According to the University of Missouri Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction (ReCHAI), 1 in 68 children will be diagnosed with autism this year. A new study conducted by ReCHAI, called Feline Friends Project, will study benefits of placing shelter cats with autistic children.
ReCHAI. a partnership between the MU College of Veterinary Medicine and the Sinclair School of Nursing, has studied the human animal bond for the last ten years.
Origins of the Feline Friends Project
Previous studies conducted show autistic children’s social skills improve when they live with a dog. Dogs can be noisy and overactive, creating stress for some autistic children.
Since cats are quiet and soft they may be better companions for some autistic children. The Feline Friends Project will test whether living with a cat will help improve social skills as dogs have done.
How Feline Friends Project Will Work
The Feline Friends Project will match and place calm and friendly shelter cats in homes of children with autism. Before placing them with a family, researchers will evaluate each cat’s behavior and temperament. Families participating in the project will adopt the cat selected as a match for them.
Determining Project Success
Researchers will monitor anxiety and stress levels of children participating in the study. Since cats produce cortisol when stressed, their levels will also be monitored. Low stress and anxiety levels in children and cats will signal success.
If the project is successful, it will provide homes for shelter cats and a tool to benefit children dealing with autism.
To learn more about the Feline Friends Project go to ReCHAI-Feline Friends Project (also the Crowdfunding page for the project).
This project has exciting possibilities for homeless cats and autistic children! Hopefully the power of the purr will be a winner!