An ethogram of acute pain behaviors in cats based on expert consensus

An improved understanding of behaviors reflecting acute pain in cats is a priority for feline welfare. The aim of this study was to create and validate a comprehensive ethogram of acute pain behaviors in cats that can discriminate painful versus non-painful individuals. An inventory of behaviors (ethogram) with their respective descriptors was created based on a literature review of PubMed, Web of Science and CAB Abstracts databases. The ethogram was divided into ten behavior categories that could be evaluated by duration and/or frequency: position in the cage, exploratory behaviors, activity, posture and body position, affective-emotional states, vocalization, playing (with an object), feeding, post-feeding and facial expressions/features. Thirty-six behaviors were analyzed independently by four veterinarians with postgraduate qualifications in feline medicine and/or behavior as (1) not relevant, (2) somewhat relevant, (3) quite relevant or (4) highly relevant and used for content (I-CVI) and face validity. Items with I-CVI scores > 0.67 were included. Twenty-four behaviors were included in the final ethogram. Thirteen items presented full agreement (i.e., I-CVI = 1): positioned in the back of the cage, no attention to surroundings, feigned sleep, grooming, attention to wound, crouched/hunched, abnormal gait, depressed, difficulty grasping food, head shaking, eye squinting, blepharospasm and lowered head position. Seven descriptors were reworded according to expert suggestions. The final ethogram provides a detailed description of acute pain behaviors in cats after content and face validity and can be applied to the characterization of different acute painful conditions in hospitalized cats.

Sabrine Marangoni 1Julia Beatty 2Paulo V Steagall 1 2

PLoS One. 2023 Sep 28;18(9):e0292224.doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0292224. 

1Faculté de Médecine Vétérinaire, Département de Sciences Cliniques, Université de Montréal, Saint-Hyacinthe, Québec, Canada.

2Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences and Centre for Companion Animal Health and Welfare, Jockey Club College of Veterinary Medicine and Life Sciences, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China.

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