Dr. Margaret Slater shared that figure with shelter veterinarians at the North American Veterinary Conference last month, where she gave an update on ongoing research and data analysis being conducted by the ASPCA.
Pointing out that a terrified social cat looks a lot like an unsocial/feral cat, she said their goal is to develop an assessment that will be valid over the three day hold period, and that will be safe for people and cats.
In her study, they brought 298 cats whose background was known to be owned, fostered, or free- roaming into the shelter setting for observation and assessment. Those studying the cats did not know their background.
Over a three-day period, they performed multiple assessments, created a probability for social status, and compared how well those results matched the cats' actual socialization status.
Dr. Slater’s analysis of the data revealed that they “were about 75% accurate in separating friendly but frightened from feral. And that the cats who were tough to correctly identify were the really frightened cats who never came out of their shells in the shelter.” A total of nine social cats were missed on the study.
One tip that’s already clear: Attention-seeking behavior is almost only seen in socialized cats. They respond with chirping sounds, by yawning, and with their tail straight up.
Get an overview of the study’s progress, including future updates, here.