Research by Dr. Nadine Gourkow

Love and Care To All




Environmental Enrichment for cats

Nadine Gourkow examined the effect of housing on behaviour of cats in an animal shelter and on their selection by adopters. Cats in non-enriched single cages had the lowest rate of adoption (45%) versus cats in enriched single and communal housing (69-76%). Interviews and questionnaire of adopters showed that they prefer cats that appear friendly, playful and happy. These results show that providing environmental enrichment can improve welfare and adoption rates.


Animal Shelter Epidemiology

Upper Respiratory Disease (URD) is a significant issue for the welfare and survival of cats in animal shelters. Nadine Gourkow conducted an epidemiological study in an animal shelter of Western Canada. At intake, 28% of cats tested positive for 1 or more pathogen related to URD. Over 40 days, the probability of developing URD was 2.2 times greater for stray than owner-surrendered cats. Cats that were shedding at intake were 3 times more likely to develop URD than non-carriers. Cats with FHV-1 and B. bronchiseptica infections were most at risk compared with non-shedding cats.


Emotional Indices for Shelter Cats

Nadine Gourkow developed and validated the UQ- Cat Emotion Indices. This effective and practical tool is used in animal shelters to assess anxiety, fear, frustration and contentment in shelter cats. Each behaviour included has been validated with an immune biomarker (Secretory Immunoglobulin A). SigA is also a reliable biomarker for stress and negative emotions in many species such as humans, dogs, pigs, lambs, chickens.


Facial Expression of Emotions in Cats

Video recordings of cats were analysed to describe facial expressions of cats that may be indicative of relaxation, fear and frustration. The results revealed convergent validity between CatFACS and classic description of “offensive and defensive moods” in cats described by other researchers. CatFACS also revealed elements relating to vocalisation and response lateralisation, not previously reported.


Emotional Health Interventions

Gentling for anxious and fearful cats

Emotional, behavioural, and health benefits of gentle stroking and vocalizations have been documented for several species. In this study, shelter cats rated as anxious with the UQ-CEI were allocated to either a Gentled or Control group. Gentling induced contentment, increase production of SIgA and reduced the incidence of upper respiratory disease.


Cognitive Enrichment for frustrated cats

Cognitive enrichment can reduce frustration in nondomestic felids kept in zoos. Similarly, shelter cats can feel frustrated when caged. Nadine examined the effect of providing training sessions to cats to teach them a complex behavior (High Five). Treatment prevented onset of depression, increased secretion of IgA and reduced incidence of Upper Respiratory Infection.


Positive Human Interaction to sustain contentment

In humans, social support is essential to health and emotional wellbeing. Nadine provided positive human interactions (social support) to cats to help them sustain contentment while in the animal shelter. Treated cats were more likely to remain Content. They had greater SigA values and lower incidence of Upper Respiratory Infections.


Veterinary Herbal Medicine

Nadine Gourkow, Research Fellow at the University of West Indies (Jamaica) and R&D Scientist with the Veterinary Botanical Research Society (Canada).


Cannabis Research

Pain is often a chronic and unremitting experience; pain control medication must be administered at frequent intervals to ensure minimal pain is experienced. In animals, the transdermal drug delivery route is increasingly attractive due to its convenience and avoidance of the gastrointestinal system.

A transdermal formulation of Cannabidiol (non-psychoactive component of cannabis) may permit administration on-going control of pain without stress or discomfort. Currently, little is known about the rate and extent that CBD can move through canine skin. Our current project will determine the pharmacokinetics of CBD movement through canine skin using an in vitro model.


Veterinary Herbal Formulation

Nadine Gourkow, R &D Scientist Veterinary Botanical Research Society (VBRS).

Just like people, animals can suffer from emotional problems such as anxiety, fear or frustration and other emotional problems that affect behaviour, learning and relationships with their human friends. Anti anxiety drugs such as Prozac are often prescribed but can have negative effects on health and learning. In humans, medicinal plants are commonly used to improve emotional health. Nadine’s on-going research examines the effectiveness of western medicinal plants to reduce, anxiety, fear and aggression in dogs and cats.