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W17-033: Foraging behavior under threat and enrichment in confined cats

Cats spend most of their time looking for food, and usually eat many small meals each day. Cats hunt and eat small animals that they do not share with other cats. When cats live indoors they cannot hunt, and may have to share food bowls with other cats. Not being able to hunt for food limits cat’s activity, which makes them more likely to become fat. Living with other cats also can change eating habits. Competing for food can lead cats to eat less often, and to spend less time eating (although they may eat more or less total food). These changes in the way cats eat may have serious and harmful effects on their health and welfare.

These primary investigators will study 3 types of homes where cats eat from bowls: single cat homes; homes with 2 cats fed away from each other; and homes with 2 cats fed together. They will measure cats’ total daily activity, and how often and how long they eat. They will explore the overall quality of the cats’ housing, as well as their general health and behavior. They will then provide standard environmental enrichment to learn if enrichment affects how the cats eat. Finally, the investigators will add food puzzles (toys that dispense dry food) to learn if they result in any additional benefits. They expect to learn if a rolling food puzzle that lets indoor cats “hunt” for their meals provides more health and welfare benefits than environmental enrichment alone.

Grant ID: W17-033

Status: Active

Year Funded: 2017

Amount awarded: $24,780

Investigator: Melissa Bain, DVM, DACVB, DACAW, Tony Buffington, DVM, PhD, DACVN; University of California-Davis