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Malini Suchak, PhD, associate professor of animal behavior, ecology and conservation (ABEC), received a $5,520 grant from The Charlotte and William Parks Foundation for Animal Welfare.  The Parks Foundation makes annual awards to support projects, research and other activities to advance the welfare of animals. Of the 176 grants competitively reviewed, Suchak was one of only 16 (11-USA; 5-international) or nine percent, awarded funding.

Suchak’s project will develop an automated system for researchers and shelters to monitor cat behavior with the hope of determining what strategies shelters can use to reduce cats’ stress while they are living there, and monitor their day-to-day behavior. The research involves the use of accelerometers, specially designed FitBits for cats, and the development of a computer algorithm to interpret the data from the accelerometer. 

The use of this technology, which can be scaled up, has the potential to improve the lives of the millions of cats surrendered to animal shelters every year in the US.  Improving their welfare while in the shelter is essential for facilitating timely adoption, as cats who are comfortable and well adjusted in animal shelters are more likely to be adopted into new homes. 

The grant is for a multi-institutional collaboration between Suchak and Ruth Colwill, PhD, at Brown University who will partner with two animal sheltering organizations, the SPCA serving Erie County (NY) and the Providence Animal Rescue League (RI). The grant also includes funding to hire an undergraduate research assistant at Canisius to contribute to the data collection.

Submitted by: Sara Morris, PhD, vice president for Academic Affairs