A Comparison of Cats (Felis silvestris catus) Housed in Groups and Single Cages at a Shelter: A Retrospective Matched Cohort Study

Animals (Basel). 2018 Feb 14;8(2):29. doi: 10.3390/ani8020029.


The merits of various housing options for domestic cats in shelters have been debated. However, comparisons are difficult to interpret because cats are typically not able to be randomly assigned to different housing conditions. In the current study, we attempted to address some of these issues by creating a retrospective matched cohort of cats in two housing types. Cats in group housing (GH) were matched with cats in single housing (SH) that were the same age, sex, breed, coat color, and size. Altogether we were able to find a match for 110 GH cats. We compared these two groups on several measures related to their experience at the shelter such as moves and the development of behavioral problems. We also compared these groups on outcomes including length of stay, live release, and returns after adoption. We found that while the frequency of moves was similar in both groups, SH cats were more likely to be moved to offsite facilities than GH cats. SH cats also spent a smaller proportion of time on the adoption floor. Length of stay and, live release and returns after adoption did not significantly differ across groups, however GH cats were two times as likely to be returned after adoption. Future research should look at the behavioral impacts of shelter decision-making regarding moving and management of cats in different housing systems.

Keywords: Felis silvestris catus; animal shelter; cat; group housing; social housing.