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Preventing undesirable behaviors in cats

Gazzano A, Bianchi L, Campa S, Mariti C. The prevention of undesirable behaviors in cats: Effectiveness of veterinary behaviorists’ advice given to kitten owners. J Vet Behav: Clin Appl and Res. 2015 Nov-Dec; 10(6):535-542.

Cats can form a strong relationship toward the owner and seem to accept the advantages of living within a human family. However, cats can show behavioral problems, which are supposed to be largely due to owners’ lack of knowledge or misunderstanding of feline behavior and needs. Therefore, the first period after adoption may be crucial in the development of a good cohabitation and relationship with the owner.

The aim of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of a standardized set of behavioral advices provided to kitten owners in preventing the main undesirable behaviors in the domestic cat. Ninety-one cats divided into 2 groups were involved. Owners of the experimental group were involved in the study in 2 steps. The first step was at the first veterinary visit of their pets, when kittens were 10-14 weeks old, and owners were provided with advice aimed to prevent behavioral problems. As a second step, they were interviewed 10 months later. Owners of the control group were met and interviewed only once, during the first vaccination recall visit.

Results show that a significantly higher percentage of owners belonging to the control group complained about one or more undesirable behaviors of their cat. Cats in the experimental group were more often reported to climb on some or specifically allowed furniture, while a greater number of cats in the control group climbed on every kind of furniture and climbed on the curtains sometimes or frequently. Excessive vocalizations were also displayed more in the control group. Cats in the experimental group preferred seeking physical contact when the owners went back home, whereas cats belonging to the control group usually sought contact while owners were lying in the bed or on the sofa, possibly disturbing them. Moreover, a higher proportion of experimental group cats did not show a negative response to handling of any part of the body.

The results of the present study support the hypothesis that providing owners with advice regarding their own behavior toward the cat and the appropriate education of their kitten leads to better informed owners and to fewer behaviors perceived as undesirable in cats. (MK)

See also:
Arhant C, Wogritsch R, Troxler J. Assessment of behavior and physical condition of shelter cats as animal-based indicators of welfare. J Vet Behav: Clin Appl and Res. 2015 Sept-Oct; 10(5):399-406.