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ALMASBEGY, M. & PFLEIDERER, M. (2011)

Ethologisch fundierte Empfehlungen für eine artgemäße Zoohaltung von Schwarzfußkatzen Felis nigripes Burchell, 1824.

Zool. Garten N.F. 80, Heft 6: 309-348.

Abstract:

The Blackfooted Cat (Felis nigripes), also called Small Spotted Cat, is a species endemic to the drier areas of Southern Africa. Ethological observations can give insight into their specialised adaptations to their environment. The investigations were carried out at the base of Karoo Cat Research. The large nature-type enclosures allow the cats to show a wide range of their natural behaviour. This study was done in the hope that it will lead to improved zoo-keeping and husbandry of the Blackfooted Cat in zoological gardens.

It is alarming to note that worldwide the zoo populations of these cats, having always been quite low, have dramatically decreased recently, especially in Europe, where at present only 5 males and 2 females are kept at 3 different sites. Worldwide, most cats die at a rather young age from either Amyloidosis, a kidney disease, or from respiratory tract infections. The possibility is discussed that both diseases are, at least partly, due to inadequate keeping conditions. It is imperative, though not always easily accomplished, that these cats are kept in enclosures that, at least in part, provide desert conditions: a dry climate (relative air humidity of 30 to 40%), and a preponderantly sandy substrate with fitting vegetation. As Blackfooted Cats habitually cover large distances during their nightly prowls, they would require larger enclosures than other cats of the Genus Felis. The enclosures should also give the cats adequate shelter to allow them to hide from disturbances caused by the public. Failing to provide this may be the cause of numerous, possibly lethal, stress-related diseases. Due to the Blackfooted Cat's extremely shy nature and solitary way of living, especially in respect of keeping their progeny healthy, the choice of the right curator is of utmost importance.The experiment of having young Blackfooted Cats reared simultaneously by their own mother and by humans aimed to avoid an imprinting-like bond but at the same time to create the basis for a lasting relationship of trust towards the human carers. The Karoo Cat Research Station proved to be a suitable observation area, offering the possibility of caring for three young Blackfooted Cats from the age of 6 to 16 weeks together with their mother. The behaviour patterns defining the opposites “tame” and “shy” were evaluated numerically and presented in diagram form. The result of this experiment was a stress-free and relaxed relationship between the animals and their carers that was not only observed in the kittens but was also maintained with the adult cats. The activity rhythm of seven Blackfooted Cats in human care in South Africa was studied throughout two seasons with considerable temperature variations. In graphic representations, data are presented, such as the weather or sexual differences, which could not be influenced by humans but have a clearly recognisable effect on the activity rhythm. Altered keeping conditions had an important influence on the divergence of the rest periods of the three young Blackfooted Cats from the usual diaphasic activity pattern of most felid species. The behaviour of wild-caught animals was studied and compared with that of well integrated or zoo-born individuals. Here too an important reduction in activity was noted. The effect of behavioural enrichment measures, such as play, feeding methods, olfactory stimuli, as well as the rearing of young, on a positive increase in diurnal activity is discussed.

 

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