Using Ordinal Rating Scales to Monitor Feline Behavioural Indictors

| November 18, 2022

When someone asks you how you’re doing, and you respond with “fine”, what does that really mean? It could mean that you’re having a wonderful day, or that you had an okay day and hope that it’ll get better. It could also mean you had a terrible day but you’re trying your best to put it behind you. 

These sorts of phrases lack specificity and detail, and it’s these sorts of phrases that can affect how animal shelters monitor behaviour. 

Making sure that the pets in our care have a good quality of life is at the top of an animal shelter’s priority list – including ours. There are many strategies that animal shelters use to meet this goal – such as minimizing exposure to environmental stressors, enriching their enclosure, and behaviour modification – but it is equally important to evaluate how successful these strategies truly are to ensure continual improvement of care. 

Dr. Jacklyn Ellis, Director of Behaviour at Toronto Humane Society, recently published her study entitled “Beyond “Doing Better”: Ordinal Rating Scales to Monitor Behavioural Indicators of Well-Being in Cats.” This paper discusses standardizing the language used and conditions under which feline observations are scored on a scale of 0-5: modified Fear, Anxiety, and Stress score, Response to Petting score, Participation in Play score, and Food Intake Summary score. 

Her paper further explains that by using ordinal scales and collecting rating scores during a standardized time of the day – such as during cleaning or behaviour modification sessions – staff and volunteer members would be able to produce a more holistic picture of the cat’s psychological well-being.

Dr. Ellis’ research will support animal welfare organizations who do not have the resources to perform similar studies. They’ll be able to better understand, and interpret, behavioural indictors, which, in turn, will improve the well-being of more cats in more communities.  

Thank you, Dr. Jacklyn Ellis, for taking our mission to Improve the Lives of Animals further by sharing your expertise! 

You can read Beyond “Doing Better”: Ordinal Rating Scales to Monitor Behavioural Indicators of Well-Being in Cathere.