Lockhart, J., Wilson, K., Lanman, C. 2013. The effects of operant training on blood collection for domestic cats. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 143(2-4), 128-134.

The impact of operantly training domestic cats to accept jugular blood collections in a dorsally recumbent (novel) position was assessed. Cats were assigned to one of three groups: Group 1 (N = 14): no training, traditional jugular blood collection; Group 2 (N = 17): trained in novel position but traditional blood collection method used; Group 3 (N = 15): trained in novel position and new blood collection method used. The impact of handler was assessed by testing each cat twice, once with a familiar and once with an unfamiliar person, one week apart. For each test, cats received two venipunctures 20 min apart. Blood samples were analyzed for cortisol levels with collection one serving as the initial stressing event/baseline and collection two serving as test/change from baseline. All instances were filmed and coded for behavioral signs of stress. Cats displayed significantly more escape attempts with the unfamiliar than the familiar handler (P < 0.01). Paired comparison with Bonferroni adjustments showed that Group 3 took significantly longer to position than Group 2 (P < 0.01) and Group 1 (P < 0.04), but overall took the same amount of time to complete blood collections. There was a significant difference between heart rates (beats per min; bpm) at release between groups (P < 0.01). Group 3 had lower heart rates when released than Group 2 (P < 0.01) and Group 1 (P < 0.01). This suggests that the trained/recumbent cats showed the least physiological reaction to the blood collection. Trained cats, despite method or familiarity with handler, showed lower cortisol levels (?g/dL) when the procedure was repeated (P < 0.02). Cortisol levels did not differ significantly at baseline on either day or between groups on day one. There was a significant difference in cortisol levels between groups on day 2 where Group 1 had significantly higher mean test cortisol concentrations when compared with Group 2 (P < 0.01) or Group 3 (P < 0.02). Operant training to blood collections appears to have a positive impact on the cat's experience whether a traditional or novel position is used. These results support the use of operant training to improve the overall blood collection experience for domestic cats.

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