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Title: Intraspecific social interactions and welfare in the domestic cat (Felis silvestris catus)
Author: Ozgunay, Sezan Emily
ISNI:       0000 0004 5921 1996
Awarding Body: University of Bristol
Current Institution: University of Bristol
Date of Award: 2015
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Comparisons between domestic cats kept in human controlled social conditions with their ancestral species and 'feral' counterparts highlight welfare concerns relating to sociality. This study aimed to investigate the relationships between co-habiting pet cats and assess their welfare based on the presence of, and relationships with, other household cats using a spatial judgement bias task and cat stress scores. Owner report was used to characterise social interactions between 93 cats and the cats they shared a house with. Each social behaviour recorded was significantly likely to be reciprocated. Three groups of social behaviour were identified using reliability analysis based on groupings identified by exploratory principal component analysis for two cat households (n = 61): 'affiliative' (allorubbing, tail up approach, allogrooming, not ignoring), 'active aggressive' (blocking, aggression) and 'avoidance/defensive' (fluffing, vocalising, avoiding, not allogrooming). These groups may reflect whether cats perceive one another as part of the same 'social group', and if not what strategies may be used in response to cats perceived as a threat. Judgement bias tests were attempted with 128 cats, 42 of which had results suitable for analysis. The majority of cats that did not complete testing showed fear/frustrated responses or were uninterested in the food reward. Latency to ambiguous probes and the number of training trials taken to reach learning criterion for the judgement bias task did not vary directly depending on the presence of, or relationships with, other household cats. This may be because there was no difference in affective state between these groups, or it could be the result of poor environmental control during testing/poor suitability of judgement bias testing to measure chronic social stress. Cat stress scores were significantly higher in cats from single cat households and were negatively correlated with latencies to the near unrewarded (Nr-U) judgement bias probe. This suggests the cats that appeared to be more relaxed during visits were more 'pessimistic', These results may be indicative of 'relief' effects resulting from separation from stress causing factors such as other pets during visits. They may also suggest there may have been an aspect of cat sociality/other environmental factors that had influenced judgement bias and cat stress score results that were not directly investigated in this study.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available