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W17-031: Shelter cat adoption in families of children with autism

Many families in the United States live with cats as companion animals, including families of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). One in 68 children are diagnosed with ASD. There is no cure for ASD, and no one treatment works for all children. Symptoms of ASD include a lack of social skills and anxiety. Companion animals have been helpful for children with ASD. However, no one has studied stress of cats living in families of children with ASD. This study will place 32 pre-screened shelter cats in prescreened homes and monitor the stress of the cats. Cats ages 10 months to four years that have been screened for calm behavior using a temperament, test will be adopted by families in the study. Families will also be screened for pet issues. No cat will be placed in a home with a child who has a history of aggression to animals. The study will also examine the social skills and anxiety of the children with ASD, and bonding of the parents and children with their cats. Five to eight million dogs and cats are relinquished to animal shelters in the United States each year. Thirty-eight percent of cats are given up for behavioral reasons. Studying cat stress and the placement of cats, with calm and nonaggressive characteristics into homes of families of children with ASD may help shed light on the likely success of the relationships between shelter cats and these families.

Grant ID: W17-031

Status: Active

Year Funded: 2017

Amount awarded: $24,996

Investigator: Gretchen Carlisle, PhD, Rebecca Johnson, PhD; University of Missouri