Shelter Cat Adoption in Families of Children with Autism

Impact on Children’s Social Skills and Anxiety as well as Cat Stress

Many families in the United States live with cats as companion animals, including families of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). One in 59 children are diagnosed with ASD. Symptoms of ASD include a lack of social skills and anxiety. Companion animals have been helpful for children with ASD. However, there is little research on children with autism living with cats and no one has studied stress of cats living in these families. In this study 64 pre-screened shelter cats are being adopted in prescreened homes. Cats ages 10 months to four years that have been selected for calm behavior using a temperament, test are adopted by families in the study. We are examining the social skills and anxiety of the children with ASD, and bonding of the parents and children with their cats. We are also studying stress levels in the cats.

Funded by Winn Feline Foundation and Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI)

Impact of Service Dogs on the Well-being of Autistic Children, their Parents and Families

One in 44 children are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Autistic children have been found to benefit from interaction with dogs, yet minimal research has been found demonstrating the outcome of matching service dogs with autistic children. The aim of the project is to evaluate the impact of service dogs on autistic children, their parents and families. In this study parents of autistic children will complete surveys measuring the following: child symptoms of autism, child and parent anxiety, family functioning and dog attachment. Families will be followed over time from their initial approval to be on a waitlist to receive a service dog, through training and up to one year after being matched with a service. Findings will be helpful for families considering a service dog, service dog training organizations and scientists studying human-animal interaction.

Funded by the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI)

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