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Review
. 2018 Jul;20(7):635-642.
doi: 10.1177/1098612X18781388.

Shelter Housing for Cats: Principles of Design for Health, Welfare and Rehoming

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Review

Shelter Housing for Cats: Principles of Design for Health, Welfare and Rehoming

Denae Wagner et al. J Feline Med Surg. .

Abstract

Practical relevance: Shelters and rehoming centres are a valuable tool in the population management and rehoming of cats. However, housing large numbers of a relatively asocial species in close proximity poses significant challenges. Well-designed accommodation enables improved standards of husbandry, as well as a better working environment for staff. This can have a significant benefit in expediting rehoming, as cats are healthier, and more likely to display natural behaviors and have positive interactions with potential adopters. Global importance: As cat overpopulation is such a widespread issue, cat shelters are common in many countries. This review will be of interest to those involved in the design and construction of cat shelters, and to those caring for the cats within them. The principles discussed also apply to boarding, breeding, research and hospitalization facilities. Challenges: Shelter housing poses substantial challenges in terms of maintaining positive health and wellbeing while sustaining adoption at an optimum rate. Disease control and biosecurity are typically facilitated by having a relatively barren, easily cleanable environment. However, this must be weighed against the provision of opportunities for cats to perform natural behaviors such as hiding, perching and interacting if they wish. A more enriched environment has also been shown to expedite adoption.

Aims: This review, the first in a two-part series, discusses practical aspects of housing and shelter design for the health, welfare and adoption of shelter cats. Evidence base: There is a relatively small body of empirical evidence to inform shelter design recommendations. The recommendations in this article are based on a careful review of the available evidence, some of which has come from allied fields such as the care of experimental animals. Where evidence is not yet available, recommendations have been based on field experience and collective expert opinion.

Keywords: Animal shelter design; C4C; adoption; capacity for care; cat housing; cattery; shelter medicine; welfare.

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