The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) recently awarded a $52,200 grant to the University of Missouri to fund a new study on the effect of shelter cats on social skills and anxiety in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
The study, led by Dr. Gretchen Carlisle of the University of Missouri’s Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction (ReCHAI), will use multiple instruments to assess social skills and ASD symptoms among children in families that have adopted a shelter cat and those that have not. Additionally, stress levels in the adopted cats will also be measured using fecal cortisol testing. The investigators anticipate that children exposed to adopted shelter cats will have better social skills and lower anxiety. They also expect that cats adopted by families of children with ASD will not experience any additional stress as the result of their adoptions.
“While many studies have focused on the impact of dogs on children with ASD, this study aims to determine the beneficial impacts of a pet cat on children with autism and their families, as the temperament and the ease of care for cats compared to other animals may increase the likelihood of a positive outcome for the children, the cats and the family as a whole.”
— Gretchen Carlisle, PhD, Research Fellow, ReCHAI
In addition to the funds received from HABRI, the project is also funded by a $25,000 grant from the Winn Feline Foundation.