Research Update: Is That Cat Feral?
As some of you know, a team of us have been researching a potential assessment to help distinguish unsocialized cats from fearful pet cats in shelter situations. The “Is It Feral?” team is led by Dr. Kat Miller and includes Dr. Margaret Slater, Dr. Kathy Makolinski, Alex Mirontschuk and myself.
Phase 2 of the project consisted of assessing cats over the course of 3 days. Both owned cats and colony cats were assessed, and caregivers/owners filled out a 4-page questionnaire about the cat’s behavior. Cats were observed and assessed at set times over the course of 3 days, with 47 behavioral measures and 16 physical/environmental measures collected during those times. As you can imagine, that made for quite a data set for analysis. Thank goodness we have one of the top applied veterinary epidemiologists on our team, Dr. Slater, who bravely dived into the data.
We are still finalizing some of those data points, and will be submitting the data for publication in a peer-reviewed journal, so we have to be a bit careful with what we share before publication. But I wanted to keep you all in the loop, so I will share a bit of what we have found.
Our goal was to ideally find assessment items that could quickly distinguish unsocialized cats from the spectrum of socialized cats. We found that on the first day of assessments, cats are “doing less,” leaving us with fewer opportunities to observe differences. Over the course of the next two days, some of the assessments and observations, when combined, become more powerful predictors of future behavior.
Yes – you read correctly. It appears as if we have some assessment items that may prove to be predictive of socialization status in shelters, but – more research is needed!
We will be finalizing our data analysis, submitting for publication, and will then be starting on phase 3 of the project – to further assess the assessment, and to validate our caregiver survey to assure that the information on the survey truly represents the behavior of the cats. Stay tuned!