Effect of familiarity and relatedness on proximity and allogrooming in the domestic cat (Felis catus)
Curtis, Terry Marie
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Past research has shown that domestic cats form social groups and that nonrandom, close proximity between two cats may be indicative of a social bond. Social grooming or allogrooming has been observed in kangaroos, bovids, deer, antelopes, equids, canids, felids, rats, and primates. The contexts in which this allogrooming occurs indicates that its function may serve to help regulate social relationships rather than the care of body surface function alone. Twenty-eight cats living as a stable colony were studied. The colony was privately owned and located in a suburban setting. The cats had access to approximately 0.1 ha of a secured fenced area outside and approximately 180 m2 inside. There were 15 cats that had at least one relative in the colony, comprising five groups of related cats. Each cat was observed for a total of 3½ hours over the course of the study. All occurrences of allogrooming behavior were recorded during the sampling sessions. At the onset of each 15-minute focal sample and at 2-minute intervals thereafter, the identity and location of all the animals within 1m of the focal animal was recorded. Both familiarity and relatedness had a significant effect on which cat a given cat associates with more and who its grooming partners are (GLM, P <0.001). For relatives and non-relatives that were equally familiar to a given cat, relatives were more likely to be within 1m and to be groomed (paired t-test, P = 0.003 and 0.026, respectively).