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
Human Animal Bond Research Initiative Awards Grant for New Study to Examine Therapy Dog Impact on Pediatric Echocardiograms

The Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) announced today it has awarded a $44,000 grant to Duke University School of Medicine’s Division of Pediatric Cardiology for a new research study titled Impact of Animal Assisted Therapy on Quality, Completeness, and Patient and Parental Satisfaction in Children Undergoing Clinical Echocardiography. This study will examine the influence of Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) on young children undergoing an echocardiogram. It is hypothesized that children will have a more complete and higher quality echocardiogram in the presence of therapy dogs. In addition, parents are expected to report higher visit satisfaction scores and greater exam comfort for their children. “Echocardiography is an effective way to use ultrasound to ‘see’ inside the heart, and while taking the pictures is non-invasive, it can still be a scary procedure for young children,” said the study’s principal investigator, Dr. Piers C.A. Barker, Division of Pediatric Cardiology, Duke University School of Medicine. “Typically, we must sedate children who have trouble holding still so that we can get adequate pictures. This study aims to evaluate whether animal-assisted therapy could serve as an effective alternative technique to comfort the children and put them at ease, potentially resulting in more complete echocardiograms, higher quality images, and avoidance of sedation drugs.” “We know from previous scientific research that animal-assisted therapy is effective in alleviating anxiety in hospital patients,” said co-investigator, Margaret Gruen, DVM, PhD, DACVB of Duke. “This is one of the first studies to focus on the potential of animal-assisted therapy to impact a clinical outcome. If results are successful, this study could potentially add non-pharmacologic, low-cost options to improve diagnostic quality for children having medical imaging procedures and could encourage broader use of therapy dogs in other pediatric cardiology settings.” The...

Press Releases
Partnership Highlights Veterinarian Role in Strengthening the Human-Companion Animal Bond

The Human Animal Bond Research Institute and the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) have partnered to highlight the importance of veterinary medicine to support strong, long-lasting human-companion animal bonds and to promote the health benefits of interacting with pets. Activities agreed under the partnership will focus on promoting the science of the human-animal bond and the veterinary profession’s positive role in animal welfare and human wellness. The WSAVA is also represented on the Advisory Committee which participates in the development of the online Human Animal Bond Certification course, created by HABRI and the North American Veterinary Community (NAVC). “Veterinarians are uniquely positioned as trusted resources for pet owners who are more attuned to their pets’ health needs than ever before,” said Steven Feldman, President of HABRI. “HABRI is proud to join with WSAVA to help veterinarians connect with their clients and share scientific information about the human-animal bond.” Findings from a HABRI survey of US pet owners demonstrate that veterinarians are seen as trusted resources on scientific information focused on the benefits of pet ownership. Research also shows that knowledge of the science behind the human-animal bond can motivate pet owners to take better care of their pets. Specifically, the survey found that when pet owners knew more about the human health benefits of pet ownership: 92 percent said they were more likely to maintain a pet’s health, including keeping up with vaccines and preventive medicine; 89 percent said they were more likely to maintain a pet’s health, including regular check-ups with a veterinarian; and 89 percent said they were more likely to take better care of a pet overall. Dr. Shane Ryan, Past President of the WSAVA, said: “Caring for an animal companion provides benefit not only for the animal itself in terms of its health and welfare needs, but can have many positive benefits for the...

Press Releases
PetSmart Joins HABRI Board of Trustees

The Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) Foundation today announced that Sherry Jane Love, PetSmart Vice President Merchandise Buying – Hardgoods, has been elected to the HABRI Board of Trustees. PetSmart joins the three founding organizations on the Board – American Pet Products Association (APPA), Petco, and Zoetis – in making a major commitment to advancing scientific research that demonstrates how pets are good for human health. “PetSmart is a leader in strengthening the human-animal bond for millions of pet owners,” said APPA President and CEO Bob Vetere, who serves as HABRI President and Chairman of the Board of Trustees. “With Sherry Jane Love lending her time and talent to the HABRI Board of Trustees, PetSmart is showing how serious it is about achieving good health at both ends of the leash.” “At PetSmart, we have always been firm believers that pets make us better people, and we know the positive impact they have on our lives,” said Sherry Jane Love, PetSmart Vice President Merchandise Buying – Hardgoods. “HABRI is unifying everyone who believes in the healing power of pets. PetSmart is proud to be part of this important effort to strengthen and share the human-animal bond.” The HABRI Board of Trustees is the governing body that oversees the programs and activities of this 5-year-old non-profit organization. HABRI funds research on an annual basis in the areas of child health and development; healthy aging; and mental health and wellness, contributing to the growing body of evidence that shows companion animals are good for human health. HABRI also widely shares information about how the presence of companion animals in society helps make individuals, families, and communities healthier.

HABRI