Presentation Details
Contrafreeloading behavior of cats and its relation to activity

Brandon Han, Mikel Delgado, Melissa Bain.

School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California at Davis, Davis, CA, USA


Contrafreeloading is the willingness of animals to work for food when equivalent food is freely available. This behavior is observed in laboratory animals (pigeons, rats) and captive wild (bears) and domestic animals (cows, pigs). However, a previous study of six laboratory cats did not find evidence of contrafreeloading. We hypothesized that cats in a home environment may contrafreeload and that more active cats would be more likely to contrafreeload. We tested 18 house cats for contrafreeloading by comparing feeding choices in the presence of both a food puzzle and a tray of the same size and shape across 10 trials. All enrolled cats wore an activity tracker. Cats consumed more food from the tray than the puzzle (p< 0.05). A binominal test indicated most cats preferred to eat from the tray first and spent more time eating from the tray compared to the puzzle. Our results indicate there is no sign of contrafreeloading among domestic cats.  There was no relationship between activity as recorded by the tracker and tendencies to interact with the puzzle. Further research is required to understand why among tested animals, only cats seem to not express contrafreeloading behavior.