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Effect of Cage Enrichment and Predictability on Healthy Outcomes of Shelter Cats

Large numbers of domestic cats enter animal shelters each year. Some are strays and many are surrendered by owners who can no longer care for them. Entering a shelter is likely a frightening experience for most cats, resulting in a strong stress response. If the stress response persists, the cat may become sick, making it less likely that the cat will be adopted into a new home and more likely it will be euthanized. The overall goal of this project is to improve outcomes for shelter cats by reducing the number of days to adoption, the number of sick cats and the number of days these cats are sick. The researchers believe that finding the best ways to improve the cage experience and increase the safety and comfort of the cat’s surroundings from the time of arrival at the shelter to its adoption will improve health outcomes. This study tests the ability of improved observations and use of a biomarker to predict health outcomes, determines whether changes in the cage environment reduce stress and creates a training program to help shelter workers become experts in observing and working with cats to reduce the cats’ stress. By focusing on adoption and health as outcomes, the researchers hope to improve the lives of both cats and the shelter personnel who care for them.

This study is part of the Helping Shelters Help Cats program.

Dr. Tony Buffington, Ohio State University

Co-sponsors: Waltham Foundation; PetSmart Charities®; Edna B. Ellingson;; PetSmart Charities; The Van Sloun Foundation; Rex and Nelle Jackson Foundation