Acupuncture as a Means of Reducing Stress in Shelter Cats

August 31, 2017

Audience: Executive Leadership, Shelter/Rescue Staff & Volunteers, Veterinary Team

Organization: University of Illinois
Investigator(s): Loukia Agapis and Mandy Erdei
Grant Amount: $5,000
Project Type: Summer Scholar
Project Status: Research Complete

Project Summary

This University of Illinois Summer Scholar study investigated whether administering acupuncture to newly incoming shelter adult cats or kittens would reduce stress. The study results did not show significant difference in stress levels between cats that received acupuncture treatment and cats that did not.

Objective(s)

To observe whether newly incoming shelter cats will respond to acupuncture in a way that will reduce their stress

Methods

Cats and kittens were assessed upon intake, and if deemed healthy were randomly placed into the treatment group for acupuncture, using a random number generator. Acupuncture was performed on 3 points: An Shen, GV20, and HT7. Subsequently, the veterinarian who executed the treatment was asked to fill out a survey on cat's exhibited signs of fearfulness after the procedure; then each cat was videotaped for one minute twice a day for the following three days. The following parameters were recorded via the same fearfulness survey taken at an intake: health, grooming behavior, respiratory signs, overall relaxed, fearful or attentive behavior, and signs of aggression.

Results

  • The study results did not show significant difference in stress levels between cats that received acupuncture treatment and cats that did not.
  • Although no significant differences in rate of adoption or number of day to adoption were found in this sample, there is an indication that fearfulness in kittens may be reduced by acupuncture.
  • Analysis of all cats' data (regardless of group) revealed that age and signs of respiratory condition were significantly associated with fearfulness scores. Cats of all ages without substantial signs of respiratory condition were significantly less fearful, and kittens were significantly less fearful than adult cats. However, due to low sample size these results should be interpreted very carefully.

Conclusions

Acupuncture research for companion animals is inadequate. Although the study results did not show significant difference in stress levels between cats that received acupuncture treatment and cats that did not, it has provided a few hypotheses for future research.

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