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

Gretchen K. Carlisle, Rebecca A. Johnson, Colleen S. Koch, Leslie A. Lyons, Ze Wang, Jessica Bibbo, Nancy Cheak-Zamora

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Cats are a common companion animal (CA) in US households, and many live in families of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The prevalence of ASD is one in 54, and many children have behavior challenges as well as their diagnostic communication disorders. Objective: Benefits of CAs for children with ASD have been identified, but little is known about the welfare of CAs in these homes. This study explored the welfare of cats (N = 10) screened for ideal social and calm temperament using the Feline Temperament Profile (FTP) and adopted by families of children with ASD. Methods: Cat stress was measured using fecal cortisol, weight, and a behavior stress measure (cat stress score). Measures were taken at baseline in the shelter, 2–3 days after adoption, and at weeks 6, 12, and 18. Result: Outcome measures suggested the adopted cats' stress levels did not increase postadoption; however, the small sample size limited analytical power and generalizability. Conclusion: This study provides preliminary evidence for the success of cat adoption by families of children with ASD, when cats have been temperament screened and cat behavior educational information is provided. Further research is warranted to confirm these findings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number643803
JournalFrontiers in Veterinary Science
Volume8
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 6 2021

Keywords

  • autism spectrum disorder
  • cat adoption
  • cat stress
  • children
  • shelter cats

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • veterinary(all)

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