CZAAWE Resource Article

A standardized ethogram for the felidae: A tool for behavioral researchers
Publication Type 
Journal Article
Year of publication 
Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Standardized ethograms offer many practical benefits to behavioral researchers, and several examples exist today for various species and taxa. Despite historic evidence that suggests the family Felidae share similar behavioral repertoires, no standardized ethogram providing comprehensive behavioral definitions exists. In order to create a working ethogram for the Felidae, we conducted a thorough literature review of published articles and books containing behavioral definitions designed for felid species. A total of 95 documents qualified for inclusion, and each was evaluated to identify the terminology used in its behavioral definitions, along with any categorization implemented. The articles included the behaviors of 30 species and 40 subspecies of felids, with the most frequent single study species being the domestic cat (Felis catus), followed by several “big cats”. The results were organized into the following mutually exclusive groups for comparison: domestic cat studies, big cat studies, and small cat studies excluding domestic cats (i.e. small exotic cats). Systematic review of definitions confirmed that researchers tend to define felid behavior in similar manners, although some divergence was found between the inclusion of behaviors in domestic and exotic (non-domestic) cat studies. Information from the literature review was used to create a standardized, universal ethogram for use in future felid behavioral studies. The final ethogram suggests the use of “base behaviors” which can be altered using pre-defined modifiers in order to accommodate the requirements of individual studies while retaining consistent terminology. Common behavioral categories are also defined, and suggestions of behaviors that qualify within each category are presented to further assist researchers when developing their study. The ethogram was designed to be user-friendly with clear definitions for each behavior, which should be coherent to a diverse range of observers. We anticipate that use of this ethogram will save researchers time and effort in creating behavioral definitions for their study, while also assisting in unifying felid behavioral research.