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Effect of stroking on the health of shelter cats

N. Gourkow, S. C. Hamon, C. J. C. Phillips

WHEN cats experience stressful events, such as being moved into a shelter, the immune system can be negatively affected. Reduced production of secretory immunoglobulin A (sIg-A) has been shown to increase the risk of upper respiratory tract infections in cats. This study aimed to assess whether exposing shelter cats to gentle stroking and soothing noises reduced their anxiety and increased sIg-A production, and whether this affected the risk of upper respiratory tract disease.

The study was conducted at a single cat shelter in Canada; 139 cats that were assessed as being anxious on admission were included. None had signs of upper respiratory tract disease at admission. Seventy cats were assigned to an intervention group and 69 to a control group. During the first 10 days, cats in the intervention group were exposed to gentle stroking with gentle vocalisations once a day for 10 minutes. For cats in the control group, the experimenter stood facing away from the cage, with the door closed, without vocal interaction for 10 minutes. After the first 10 days, cats were moved to an adoption area and their health was monitored for a further 40 days. Faecal …

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