Bertoni, V., Spiezio, C., Regaiolli, B. et al. 2022. Group reunion in zoo European wildcats using cat appeasing pheromone (CAP) and gradual release of the animals in the exhibit—A case study. Animals 12(10), 1302.
The union or reunion of animals with social groups can be a challenging situation, and little has been published about it when solitary species are concerned. Therefore, the aim of the present study was two-fold: (1) to advocate the need for systematic publications about strategies and the outcomes of reunion episodes in zoos and other facilities; and (2) to describe the behaviour of European wildcats (Felis silvestris silvestris) during one such episode, in which a female cat was reintroduced into her family social group using a gradual reunion procedure and cat appeasing pheromone (CAP) (spot-on). The study comprised three periods: the pre-reunion period (10 days, 20 sessions per wildcat), the post-reunion period (A, 5 days, 10 sessions per wildcat; B, 5 days, 10 sessions per wildcat) and the late-reunion period (5 days, 10 sessions per wildcat). In the post-reunion periods, all wildcats were together in the enclosure and were spotted with CAP pheromone. Per period, we collected data on individual and social behaviours. Individual behaviours, such as attention and self-grooming, were performed more in the pre-reunion than in the post-reunion period. Regarding social behaviours, we found that agonistic behaviours were performed more in the pre-reunion than in the post-reunion period. We observed behavioural changes over the course of the study, with behavioural patterns of the late-reunion periods resembling those of the pre-reunion period.