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Providing evidence to improve practice

Individual study: The influence of food presentation on the behavior of small cats in confined environments

Published source details

Shepherdson D.J., Carlstead K., Mellen J.D. & Seidensticker J. (1993) The influence of food presentation on the behavior of small cats in confined environments. Zoo Biology, 12, 203-216


This study is summarised as evidence for the intervention(s) shown on the right. The icon shows which synopsis it is relevant to.

Carnivores: Provide live vertebrate prey Management of Captive Animals

A small before-and-after study in 1991 of a fishing cat Felis viverrina in an off-exhibit zoo enclosure in the USA found that when provisioned with live fish, sleeping behaviour decreased and hunting behaviour increased compared to behaviour before the provision of live fish. Sleeping behaviour decreased (21%) and hunting behaviour increased (39%) when provisioned with live fish compared to before live fish were provided (sleeping: 67%, hunting: 0%). One fishing cat was observed for six non-consecutive days before the treatment followed by six non-consecutive days where one or two live fish were placed in pools in the enclosure. A second baseline period of six days followed this. The cat was fed its regular diet of processed meat daily between 08:30 h and 09:30 h. Observations began 30 minutes after the fishing cat re-entered the enclosure after the fish were released into the pools. Instantaneous focal sampling at 30 second intervals for 30 minute periods were recorded twice daily over a period of two months.

Carnivores: Hide food around enclosure Management of Captive Animals

A small replicated, before-and-after study in 1991 of leopard cats Felis bengalensis in off-exhibit enclosures in the USA found that multiple feeds hidden around the enclosure, increased time spent locomoting/exploring, increased behavioural diversity and decreased stereotypic pacing. Time spent locomoting (15.5 %/h) and behavioural diversity (0.547 Shannon index) increased and stereotypic pacing decreased (9.5%/h) compared to non-hidden food (locomoting: 6%/h; behavioural diversity: 0.458 Shannon index; pacing: 18.5%/h). Four cats were singularly housed and baseline data was collected for eight days before the treatment, when fed their regular diet of 0.25 kg of a commercial meat diet, an egg and one or two dead mice once daily. The hidden food treatment (5 days) included four feeds of either a mouse, chick and egg, or 0.125 kg of feline diet hidden in one of two piles of branches at irregular times of day. Continuous focal sampling from 24-hour video recordings was used to record behaviour and location.