CZAAWE Resource Article

Behavioral and adrenocortical responses to environmental changes in leopard cats (Felis bengalensis)
Publication Type 
Journal Article
Year of publication 
Zoo Biology
Abstract 10.1002/zoo.1430120403.abs Indicators of environmental adequacy relevant to the well-being of small felids are developed by examining, in 4 captive leopard cats, interrelationships between behavioral and adrenocortical responses to changes in housing conditions. Singly housed cats were moved from their barren home cage (Cage 1, baseline) sequentially to 2 new, barren housing situations (Cages 2 and 3; ≈ 10 weeks/cage). Urinary cortisol concentrations, stereotypic pacing, and hiding frequencies were transiently increased for 1 week after translocation to Cage 2. After translocation to Cage 3, cortisol concentrations and hiding also were increased for the first week. However, conditions in Cage 3 were determined to be aversive to the cats, as evidenced by cortisol concentrations that remained chronically elevated for the entire 10-week period. Exploratory behavior was suppressed during this period. When Cage 3 was enriched with a complex of branches and hiding places, urinary cortisol concentrations and stereotypic pacing decreased, and exploration increased. Concealment locations that camouflage were more often used for lying down when urinary cortisol was elevated. These results suggest that reduced exploratory behavior is an indicator of chronic exposure to aversive environmental conditions. Stereotypic pacing may not necessarily increase when adrenocortical activity increases. The results also suggest that enrichment facilitates coping with aversive stimulation by providing behavioral options to confined felids. To promote the welfare of small felids, appropriate camouflaged hiding places should be provided and enrichment programs developed to stimulate exploratory behavior. © 1993 Wiley-Liss, Inc.