Lamon, T. K., Slater, M. R., Moberly, H. K. et al. 2023. Welfare and quality of life assessments for shelter cats: A scoping review. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 258, 105797.

The aim of this scoping review was to provide an overview of the published welfare and quality of life assessments that are available for shelter cats. The specific objectives were to identify the available assessments, characterize the assessments as validated or non-validated, and discuss how the available tools were used in the shelter environment. Literature published globally, in English or with an available English translation, between the years 2000 and 2021 was identified through searching five databases and hand searching. Abstracts and full papers were screened, relevant articles obtained based on the inclusion criteria, and welfare assessment methods were characterized. Of 687 unique citations identified, 30 met the inclusion criteria of including a quality of life assessment or welfare analysis in shelter cats. There were seven validated ethogram-based assessment tools and two validated physiological-based assessment methods used to evaluate stress and welfare. Assessment tools were used to either evaluate a cat’s acclimation to the shelter environment or evaluate welfare interventions. The Cat Stress Score (CSS) was the most commonly used tool to evaluate stress, with its inclusion in 19 publications. However, the stress level identified on the CSS only correlated with measures of physiological stress in one out of four studies, highlighting the difficulty and complexity of determining stress levels in cats. In general, welfare assessments that incorporated physical and behavior metrics provided a comprehensive evaluation of general welfare and were shown to be reliable between raters. Cats generally acclimate to the shelter within a few weeks. Stress and welfare assessments indicated that the acclimation period was less stressful for cats that were provided hide boxes and/or human interaction. Shelters should consider incorporating a validated assessment into their welfare program and incorporate interventions, such as hide boxes or structured human interaction, to help relieve acute acclimation stress.

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