Behavioral problems are one of the top reasons why cats are relinquished to animal shelters. At the same time, studies have shown that cats can have a positive influence on people’s lives. This type of conflicting information makes research into feline behavior incredibly important. Here’s an opportunity for you to help.
Two professors at the University of California Davis School of Veterinary Medicine are asking cat owners to take part in a survey that looks into how cats interact with children. This research will be combined with a second study compiling data based on telephone interviews with approximately 300 families of special needs children. The overall goal is to "tease out how those relationships benefit children and whether feline genetic traits can help identify positive behavioral characteristics in cats," according to a UC Davis news release.
To take part in the survey, you must be 18 years of age or older and living in a household with at least one cat over the age of one and one or more children over the age of three. The researchers are hoping for at least 1,000 people to participate in the study. The questions focus on whether cats are playful, fearful, and/or aggressive around family members and strangers of varying ages. Responses are completely anonymous.
I find the genetic question especially intriguing. The behaviorist are working with veterinary geneticist Leslie Lyons, who is going to be looking at whether particular feline genes help determine whether a cat is "friendly, calm, aggressive, or bold" — the old nature-versus-nurture debate. It will also be interesting to learn whether or not certain types of cats are especially good at helping children with special needs.
I took the survey myself, and it takes less than 15 minutes to complete. If you fit the criteria and can spare the time, please lend a hand.
And while we’re talking about helping out, consider including Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue and Support in your charitable giving. This coalition of three well-established groups dedicated to the rescue and rehoming of animals in Japan is looking to "keep animal rescue on the agenda" in the face of the recent tragedies in their country.
Dr. Jennifer Coates