Foster, S., Ijichi, C. 2017. The association between infrared thermal imagery of core eye temperature, personality, age and housing in cats. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 189, 79-84.
Understanding individual responses to stress is a key aspect of maintaining optimal animal welfare. This is especially important where animals are being kept in sub-optimal environments or where the species may not clearly demonstrate stress. Therefore, the aim of this study was to investigate how stress varies in cats in a cattery environment in association with personality, age and housing. Stress was measured using Infrared Thermal Imaging (IRT) of core eye temperature and compared with scores from the Feline Temperament Profile (FTP), age and single or group housing (n=34). It was predicted that higher eye temperature would be inversely correlated with acceptable scores and directly correlated with questionable scores calculated from the FTP as these are suggested to indicate a stress sensitive cat. As predicted, eye temperature correlated significantly with acceptable FTP scores (rs=−0.377, p=0.028). Eye temperature was also higher in older cats (rs=0.417, p=0.014) and those singly-housed compared with group housed (U=37, N1=12, N2=22, P=0.001). This provides preliminary evidence that personality may predict stress sensitivity in cats and that older and singly housed cats may find the cattery environment more aversive. These findings may improve adoption rates as unresolved stress can cause avoidance and aggressive behaviour, both of which are undesirable in companion animals. Further, they may increase adoption success rates if owners have more knowledge of the personality and likely stress sensitivity of the cat before adopting. In addition, educating owners that the cat they have adopted is stress sensitive will encourage greater vigilance and awareness of subtle indicators of stress, thus improving welfare.