Honors College Thesis

The effects of oxytocin on proximity - seeking behavior and vocalizations in shelter cats

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  • The aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of intranasally administered oxytocin on the sociability of adult, neutered, male and female shelter cats, as measured by proximity-seeking behavior and meow vocalizations. Two local Humane Societies were sampled in this study. The shelter cats were randomly assigned to one of two groups: a control group or an oxytocin (OT) group. The control group received intranasally administered saline and the OT group received intranasally administered OT. A Paired Attachment Test (PAT) conducted with each cat consisted of a 2 – minute phase in which each cat was allowed to freely explore the testing room. Each time the subject would fully enter either of the circles, they would be greeted with 2 pets from either the handler or administrator. Each session was analyzed and coded for specific behaviors/actions including frequency of contact with each tester, duration of time spent in the 1m half - circle to each tester, and frequency of meow vocalizations. Although an increase in pro-social behaviors such as meow vocalizations and proximity – seeking were expected, only the frequency of approaches by the shelter cats to the testers after given OT was statistically significant. These results may be applicable in increasing pro – social behaviors of cats in shelter settings seeking adoption.
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