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Keywords:

  • small cats;
  • environmental factors;
  • successful reproduction

Abstract

Environmental, genetic, and social factors associated with captive maintenance of small felids (Felis spp.) were systematically examined at eight different zoos to determine which of these factors most closely correlated with successful reproduction. Almost half of all the pairings examined failed to produce offspring. However, at least some representatives of the 20 species examined successfully reproduced, suggesting that failure to breed could not be solely attributed to species specific requirements. Multiple regression techniques revealed an association between number of litters produced and number of medical treatments, latitude range of wild counterparts, group size (all negatively correlated), and a positive correlation with husbandry style. These findings have direct relevance to how small cats are managed in captivity. Specifically, when small felids are maintained in groups larger than a pair (1.1), they are not likely to reproduce. Furthermore, a husbandry style in which keepers spent considerable time talking to, and interacting with, the cats under their care was more likely to result in offspring than one in which these interactions did not occur. These and other results generated suggestions for management techniques necessary to assure the continued survival of small cats in captivity.