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Toys, activities, and behavior problems in indoor cats

Strickler BL, Shull EA. An owner survey of toys, activities, and behavior problems in indoor cats.  J Vet Behav. 2014; 9(5): 207-214.

Behavior problems are a common reason for removal of a cat from the home. Cats that are kept indoors at part of the time are less likely to be relinquished to a shelter than cats kept outside. While disease risks have been evaluated for indoor cats, behavior wellness has not been adequately examined. An indoor environment is often predictable and unchanging which may lead to stress and inactivity. Environmental enrichment may benefit indoor cats but has not been evaluated. This study attempts to do so using a survey of cat owners.

The goals of this survey study with owners of pet domestic cats were: (1) Identify the frequency and duration of owners’ daily interactions with their indoor cats, (2) Identify toys and activities

currently provided by owners for their indoor cats, (3) Identify the prevalence of 6 selected behavior problems of indoor cats, (4)Identify whether the owners consulted their veterinarians regarding behavior problems, and (5) Evaluate for a relationship between number of owner-provided toys and activities and behavior problems.

The sample population was 277 clients from 5 veterinary practices who presented their domestic cat for anything except a behavior problem. The average number of toys and activities reported by owners per cat was 7, and the most common toys/activities used by owners in this survey were furry mice (64%), catnip toys (62%), and balls with bells (62%). A total of 78% of the owners reported that they leave the cat’s toy(s) available all the time. All owners reported playing with their cat, whereas most owners (64%) played with their cat more than 2 times per day and reported play bout durations of 5 (33%) or 10 minutes (25%). Owners who reported play bout time of 5 minutes or more reported fewer behavioral problems than those with play bouts of 1 minute.

A total of 61% of the owners reported that their cat engaged in 1 or more of the 6 selected behavior problem(s), but only 54% of the owners who reported behavior problems in their cats reported that they had talked to their veterinarian about the problem. The 2 most frequently reported behavior problems were aggression to the owners (36%) and inappropriate urination (24%). Female cats were 50% less likely to be reported to have 1 or more behavior problems than males despite an equal sex distribution in the survey population. (MK)

See Also:
Buffington, CA.  External and internal influences on disease risk in cats. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2002 April 1; 220(7): 994-1002.