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Using Behavior to Increase Immune Response

Emotional stress for cats, particularly those in shelters, can lead to upper respiratory infections (URI s). A substance called secretory immunoglobulin A (s-IgA) helps the immune system launch a response against URI s and is highly responsive to emotional states. In other species, increasing s-IgA levels successfully improves the animal’s emotional state. Researchers will examine the relationships among behavior, the stress hormone cortisol and levels of s-IgA in shelter cats. They will then test the effect of various behavioral interventions on the emotional state of cats and examine health outcomes using a technique developed and validated during the first phase of the study. Researchers will use the information to develop effective behavioral interventions that shelter personnel can use to reduce the spread of the disease in shelters.

Dr. Clive Phillips, University of Queensland, Australia