Abstracts: Development of an ethogram/guide for identifying feline emotions

Background: An accurate assessment of feline behaviour is essential in reducing the risk of handler injury and evaluating/improving feline welfare within veterinary practices.

However, inexperience and/or suboptimal education in feline behaviour may cause many veterinary professionals to be ill equipped for this. In addition, busy veterinary professionals may not have time to thoroughly search the literature to remediate this deficiency.

Upon searching the literature, terms such as aggression and stress predominate, but these do not completely represent the rich mental lives that cats are now understood to have. Emotions have recently emerged as an alternative approach to animal behaviour/welfare assessment. However, few resources describe how to identify them, and positive emotions are particularly neglected. In addition, no simple, broad, and concise guide to feline emotions currently exists within the research literature. Therefore, this research aimed to develop a straightforward and clear reference guide to feline emotions (ethogram) to aid veterinary professionals in interpreting feline behaviour in practice and for use in veterinary education.

Results: Five primary emotions were identified and defined for domestic species (fear, anger/rage, joy/play, contentment and interest). A feline emotions guide (feline emotions ethogram) was created. Three hundred and seventy-two images were captured of feline behaviours indicative of emotional states. Of these, ten of the best quality and most representative images were selected to illustrate the guide (two of each emotional state). The feline emotions guide and its associated images were subsequently validated by two feline behaviour experts.

Conclusions: Following slight modifications, the emotions definitions yielded during the feline ethogram design process may be transferable to other domestic species. The feline emotions ethogram/guide itself may be particularly helpful for distinguishing immediate motivations and customising patient care within short- term veterinary contexts. Hence, its use may improve feline welfare and feline handling/interactions. However, the guide will need to be reliability tested/ tested in the field and may require adaptation as the feline emotions’ knowledge base grows. In addition, novices may benefit from exposure to more images of feline emotional state, particularly those involving mixed emotions. Freely available online images and videos may be sourced and used to supplement the accompanying image bank.

Keywords: Animal behaviour education; Feline behaviour; Feline emotions; Feline welfare assessment; Risk (feline handling).

Sandra Louise Nicholson 1Roslyn Áine O’Carroll 2

Ir Vet J. 2021 Mar 25;74(1):8.doi: 10.1186/s13620-021-00189-z.

1School of Veterinary Medicine, University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland. sandra.nicholson@ucd.ie.

2School of Veterinary Medicine, University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland.

Free PMC article

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.