Behavioral Associations with Feline Gastrointestinal and Dermatological Disorders

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Master of Science in Animal Welfare and Behavior (MSc AWB)
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Social and Behavioral Sciences
animal welfare
animal behavior
animal science
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Eilidh J. Gilbert

Despite a growing body of evidence that suggests a strong connection between physical and behavioral health in animals, the effects of inflammatory diseases on cat behavior remains understudied. I investigated whether behavior profiles of cats with inflammatory GI and skin diseases differ from those of healthy cats. I also explored whether corticosteroid treatment affected cat behavior. I hypothesized that cats with inflammatory diseases would display more behavioral signs of anxiety than healthy cats and that steroid treatment would correlate with increased anxious behaviors. I identified cats within Penn Vet’s patient database that had been diagnosed with inflammatory GI and skin disorders, as well as a control group of healthy cats. The owners completed a feline behavioral assessment survey (Fe-BARQ), and I analyzed the resulting data using the Mann Whitney U test. The results revealed significant behavioral differences between groups. Anxious behaviors were more prevalent in the inflammatory group than the healthy group. The inflammatory group scored higher for purring and trainability than the healthy group. Additionally, cats treated with corticosteroids exhibited more anxious behaviors than healthy and non-steroid treatment groups. This study establishes that cats with inflammatory disorders display more anxious and comfort-soliciting behaviors than healthy cats and that corticosteroid treatment is associated in a higher incidence of anxiety in cats.

Siracusa, Carlo
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