Project Detail
Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) logo
Office of Autism Research Coordination (OARC) logo

Genetic components influencing the feline - human social bond  

The role of domestic cats in animal-assisted interventions (AAI) has been well-recognized in nursing care for decades, especially improving the quality of life for the elderly, dementia patients, and autistic children. Many cat breeds are genetically distinct and are selected for different temperaments and "personalities," making individual animals or breeds better or worse for AAI. The genetic mutations affecting monoamine neurotransmitter pathway genes, which encode enzymes that metabolize serotonin and the catecholamines, are under investigation in a host of human and animal studies to understand the genetic components of various behaviors, including boldness, novelty seeking, and aggression. This research focuses on developing survey and genetic tools to help select the most effective cats, or cat breeds, for successful animal-assisted interventions (AAI) for autistic children. Investigators will characterize the genetic variation of behavioral-related genes, focusing on genes in neurotransmitter pathways, using an extensive dataset of domestic cat DNA samples. In addition, the investigators will collect survey data to determine the behavioral attributes of a positive feline-human social bond in autistic children. Future studies could associate the genetic variations of patient-owned cats and their effectiveness in AAI. For example, specific cats, whether breeds or individuals, identified from shelter populations, could be selected as potential companions for the autistic child and the specific needs of the families to better facilitate the goals of AAI, potentially improving the quality of life of the patients, the families and the cat. Project Status


Funder National Institutes of Health
Fiscal Year Funding $76,500.00
Current Award Period 2010-2012
Project Number 1R03HD066594-01
Principal Investigator Lyons, Leslie
Received ARRA Funding? No
Strategic Plan Question Question 4: Which Treatments And Interventions Will Help? (Treatments)
Subcategory Occupational, Physical, and Sensory-Based
Strategic Plan Objective 4O. Not specific to Question 4 objectives
Federal or Private? Federal
Institution University of California, Davis
State/Country California
Web Link 1 Genetic components influencing the feline - human social bond (External web link)
Web Link 2 No URL available.
Web Link 3 No URL available.
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