Exploratory Study Funded by HABRI and EveryCat Health Foundation Provides Future Directions for Study of Welfare in Temperament Screened Shelter Cats
Washington, D.C. (September 13, 2021) — The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) and EveryCat Health Foundation today announced the results of a new study published in the open-access Journal Frontiers in Veterinary Science, “Exploratory Study of Fecal Cortisol, Weight, and Behavior as Measures of Stress and Welfare in Shelter Cats During Assimilation Into Families of Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder”, providing preliminary evidence that temperament screened shelter cats adopted by families of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) did not experience a significant increase in stress after adoption by their new families.
“Benefits of companion animals in homes of families of children with autism have been identified, but little is known about the welfare of pets in these homes,” said Dr. Gretchen Carlisle, Research Scientist at the University of Missouri and Principal Investigator. “These results provide a starting point for future research exploring cat welfare, while also identifying a set of steps families can take to effectively mitigate stress in their new feline family members.”
“HABRI is particularly proud to have supported the Feline Friends study, which has already demonstrated that temperament screened shelter cats can help families of children with ASD,” said Steven Feldman, President of HABRI. “Results from this new publication focused on cat welfare are important to ensuring successful, long-lasting human-animal bonds.”
“We know how meaningful companion animals are to those with ASD and are honored to have supported this groundbreaking research showing that cats can safely and healthily fill this role is truly a win for the cats and their people,” expressed Jackie Ott Jaakola, Executive Director of EveryCat Health Foundation.
This exploratory study measured stress in temperament screened shelter cats adopted by families of children with ASD by using fecal cortisol, weight and a behavior stress measure. Findings suggest that the cats in the study acclimated to their adopted homes of families of children with ASD. Stress was mitigated through screening both the cat and the home prior to adoption, the education of the owner, as well as environmental enrichment including a safe hiding place for the cat. The reduction of fecal cortisol, as well as no reports of aggression, demonstrate that the cat’s welfare concerns were adequately addressed in this small study.
“Cat stress can be a major source of relinquishment back to shelters. Through this research, we hope to support successful shelter cat adoptions by providing families and shelters with a roadmap for creating good matches. By screening cats for temperament, educating families about cat behavior, and providing additional resources towards reducing cat stress, we can help strengthen the human-animal bond and prevent relinquishments,” added Dr. Carlisle.
The results of this publication represent findings of a larger study funded by HABRI and EveryCat Health Foundation, the Feline Friends study, which investigated the effect of a shelter cat on social skills and anxiety in children with autism. The first publication in the Journal of Pediatric Nursing, found cat adoption was associated with greater empathy and less separation anxiety for children with ASD, along with fewer problem behaviors including externalizing, bullying and hyperactivity/Inattention. The second publication in the Animal Studies Journal demonstrated 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.
Citation: Carlisle, Gretchen K., et al. “Exploratory study of fecal cortisol, weight and behavior as measures of stress and welfare in shelter cats during assimilation into families of children with autism spectrum disorder.” Frontiers in Veterinary Science: 942.
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 https://www.habri.org/.
About EveryCat Health Foundation
EveryCat Health Foundation, a non-profit organization established in 1968, advances feline health by supporting groundbreaking research and education. Its work worldwide has funded nearly $8 million in cat health research at more than 30 partner institutions. Efforts are made possible through the generosity of dedicated donors and collaborators. Research supported by EveryCat Health Foundation helps veterinarians by providing groundbreaking research that improves treatment of common feline health problems and prevents many diseases. Grants are awarded at least twice yearly with the help of the foundation’s expert review panel. For further information or to support feline health research, please visit www.everycat.org.
More Press Releases
New Research Shows Cats Help Children with Autism
The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) today announced the results of a new study published in the Journal of Pediatric Nursing titled, “Exploratory study of cat adoption in families of children with autism: Impact on children’s social skills and anxiety,” demonstrating that children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may experience increases in empathy and decreases in problem behaviors after adoption of a shelter cat into their families. “Our study found that children with ASD experienced significant increases in the social skill of empathy, significant decreases in problem behaviors including bullying and hyperactivity/inattention, and also less separation anxiety after the introduction of a shelter cat,” said Gretchen Carlisle, PhD, MEd, RN, research scientist at the University of Missouri Research Center for Human Animal Interaction (ReCHAI). “Previous research has focused on interactions of dogs with children who have ASD, but dogs may not provide the best fit for all children and their families, especially given the hypersensitivities to sound that are common among children with ASD,” Carlisle said. “We hope the results of this study will help encourage more families to consider the possibility of cat ownership and help more shelter cats find loving, deserving homes.” “For the first time, we have scientific research that shows how beneficial cats can be for families of children with ASD,” said Steven Feldman, President of HABRI, the primary funder of the study. “Selecting a suitable family pet is an important decision. Families with a child with ASD now have more information and more choices, and we hope that this will also help more shelter cats find good homes.” Findings of the Feline Friends study, led by researchers at the University of Missouri, demonstrated that children with an adopted shelter cat had better empathy and less separation anxiety, as well as fewer problem behaviors exhibited by less externalizing, bullying...
Pets Bring Joy and Health Benefits to People Staying at Home Around the World; Now Two Organizations are Teaming up to Share the Science and Research Behind This
As millions of pet owners around the world are staying at home during the COVID-19 crisis, many are discovering the benefits of sharing more time with their pets. Research into simple acts like walking a dog or petting a cat continues to demonstrate what many pet owners around the planet have long understood: spending time with pets can provide a wide range of benefits to people, from improved mood and reduced stress, to decreased loneliness and even lower blood pressure. Now, two not-for-profit organizations are teaming up to help amplify and promote the global science and research insights behind the benefits of living with pets. The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) based in Washington, D.C., and the Global Alliance of Pet Food Associations (GAPFA) based in Brussels, Belgium, are working together to promote their on-line libraries of scientific research. Both organizations and their members have spent years aggregating scientific knowledge and information examining how pets and people are beneficial for each other. These learnings span many age groups, cultures and geographies and are posted on their respective websites, www.habri.org and www.gapfa.org. Key resources include information on the physical and mental benefits of pets for children, adults, and older people. “Pets make our lives better in so many ways, and this is true anywhere around the world,” said GAPFA President David Corley. “Pets give so much to us, and it is our responsibility to ensure we are providing the best nutrition to enable them to be at their best. GAPFA represents 13 national and regional pet food industry associations and three international pet food manufacturers, and we are pleased to join with HABRI to highlight the special companionship and significant health benefits that pets bring to our lives, especially in times like these.” “As people practice social distancing and stay home, they are increasingly turning to pets for comfort, joy and companionship,” said...
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.