Murray State University

Poster Title

Stress Mitigation Techniques in Shelter Cats: Effectiveness and Usage

Institution

Murray State University

Abstract

Animal shelters and rehoming facilities help to provide medical care, socialization, and hopefully access to potential adopters for homeless pets around the country. Over 3 million cats enter into shelters each year, making shelter welfare a vital issue. One important aspect of welfare is stress reduction, which can help lead to a decrease in illness and an increase in adoptability by way of reducing tension. In cats stress is often hard to detect, and even some of the stress tests available underestimate the amount of stress a cat is undergoing. Different mitigation techniques are invaluable to the efforts of reduction of this anxiety. Common techniques include shelter layout, environmental enrichment (which can refer to physical objects, handling, auditory enrichment, and olfactory enrichment, among others), pheromone usage, distance from dogs, regulation of handling and feeding times, housing type (single versus group housing), and frequency of cage and litter box cleaning. A review of the available literature regarding the technique types was performed, allowing for usefulness of each to be analyzed. A survey was then sent out to shelters around the country and 44 responses were recorded. The survey allowed actual usage of each technique to be analyzed, and found that while all shelters had some form of enrichment present, the degree of enrichment varied. Another area of the survey found that financial restrictions and size restrictions rated highest when looking at what the workers felt limited the stress reduction capabilities of the shelters. Overall, the degree of stress reduction techniques varied, though all shelters had some form in place. As the goal of stress reduction is in line with the goal of shelters, recommendations were made as to some cost-effective techniques that could be implemented within a potentially size-restricted shelter.

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Stress Mitigation Techniques in Shelter Cats: Effectiveness and Usage

Animal shelters and rehoming facilities help to provide medical care, socialization, and hopefully access to potential adopters for homeless pets around the country. Over 3 million cats enter into shelters each year, making shelter welfare a vital issue. One important aspect of welfare is stress reduction, which can help lead to a decrease in illness and an increase in adoptability by way of reducing tension. In cats stress is often hard to detect, and even some of the stress tests available underestimate the amount of stress a cat is undergoing. Different mitigation techniques are invaluable to the efforts of reduction of this anxiety. Common techniques include shelter layout, environmental enrichment (which can refer to physical objects, handling, auditory enrichment, and olfactory enrichment, among others), pheromone usage, distance from dogs, regulation of handling and feeding times, housing type (single versus group housing), and frequency of cage and litter box cleaning. A review of the available literature regarding the technique types was performed, allowing for usefulness of each to be analyzed. A survey was then sent out to shelters around the country and 44 responses were recorded. The survey allowed actual usage of each technique to be analyzed, and found that while all shelters had some form of enrichment present, the degree of enrichment varied. Another area of the survey found that financial restrictions and size restrictions rated highest when looking at what the workers felt limited the stress reduction capabilities of the shelters. Overall, the degree of stress reduction techniques varied, though all shelters had some form in place. As the goal of stress reduction is in line with the goal of shelters, recommendations were made as to some cost-effective techniques that could be implemented within a potentially size-restricted shelter.