Tuozzi, A., Arhant, C., Anderle, K. et al. 2021. Effects of human presence and voice on the behaviour of shelter dogs and cats: A preliminary study. Animals 11(2), 406.
Reading books to shelter animals combining auditory enrichment with human presence is increasingly used although its effects on animal welfare have not yet been investigated. This study compared the behaviour of single-housed shelter dogs and cats during a prerecorded reading condition in the absence or presence of an unfamiliar human (without direct physical contact). Fourteen dogs and twenty-one cats were observed in their enclosure in the two conditions in a counterbalanced order. Behaviours such as scratching the door, gaze direction and location in relation to the audio source/human were analysed from video recording for 10 min per condition. Dogs spent more time in their bed (p < 0.047) and looking at the auditory source (p < 0.004) when a human was present. Cats showed door scratching and rubbing when a human was present (p < 0.043), whereas they tended to spend more time in the vertical dimension (p = 0.051), where the hiding boxes were located, during auditory stimulation without a human present. These results show that the presence of a human induces greater interest compared to just audio stimulation in shelter dogs and cats but may induce frustration likely due to not being able to physically interact in some animals.