A new study funded by the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) and the Winn Feline Foundation reveals that the Feline Temperament Profile (FTP), a cat temperament assessment, is effective in evaluating the behavioral responses of cats in different situations, giving animal rescue groups another tool in their toolbox in helping cats find homes. Results also indicate that the FTP may be shortened with no loss of reliability to serve as a “quick and practical tool” for such organizations.
The study, which was published in the Animal Studies Journal, was led by researchers at the University of Missouri.
“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.”
Steven Feldman, executive director of HABRI, added, “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. 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 haven’t been many evidence-based studies regarding the temperament of cats and the effect on different aspects of the human-cat bond, according to Dr. Vicki Thayer, interim executive director of the Winn Feline Foundation.
“The results of this study provide important information assisting shelters with finding compatible homes for successful adoption of cats,” Thayer said.
Research suggests retention of adopted cats is associated with cat behavior. 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, the researchers said. Traditional tests to assess cat behavior may take as long as three days, which has the potential to create a backlog in shelters that face staffing or operational limitations, the researchers added.
The FTP, which was developed in 1983, was designed to assess the suitability of cats for placement specifically 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, according to the researchers.
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.
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