ABS 2022
Best Seat in the House: Favored Spots and Space Use in Colony Housed Shelter Cats
Treya Gough, Malini Suchak, PhD. Canisius College, Buffalo, New York, United States

3.2 million cats get surrendered to U.S. shelters annually. Current guidelines for colony rooms make recommendations for the amount of floor space, but fail to take into account vertical space and availability of resources. Within a colony room, there are an array of resources and structures to be utilized such as shelves, benches, and towers. We aimed to better understand how colony housed cats use their space and resources relative to each other, and how this changes depending on the number of cats sharing the space. Using scan sampling methods and a 3-dimensional map, we examined whether or not shelter cats in colony housing possess preferred spots, and how much use of preferred spaces overlap between cats. Borrowing methods from spatial ecology, we calculated electivity and niche overlap indices for the cats and their resource use. We found that cats exhibit strong preferences for favored spots, and as more cats are added to the room, cat space and resource use decreases, as does niche overlap. Our findings have considerable welfare implications and can be used to make recommendations to shelters about availability of resources in colony rooms.