Early weaning increases aggression and stereotypic behaviour in cats

Sci Rep. 2017 Sep 4;7(1):10412. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-11173-5.


Behaviour problems are common in companion felines, and problematic behaviour may be a sign of chronic stress. In laboratory animals, early weaning increases the risk for aggression, anxiety, and stereotypic behaviour. However, very few studies have focused on early weaning in one of the world's most popular pets, the domestic cat, although weaning soon after the critical period of socialisation is common practice. To study the effects of early weaning (<12 weeks) on behaviour, a large data set (N = 5726, 40 breeds) was collected from home-living domestic cats through a questionnaire survey. The results show that weaning before 8 weeks of age increases the risk for aggression, but not fearful behaviour. Moreover, cats weaned after 14 weeks of age have a lower probability for aggression towards strangers than early weaned cats and a lower probability for stereotypic behaviour (excessive grooming) than cats weaned at 12 weeks. The effect of weaning age on stereotypic behaviour is partially explained by the effects on aggression. These findings indicate that early weaning has a detrimental effect on behaviour, and suggest delayed weaning as a simple and inexpensive approach to significantly improve the welfare of millions of domestic cats.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aggression / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Animals, Domestic / physiology
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Cats
  • Female
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Stereotyped Behavior / physiology*
  • Weaning