CN, SV, and FIS) was delivered to a standing cardboard scratcher through a hung sock, which was compared to a control scratcher with an empty/placebo sock. Cats had access to both the control and treated scratcher at same time in each treatment group and cats from different households were exposed to all the three treatment groups in a randomized order. Both CN and SV significantly increased (P = 0.02) the interaction duration and frequency compared to control. Catnip also increased (P = 0.02) the scratching duration. The treatment of FIS only tended to increase the interaction frequency (P = 0.06). Catnip and silver vine are effective in increasing the use of scratchers in cats. In study IV, the effects of cardboard standing scratchers treated with CN and SV on activity and weight management were evaluated in household cats. Animals from the treatment group (N = 12) received the treated scratcher and were compared with cats on the control group (N = 4), which did not receive the scratcher over a 4-week period. Weekly activity levels recorded by PetPaceTM monitor collars and body weights were not significantly affected (P > 0.10) by time, treatment or time by treatment interaction. Cats on the treatment group habituated to the enrichment as scratching and interaction related measures decreased significantly over time (scratching duration and frequency, P = 0.002; interaction duration, P < 0.0001; interaction frequency, P = 0.0004). The long-term effects of enrichment on cat activity and body weight requires future study and obese cats in more controlled settings may serve as better subjects.