Feline Temperament Profile can help shelters rehome cats

New research funded by the Human Animal Bond Research Institute and the Winn Feline Foundation reveals that the Feline Temperament Profile (FTP) is effective in evaluating the behavioral responses of cats in different situations. The authors say the findings give animal rescue groups an additional tool in their toolbox to help cats find homes.

They say this is particularly true when trying to match shelter cats with families of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

The FTP, which rates cats on friendliness, playfulness, aggressiveness, and fear, consists of 10 phases, with a list of “acceptable” and “questionable” behaviors under each phase. In the study, 4 shelter cats were rejected for placement in a home with a child with ASD while 26 qualified, based on their FTP scores. There was no difference in scores when broken down by sex, the authors report; however, there was a significant difference in scores when broken down by animal shelters.

The authors write: “Results also indicate that the FTP may . . . serve as a quick and practical tool for animal shelters and rescue organizations to assess a cat’s temperament to find compatible homes and reduce the likelihood of cat relinquishment.”

The study, which was published in the Animal Studies Journal, was led by researchers at the University of Missouri.

NEWStat reached out to lead researcher Gretchen Carlisle, PhD, MEd, RN, CHES, a scientist with the Research Center for Human Animal Interaction at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine, to find out more.

NEWStat: How does cat behavior affect the retention of adopted cats?

Gretchen Carlisle: Previous research with families of children with autism identifies greater benefits when there is a better match between pet temperament/personality and the child and family so I would speculate this is likely to affect retention, although we have not specifically measured cat behavior and retention.

NEWStat: What inspired you to do this research?

GC: In previous research with parents of children with autism, parents reported that their children bonded with pets other than dogs, and cats were the most common after dogs. There was very little research on pets other than dogs, so the importance of a randomized, controlled trial to specifically explore cat adoption was important to help parents [with] decisionmaking about pets.

NEWStat: Why did you choose the FTP as a measure of assessment?

GC: We chose the FTP because of its validity in temperament testing. There may be other cat-behavior measures that also work well. Most important is for shelter staff to have some type of objective measure.

NEWStat: How can your findings help veterinarians practice better medicine in general when treating feline patients?

GC: Children with autism can be prone to temper tantrums and have other behavior problems. [With cat-owning clients who also have an autistic child,] it is important that veterinarians ask questions that would help identify cat stress and to provide families with supportive advice if their cat is stressed.

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