The effects of a novel feeding device on the behaviour of domestic cats (Felis silvestris catus)

Davies, Kirsty and Ellis, Sarah (2009) The effects of a novel feeding device on the behaviour of domestic cats (Felis silvestris catus). In: International Veterinary Behaviour Meeting 2009, 28th - 31st October 2009, Edinburgh.

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Item Type:Conference or Workshop contribution (Presentation)
Item Status:Live Archive

Abstract

Current feeding practices in the confined domestic cat do not commonly mimic those observed in the free-ranging cat population. While attempts have recently been made to modify feeding practices with the aim of increasing species-appropriate behavioural repertoires, scientific investigation in the field is lacking. The current study investigated the effects of a novel feeding device on the feeding behaviour of 22 domestic cats housed in a cattery facility.

Cats were provided with their usual morning food ration split evenly between their normal feeding method (food bowl) and a novel feeding device for a period of 80 minutes in a single exposure. Durations and frequencies of food interest, food consumption, exploration of feeding devices and remaining weights of food left at the end of observation period were measured. While 19 of the 22 cats showed olfactory exploration towards the device, only 7 cats acquired food from it. Within-subjects analysis of the sub-population of 7 cats using the device revealed no significant differences in weight of food acquired from bowl versus device (Wilcoxon signed-ranks test, P=0.180) suggesting these cats were as successful at gaining their food ration from the device as they were from the food bowl. However, it took cats significantly longer to gain food from the device than the bowl (Paired-samples t-test, P<0.01) and they did so in a significantly greater number of visits to the device (Wilcoxon signed-ranks test, P<0.05). Two behavioural styles of obtaining food from the device were also observed; 1) pushing device with the head and 2) pawing the device. Six of the 7 cats used pawing as a favoured strategy; behaviour often observed in cats manipulating real prey items. For those cats that learned to use the device, it proved a useful means of increasing feeding time, number of feeding bouts and encouraging species-appropriate feeding behaviour.

Additional Information: Current feeding practices in the confined domestic cat do not commonly mimic those observed in the free-ranging cat population. While attempts have recently been made to modify feeding practices with the aim of increasing species-appropriate behavioural repertoires, scientific investigation in the field is lacking. The current study investigated the effects of a novel feeding device on the feeding behaviour of 22 domestic cats housed in a cattery facility. Cats were provided with their usual morning food ration split evenly between their normal feeding method (food bowl) and a novel feeding device for a period of 80 minutes in a single exposure. Durations and frequencies of food interest, food consumption, exploration of feeding devices and remaining weights of food left at the end of observation period were measured. While 19 of the 22 cats showed olfactory exploration towards the device, only 7 cats acquired food from it. Within-subjects analysis of the sub-population of 7 cats using the device revealed no significant differences in weight of food acquired from bowl versus device (Wilcoxon signed-ranks test, P=0.180) suggesting these cats were as successful at gaining their food ration from the device as they were from the food bowl. However, it took cats significantly longer to gain food from the device than the bowl (Paired-samples t-test, P<0.01) and they did so in a significantly greater number of visits to the device (Wilcoxon signed-ranks test, P<0.05). Two behavioural styles of obtaining food from the device were also observed; 1) pushing device with the head and 2) pawing the device. Six of the 7 cats used pawing as a favoured strategy; behaviour often observed in cats manipulating real prey items. For those cats that learned to use the device, it proved a useful means of increasing feeding time, number of feeding bouts and encouraging species-appropriate feeding behaviour.
Keywords:animal welfare, feline, environmental enrichment
Subjects:C Biological Sciences > C910 Applied Biological Sciences
D Veterinary Sciences, Agriculture and related subjects > D328 Animal Welfare
Divisions:College of Science > School of Life Sciences
ID Code:5095
Deposited On:05 Mar 2013 14:34

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