Building a model to predict feral cat outcomes

At TinyKittens, we are passionate about discovering ways to care more compassionately, safely and effectively for feral cats. According to Alley Cat Allies, almost 100% of feral cats admitted to shelters are euthanized. We are working to empirically prove there are better options, and that it is possible to safely and compassionately care for ferals in captivity (if captivity is their only/best option for survival).

We are currently building a model we hope will allow feral cat caregivers to evaluate feral cats in the field and predict:

  • How receptive each feral cat might be to socialization within a specified timeframe
  • The most effective approach for reducing risk, reducing stress and successfully interacting with a feral cat that needs care (pregnant fosters, injured/sick feral cats, etc)

We are currently in the early stages of this project, please check back often for updates!


Outcomes based on INITIAL FIELD evaluation of cat
Evaluation happens at first meeting of cat, generally in the field, before external factors like spay/neuter and field socialization become an influence. Many of these numbers will be different in more recent evaluations, but the goal of this model is to predict outcomes based on the INITIAL EVALUATION of a cat.
  Vigilance Confidence Curiosity Social (cats) Social (humans) Avg Score
ADOPTED
5.0 4.9 5.7 4.2 1.8 21.6
RETURNED
2.5 1.9 2.1 2.9 1.0 10.4



Outcomes based on CAPTIVITY - INTAKE evaluation of cat, while they are still ADJUSTING to captivity
Evaluation happens during intake of cat and for the next 3 days, to evaluate behavior while cat is adjusting to captivity. Can we predict outcomes based on how long it takes to reach basic milestones like eating and using the litterbox?
  Vigilance Confidence Curiosity Score Eat (hours) Litterbox (hours) Explore (hours) Play (hours)
ADOPTED
6 cats
4.7 3.3 2.8 10.8 17.7 30.3 10.2 110.4
RETURNED
2.6 2.6 1.6 6.8 27.3 22.5 13.0 54.0



Predicted outcomes of cats currently in the field, based on MOST RECENT evaluation

Includes cats returned after captivity (pregnancy fostering, injury recovery) and cats who have not yet spent time with us in captivity. Some have experienced 24-48 hours of captivity when they were spayed/neutered following a traditional Trap-Neuter-Return protocol.

  Vigilance Confidence Curiosity Dominance Social (cats) Social (humans)
Faerie
4 2 1 8 2 1
Pansy
1 1 2 10 3 1
Raven
1 1 2 8 3 1
Reese
3 3 1 9 3 1
Sable
7 7 6 3 2 4
Savina
2 2 1 10 2 1
Sisko
3 3 2 7 2 1
Eliann
1 1 1 8 2 1
Satine
3 3 3 7 4 2
Shiloh
2 2 3 9 2 1



Predicted outcomes of cats currently in the field, based on INITIAL evaluation

Includes cats returned after captivity (pregnancy fostering, injury recovery) and cats who have not yet spent time with us in captivity. Some have experienced 24-48 hours of captivity when they were spayed/neutered following a traditional Trap-Neuter-Return protocol.

  Vigilance Confidence Curiosity Dominance Social (cats) Social (humans)
Faerie
4 2 1 8 2 1
Pansy
1 1 2 10 3 1
Raven
1 1 2 8 3 1
Reese
3 2 4 8 5 1
Sable
5 4 2 4 2 1
Savina
2 2 1 10 2 1
Sisko
3 1 1 8 2 1
Satine
3 2 2 7 4 1
Shiloh
2 2 3 9 2 1



Evaluation Metrics


Vigilance

How alert/fearful/on guard is the cat? Observe their reactions to sudden movement/noise, whether it originates from humans or other cats. The more vigilant they are, the LOWER their rating will be.

  • 1 = Guard is always up, cat is always scanning for threats, gulps down food, runs away and doesn't return when startled
  • 5 = Fairly relaxed, runs a short distance when startled, generally returns cautiously
  • 10 = Very relaxed, sleeps nearby, rolls over


Confidence

How confident the cat is around humans. Do they demand food or do they observe from the periphery? Do they approach the human when they want something? When the human walks past them, how do they respond? How fearful are they of the human?

  • 1 = Stays on the periphery, very fearful, skittish, leaves without eating if they perceive a threat (Sigma)
  • 5 = Interested in what the human is doing but maintains distance, can sometimes be enticed to play or come closer for food. Does not disappear when startled. Does not always demonstrate fearfulness when observing human activities.
  • 10 = Follows human around, approaches, demands food, stands their ground, not fearful (Caprice)


Curiosity

How curious is the cat about you? Are they playful? Do they follow you around after they've eaten?

  • 1 = Stays on the periphery, no visible interest in toys, bags, activity
  • 10 = Investigates bags, toys, food; follows humans even after they've eaten; consistently observes human activity with interest not fear


Dominance

How dominant is the cat with other cats? Do they seek out confrontation? Are confrontations motivated by a basic need (access to food), perceived threat, protectiveness, mating or establishing dominance / chasing off competitors?

  • 1 = Instigates and wins aggressive confrontations, initiates conflict to establish dominance (Dennis)
  • 3 = Instigates confrontations, chases other cats away from desired food bowls, rarely backs down when threatened (Sable)
  • 8 = Submissive, avoids contact but will react defensively if confronted (Eliann)
  • 10 = Submissive, avoids contact with other cats, waits for cats to leave before approaching food


Socialness with Cats

Does the cat interact with other cats in a non-threatening manner? Do they seem to enjoy or seek the company of other cats?

  • 1 = Always arrives and leaves alone, avoids other cats (Sigma)
  • 10 = Seeks and enjoys interaction with other cats - rubbing against, snuggling, talking, flopping, tail is up (Hannity)


Socialness with Humans

Does the cat interact with humans in a positive manner? Do they seem to enjoy or seek interactions? Do they allow interaction under certain circumstances (ex: before feeding time)?

  • 1 = Avoids humans, does not want to interact (Sigma)
  • 3 = Plays with humans OR approaches for food / will eat from hand but fearful of contact
  • 5 = Gets close during playtime, eats from human hand, doesn't want to be touched
  • 7 = Seeks interaction if motivated (ex: wants food), allows some petting under specific circumstances, responds positively to petting (ex: tail goes up) (Quinn)
  • 10 = Seeks interaction for pleasure, rubs against legs, solicits petting, purrs, flops, tail is up (Mr. T)



Individual Evaluations

Cat Initial? Vigilance Confidence Curiosity Dominance Socialness
(cats)
Socialness
(humans)
Field /
Captivity
Adjusting? Injured? Sick? Pregnant? Nursing? Surgery recovery?
Joy 1 6 5 7 10 6 2 field 0 0 0 0 0 0
Joy 0 4 3 4 10 6 3 captivity 1 0 1 0 0 0
Mistletoe 1 4 5 4 9 2 1 field 0 1 0 0 0 0
Mistletoe 0 5 4 4 9 7 1 captivity 1 1 0 0 0 1
Satine 0 3 3 3 7 4 2 captivity 1 0 0 0 0 1
Satine 1 3 2 2 7 4 1 field 0 0 0 0 0 0
Tiger Buffy 1 7 6 7 6 6 3 field 0 0 0 0 0 0
Enara 1 6 3 2 4 1 1 field 0 0 0 1 0 0
Enara 0 5 4 2 5 1 3 captivity 1 0 0 0 0 1
Shiloh 1 2 2 3 9 2 1 field 0 0 0 0 0 0
Pansy 1 1 1 2 10 3 1 field 0 0 0 0 0 0
Raven 1 1 1 2 8 3 1 field 0 0 0 0 0 0
Savina 1 2 2 1 10 2 1 field 0 0 0 1 0 0
Neelix 1 3 3 2 8 1 1 field 0 0 0 1 0 0
Eliann 0 1 1 1 8 2 1 captivity 1 0 0 0 0 1
Sable 1 5 4 2 4 2 1 field 0 0 0 1 0 0
Sable 0 4 5 2 6 3 1 captivity 1 0 0 1 0 0
Sable 0 7 7 6 3 2 4 returned 0 0 0 0 0 0
Faerie 1 4 2 1 8 2 1 captivity 1 1 0 0 0 0
Skye 1 4 4 4 8 3 1 field 0 0 1 1 0 0
Skye 0 4 3 3 8 2 3 captivity 1 1 1 1 0 0
Maravel 1 5 4 6 9 8 2 field 0 0 1 0 0 0
Sloaney 1 6 7 7 6 5 2 field 0 0 0 1 0 0
Reese 1 3 2 4 8 5 1 field 0 0 0 0 0 0
Reese 0 3 3 1 9 3 1 captivity 1 1 0 0 0 0
Tiberius 1 5 7 5 2 3 1 field 0 0 0 0 0 0
Sisko 1 3 1 1 8 2 1 field 0 0 0 1 0 0
Sisko 0 2 1 1 10 4 1 captivity 1 0 0 1 0 0
Sisko 0 3 3 2 7 2 1 returned 0 0 0 0 0 0
Mr. T 1 7 6 7 8 6 2 field 0 0 0 0 0 0
Pinecone 1 4 5 8 8 5 2 field 0 0 0 0 0 0
Macey 1 6 6 8 6 2 4 field 0 0 0 1 0 0
Macey 0 7 8 8 6 3 6 field 0 0 0 0 1 0
Starling 1 2 3 7 8 6 2 field 0 0 0 0 0 0
Starling 0 5 1 1 5 1 1 captivity 1 1 0 1 0 0
Starling 0 7 6 4 6 3 2 field 0 1 0 1 0 0
Starling 0 6 6 5 7 1 6 captivity 0 0 0 1 0 0
Barclay 0 7 9 9 5 9 10 field 0 0 0 0 0 0
Barclay 0 5 5 3 7 3 5 captivity 1 0 0 0 0 0