Intestinal parasites and fecal Cortisol metabolites in multi-unowned-cat environments: the impact of housing conditions.
Housing conditions were assessed in different unowned multi-cat management models in order to evaluate their impact on the occurrence of intestinal parasites and fecal cortisol metabolite (FCM) levels. Fresh stool fecal samples were collected from rescue shelters, catteries and feline colonies for coprological analyses in order to detect intestinal parasite patency and fecal cortisol metabolites. A questionnaire provided information about the facilities, management and housing conditions of cats, including information about dog exposure, enclosure size, environment enrichment and changes to group composition. Overall, intestinal parasite infection was detected in 58.2% of fecal samples collected. The occurrence of intestinal parasites detected in free-roaming cats was 82.2%, mainly due to helminth infection. The parasite infection rate was 57.3% in rescue shelters and 34.6% in catteries. In confined cats, protozoa infection was more likely detected in rescue shelters than in catteries (RR = 2.02 (1.30-3.14), p = 0.0012). Although the FCM values were very variable between cats, the enclosure size and parasite infection were correlated with the average FCM. A small enclosure size was correlated with high fecal cortisol metabolites (p = 0.016). Protozoa-positive samples showed higher FCM levels than negative samples (p = 0.0150). High dog exposure was statistically associated with protozoa infection (p = 0.0006). The results indicated that improving housing, especially in terms of floor space and avoiding dog exposure, reduces stress and can thus be applied to make control strategies in multi-unowned-cat environments more efficient, especially when cats are confined.