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Canisius professors receive grant from ASPCA

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Malini Suchak, Ph.D., along with Christy Hoffman, Ph.D., as a collaborator, received a $12,280 grant from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to improve the lives of cats surrendered to shelters. Suchak and Hoffman are associate professors of Animal Behavior, Ecology and Conservation (ABEC).

A project developed by Suchak involves an automated system for researchers and shelters to monitor cat’s daily behaviors and determine strategies shelters can use to reduce cats’ stress. The research involves the use of accelerometers, and the development of a computer algorithm to interpret the data from the accelerometer. 

The ASPCA grant will increase the use of activity loggers on cats in the shelter setting, and also expand use of these devices for cats that have been placed in foster homes.

“The ASPCA recognizes that supporting high-quality applied behavior research will promote animal welfare by advancing the development of evidence-based interventions and protocols in shelters,” said Victoria Cussen, Ph.D. CAAB, senior director, Applied Behavior Research of the ASPCA Behavioral Sciences Team. “Such evidence-based practices can reduce stress in the short term and, ultimately, contribute to our goal of ending the euthanasia of adoptable dogs and cats.”

“Foster homes can be extremely helpful for cats that are having difficulty adjusting to the shelter environment, and generally frees up space on site at the shelter,” said Suchak. The downside of foster homes is that the shelter can no longer directly observe how the animals are doing. Suchak and Hoffman hope to fill that gap using activity loggers to gather data remotely and will then pair this with a new system that surveys foster parents to see how well their reports match the automated data.

“The use of this technology has the potential to improve the lives of the millions of cats surrendered to animal shelters every year in the U.S.,” said Suchak. “We hope to use this information to better understand how cats adapt to foster settings, and gauge when they might be ready for adoption.”

For more information, contact the Office of College Communications at 716-888-2790.

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