DENVER/May 20, 2020 – Inter-cat conflict and impacts from the environment are among the top feline behavioral issues for which there is a pressing need for research, according to a blue-ribbon panel of experts brought together by Morris Animal Foundation.
A paper detailing the panel’s discussion, findings and potential research-relevant themes recently was published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery.
The Foundation convened the panel in October 2019 after conducting a national survey of veterinarians in general practice to determine areas of pressing need in companion animal health research. Results suggested that feline behavior was an important but neglected area.
Foundation staff then invited five experts in feline behavior to identify topics for which significant scientific and/or clinical progress could be achieved if backed with a large research investment. Findings were then used to determine the focus of the Foundation’s next Mark L. Morris Jr. Investigator Award, which is now accepting proposals.
Panel experts said that feline behavioral issues are a common, but often unrecognized, underlying cause of poor feline health including obesity, vomiting and stereotypic activities such as overgrooming. The panel’s feedback was organized into six categories:
- Inter-cat conflict
Research in this area could have a significant impact, both in reducing adoption failure and in increasing the potential for successfully adding further cats to good homes.
- Impact of the environment
Environment is a key factor influencing behavior, and cats with easy access to sufficient resources dispersed throughout the home are more likely to exhibit reduced stress. This may result in cats having a higher tolerance of other cats and humans, and fewer behavioral problems.
- Kitten socialization
There is a lack of awareness around the need to socialize kittens for later life. Early behavioral interventions may improve outcomes and could be particularly useful for kitten owners.
- Cat–human interactions and owner awareness
Behavioral problems and owner reaction to them are among the leading “killers of cats,” according to the panel. A potential area of research might be to characterize what the misunderstandings are and the groups/types of owners involved.
- Veterinarian Awareness
A lack of feline-focused veterinary care is a significant issue for cat health. Many veterinarians and veterinary students have less clinical experience handling cats and this potentially contributes to owners not seeking advice.
The percentage of older cats in the feline population is increasing and the frequent occurrence of more than one chronic condition in senior cats can create difficulties in getting a firm diagnosis of any concurrent behavioral problems. This issue is compounded by a general lack of understanding of the aging process in cats.
Proposals that address any of these issues to enrich and optimize the physical and psychological environment for pet cats will be considered.
The Mark L. Morris Jr. Investigator Award is designed to support impactful companion animal research for which there is a pressing need, with the potential to make rapid, meaningful progress. First awarded in 2016, it honors the legacy and vision of Dr. Mark Morris Jr., son of the Foundation’s founder, Dr. Mark Morris Sr. This will be the second time the Foundation has given this award and it will fund a study of up to $200,000 per year, for a maximum of three years.
Morris Animal Foundation, headquartered in Denver, is one of the largest nonprofit animal health research organizations in the world, funding more than $155 million in studies across a broad range of species.
About Morris Animal Foundation
Morris Animal Foundation’s mission is to bridge science and resources to advance the health of animals. Founded by a veterinarian in 1948, we fund and conduct critical health studies for the benefit of all animals. Learn more at morrisanimalfoundation.org.