Ellis, J. J., Stryhn, H., Cockram, M. S. 2021. Effects of the provision of a hiding box or shelf on the behaviour and faecal glucocorticoid metabolites of bold and shy cats housed in single cages. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 236, 105221.
It is often stressful for cats to be placed in cages in a shelter and environmental enrichment (EE) of the caging is one mechanism for mitigating this stress. The behavioural style of 72 cats was assessed as bold or shy. They were then randomly allocated (approximately balanced by behavioural style) to one of the following EE treatments in single standard cages: a hiding box (BOX), a perching shelf (SHELF), or no additional EE (CTRL) and their behavioural and faecal glucocorticoid metabolite (FGM) responses were examined. Continuous focal observations of activity, location in the cage, and posture were conducted using video recordings of two 4-h periods/day/cat, over a period of 10 days. Food intake and Cat-Stress-Scores (CSS) were recorded daily. Faecal samples were collected for analysis of FGM. The data were analysed using repeated measures models with fixed effects of day, treatment group, behavioural style, and their interactions. Cats in BOX had significantly lower FGM, and consumed significantly more food daily, than did cats in CTRL. Shy cats had a significantly greater probability of registering a CSS ≥ 3 and had a significantly greater CSS on days 1–3 than bold cats, and within the treatment group BOX, shy cats spent a significantly greater percentage of time in the hiding box than bold cats. Day in study was a significant factor for daily food intake and percentage of time spent eating – which tended to increase across time – and for percentage of time spent grooming – which tended to decrease across time. These results suggest that the caging was a stressor that was partially mitigated by the inclusion of EE (a hiding box), that the stress responses of bold and shy cats differed, and that the stress diminishes with time. The results confirm the benefit of the provision of a hiding box in singly housed caging.