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HABRI Hosted Virtual Lecture for Autism Awareness Month

IDEXX human-animal bond lecture series brings the science of the human-animal bond to veterinarians and pet owners.

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(PRESS RELEASE) WASHINGTON, DC — The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) and IDEX hosted a virtual lecture during Autism Awareness Month, focusing on new research demonstrating the impact of shelter cat adoption on the social skills and anxiety levels in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

This lecture titled, “The Impact of Shelter Cat Adoption in Families of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder”, features Dr. Gretchen Carlisle, Research Scientist, Research Center for Human Animal Interaction (ReCHAI), University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine, discussing her HABRI-funded publication, “Exploratory study of cat adoption in families of children with autism: Impact on children’s social skills and anxiety”, which found that found introduction of a shelter cat into the home may have a positive impact on children with ASD and their parents.

Results from Dr. Carlisle’s project were published in the Journal of Pediatric Nursing in December 2020. This was the first randomized controlled trial of adoption of a temperament-screened shelter cat by families of children with ASD. This exploratory study found that introduction of a cat into the home may have a positive impact on children with ASD, including greater Empathy and less Separation Anxiety for children with ASD, along with fewer problem behaviors including Externalizing, Bullying and Hyperactivity/Inattention. The children and their parents reported close bonds with their new cats almost immediately after adoption, and despite the cat caretaking responsibility, these bonds did not decrease over time.

“These research results show that children with autism and their families can benefit from the calmer, quieter demeanor of a pet cat,” said Steven Feldman, President of HABRI. “HABRI and IDEXX hope that together, we can help raise awareness of the health benefits of pet cats and help more cats find loving homes.”

Professionals who viewed this session live are eligible to receive RACE-approved Continuing Education (CE) credit through the American Association of Veterinary State Boards (AAVSB). The lecture, along with the others in the series will remain available on-demand here.

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