Centre for Evidence-based Veterinary Medicine

Housing cats in shelters

This study originated in a request from International Cat Care to generate guidelines on housing cats in rescue shelters. It was carried out in collaboration with Lauren Finka and Sarah Ellis at the University of Lincoln School of Life Sciences.

Cat in cage

There is controversy over whether it is more stressful to house cats singly or in groups. The aim of the study was to review all of the available evidence on this subject using a Critically Appraised Topic (CAT) format. MEDLINE, CAB Abstracts and Zoological Record were searched. Papers were filtered according to pre-defined relevance criteria and then critically appraised.

Key findings:

  • In some studies single housing was less stressful, whilst in others group housing was less stressful. However, conclusions were confounded by comparisons such as barren single housing versus enriched group housing.
  • Overall the evidence suggests that in cats without prior socialisation to other cats, group housing may be the more stressful option.
  • The results suggest that other factors such as environmental enrichment and presence of sufficient resources may be important in ameliorating stress.
  • Further evidence is needed to clarify this important question

The full results have been published in an open access journal:

Finka LR, Ellis SLH, Stavisky J.
A critically appraised topic (CAT) to compare the effects of single and multi-cat housing on physiological and behavioural measures of stress in domestic cats in confined environments.
BMC Veterinary Research 2014;10:73.  doi:10.1186/1746-6148-10-73


Contact: Jenny Stavisky

Centre for Evidence-based Veterinary Medicine

School of Veterinary Medicine and Science
University of Nottingham, Sutton Bonington Campus
Leicestershire, LE12 5RD

Tel: +44 (0) 115 951 6576
Fax: +44 (0) 115 951 6415
Email: CEVM@nottingham.ac.uk