Lessons Learned from Shelter Cats

University Communications & Marketing | 02/22/2024
1st Year Shelter Cat Program
Left to right: Arianna with Beans; Tierney with Howie and Boomer, members of SFU's first feline cohort.

In 2016, Saint Francis University  created a collaborative course between the Psychology Department and several local animal shelters . The course  “Canine Learning and Behavior" allowed college students  to foster shelter dogs for an entire semester, live with them in college-approved apartments, bring them to class, and train them for obedience and agility. Since then, the course has been taught seven times, enrolling more than 80 students and 24 dogs. All trained dogs successfully completed the course, “graduated from college,” and were adopted into loving homes.

Inspired by these positive outcomes, Dr. Shlomit Flaisher-Grinberg, Associate Professor of Psychology, envisioned a new college course introducing shelter cats’ training into the academic curriculum. The goal was  to provide shelter cats with socialization and human connection while training them for tasks that will improve their lives and facilitate their adoption outcomes. 

In 2022, SFU welcomed its first feline cohort.  Dr. Flaisher-Grinberg outlined the  diligent work that went into this class in a recent paper published in IAABC, the Journal of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants:  Creating a College-Based Shelter Cats’ Training Program.

Dr. Flaisher-Grinberg is building on the lessons learned from this first course with her current students who are socializing a new group of cats and kittens this semester.

Shlomit Flaisher-Grinberg, PhD., is an Associate Professor of Psychology, Coordinator of the Animal-Assisted Health and Education Minor/Certificate, and Co-Coordinator of the Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Minor  at Saint Francis University, Loretto, Pennsylvania.