New Research to Help Shelters Better Place Cats in Loving Homes | HABRI

New Research to Help Shelters Better Place Cats in Loving Homes

HABRI and Winn Feline Foundation-Funded Publication Highlights Benefits and Convenience of the Feline Temperament Profile in Evaluating Shelter Cat Behavior

Washington, D.C. (January 6, 2021) — Results of a newly-published study funded by HABRI and the Winn Feline Foundation in the Animal Studies Journal, led by researchers at the University of Missouri, demonstrate the effectiveness of the Feline Temperament Profile (FTP) in assessing the behavioral responses of cats in different situations. Results also indicate that the FTP may be shortened with no loss of reliability to serve as a quick and practical tool for animal shelters and rescue organizations to assess a cat’s temperament to find compatible homes and reduce the likelihood of cat relinquishment.

“Cat temperament assessments can help shelters and rescue organizations better place cats into the right homes, and are especially important for families with special needs who may fare better with a more social and calm cat,” said Dr. Gretchen Carlisle, Research Scientist at the University of Missouri and Principal Investigator of the Feline Friends study. “With this study, we conclude that the shorter FTP can be deployed to increase the possibility of successful adoptions by matching cats with adopting families’ expectations and improving shelter staff’s accuracy to easily and objectively assess behavior.”

“We know from scientific research that pets, especially dogs, can be beneficial to families of children with autism in improving family functioning and decreasing stress,” said Steven Feldman, President of HABRI. “Research also shows that quiet and non-verbal interactions with cats may be beneficial for children with autism by promoting social contact. Having a reliable way to assess feline temperament is important to this equation.”

“Up until now there has been a critical lack of evidence-based studies regarding the temperament of cats and the effect on different aspects of the human-cat bond. The results of this study provides important information assisting shelters with finding compatible homes for successful adoption of cats’, added Dr. Vicki Thayer, interim executive director of Winn Feline Foundation.

Research suggests retention of adopted cats is associated with cat behavior[1]. Millions of cats are estimated to be adopted and then relinquished annually, and an adopted cat that does not meet the behavioral expectations of the family is often a reason for such relinquishment. Traditional tests to assess cat behavior may take as long as three days, which has potential to create a backlog in shelters that face staffing or operational limitations. The FTP was developed in 1983 and designed to assess the suitability of cats for placement in nursing homes. It comprises 10 phases, with a list of “acceptable” and “questionable” behaviors under each phase. There are 73 behaviors in the FTP test, and this study required an “acceptable” score of 20 or higher with no disqualifying behaviors such as hissing or biting. The team of researchers from the University of Missouri included data from 70 cats aged 10 months to four years from two animal shelters in Missouri. Study staff were trained to perform the FTP test. Statistical analyses revealed that there was no difference in acceptable scores regarding gender. The study found that the FTP could be shortened with no loss of reliability, and that the shorter version could be a quick and practical tool for shelter staff to assess cats’ temperament and find them compatible homes.

“With some minor training of staff, the FTP can be used to identify social and calm cats that are better suitable for a family with special needs, while a cat that is not attention seeking can be assessed and adopted by other families without these unique challenges. We hope these results will help reduce cat relinquishment and help more cats find forever homes,” added study team member Angélique Lamontagne.

The results of this publication represent findings of a larger study funded by HABRI and the Winn Feline Foundation, Shelter Cat Adoption in Families of Children with Autism: Impact on Children’s Social Skills and Anxiety as Well as Cat Stress, which investigated the effect of a shelter cat on social skills and anxiety in children with autism, and on cat welfare by measuring stress levels in the cats. The researchers found that children of families with an adopted shelter cat had increased empathy, decreased anxiety and became bonded with their cat. They expect further findings to show that cats will adjust to their new homes without significant stress.

Citation: Lamontagne, Angélique; Johnson, Rebecca A.; Carlisle, Gretchen K.; Lyons, Leslie A.; Bibbo, Jessica L.; Koch, Colleen; and Osterlind, Steven J., Efficacy of the Feline Temperament Profile in evaluating sheltered cats for adoption into families of a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Animal Studies Journal, 9(2), 2020, 21-55. Available at:https://ro.uow.edu.au/asj/vol9/iss2/3

1.

Salman, M. D., Hutchison, J., Ruch-Gallie, R., Kogan, L., New Jr, J. C., Kass, P. H., & Scarlett, J. M. (2000). Behavioral reasons for relinquishment of dogs and cats to 12 shelters. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 3(2), 93-106.

About ReCHAI

ReCHAI, founded in 2005, operates as a dynamic collaboration between the University of Missouri Sinclair School of Nursing and College of Veterinary Medicine with a mission of education and conducting programs and studies about the benefits of human-animal interaction.

About HABRI

HABRI is a not-for-profit organization that maintains the world’s largest online library of human-animal bond research and information; funds innovative research projects to scientifically document the health benefits of companion animals; and informs the public about human-animal bond research and the beneficial role of companion animals in society. For more information, please visit http://www.habri.org

About Winn Feline Foundation

Winn Feline Foundation is a nonprofit organization established in 1968 that supports studies to improve cat health. Since 1968, the Winn Feline Foundation has funded more than $7.6 million in health research for cats at more than 30 partner institutions worldwide. For further information, go to www.winnfelinefoundation.org.

Contact

Jamie Baxter

jamie@theimpetusagency.com

775.322.4022

###

Press Releases
Turn Your Office Into A ‘Woofice’

The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) announced today the latest installment of The Pet Effect campaign highlighting the many benefits of pets at work. The Woofice combines research supporting the benefits of pet-inclusive workplaces with practical tools for offices that want to become pet inclusive, all delivered with an entertaining, lighthearted approach. The Woofice video features a series of vignettes designed to pay homage to the beloved TV show, The Office, while delivering research-based messages about the positive impact of pets in the workplace. “With millennial pet owners driving demand for more pet-friendly offices, The Woofice campaign is incredibly timely,” said Steven Feldman HABRI Executive Director. “It is HABRI’s genuine hope that The Woofice videos and campaign content catch on and inspire people to take steps to create pet-friendly workplaces, so that the benefits of strong and healthy human-animal bonds can not only be experienced at home but also every weekday from 9 to 5!” Research supports a host of benefits from having pets at work. For example, research has found a link between a pet-friendly workplace and improved communication and collaboration among employees. Studies have also shown that pets can help buffer stress, encourage interaction and rapport between neighbors in communities, and improve other elements of physical and mental health, such as increased physical activity and decreased depression. “The Woofice video is a fun way to educate employees and HR professionals on the importance of pet-inclusive workplaces for greater productivity, enhanced employee engagement, and improved relationships in the office,” Feldman added. The Woofice campaign includes data on pet-inclusive workplaces, which found that pet-friendly companies are more likely to attract, engage and retain employees. It also highlights research showing that more than three times as many employees at pet-friendly workplaces reported a positive...

Press Releases
Email Reminder + Dog = Increased Physical Activity

The Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) Foundation today announced the results of a study exploring the effects of an email mediated intervention to increase walking in dog owners and non-dog owners, conducted by researchers at Purdue University and published in the journal Clinical Nursing Research. Findings of the study showed that a simple email intervention sharing the importance of walking and the positive impact of walking on a dog’s health were effective tools to promote walking. These interventions caused participants to increase and maintain dog walking over a 12-month period. Email intervention for non-dog owners also increased weekly minutes of walking compared with baseline measures and control groups, however dog owners accumulated significantly more walking minutes per week than non-dog owners. “Walking is an easy, accessible way to increase physical activity, which is important for the health of people and their pets,” said the principal investigator on the study, Elizabeth A. Richards, PhD, RN, CHES, of Purdue University. “Because an email reminder is so simple, these findings should be easy to replicate, encouraging dog owners and non-dog owners alike to lead more physically active lifestyles.” Participants assigned to the intervention group received a twice-weekly email message for the first four weeks of the intervention followed by weekly email messages for the next eight weeks. The emails attempted to influence confidence through a variety of mechanisms which the investigators hypothesized would directly influence dog walking for dog owners and walking for non-dog owners. Previous studies have supported that dog owners who walk their dogs are motivated to do so because of dog-related support for walking. A number of dog-owner participants in this study anecdotally reported that their ability to maintain behavior change in physical activity was in part due to the dog expecting a walk and conditioning the owner to comply. “With...

Press Releases
New Study to Explore the Connection Between Human and Pet Health

The Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) announced today it has awarded a $27,000 grant to Lincoln Memorial University, for a study titled, Measuring the Impact of a Mutually Reinforcing Relationship Between Pet Owners and Their Pets. This research project will analyze data collected via a series of public health fairs and develop a general model of health and wellness behavior to examine the relationship between the health of humans and their pets and whether patterns of health and health-associated behaviors are similar. It is anticipated that the model will help determine that pets share the same health benefits and risks as their owners. “Healthy pets make healthy people,” said HABRI Executive Director Steve Feldman. “Lincoln Memorial University can help us establish this important connection so that the human-animal bond is universally accepted as an essential element of human wellness.” The one-year pilot study will aim to obtain data sufficient to describe the current state of health and health associated behaviors in pet owner-pet pairs in the Cumberland Gap Region (CGR) of Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia. Health metric data including body weight, heart rate, blood pressure and height will be collected for 300 human subjects and their pet dogs or cats through conducting a series of public health fairs. The investigators seek to use the data to formulate a general model of health and health associated behavior. “Few studies have simultaneously investigated the health and health promoting behaviors of owners and pets,” said principal investigator Dr. Charles Faulkner, Associate Professor of Veterinary Medicine at Lincoln Memorial University. “We believe the model developed in this study will help provide evidence that the relationship between humans and companion animals mutually reinforces their health and quality of life. This is especially important in a geographic region where residents rank at the bottom in health outcomes for heart...

HABRI