Liz Bales, VMD is a 17-year practicing veterinarian who, through her experience, has gained a special interest in needs of cats, including feline behavior, nutrition and internal medicine. She is the founder of the Feline Environmental Enrichment Design Company (FEED Co.) and inventor of The NoBowl Five a Day Feeder. Dr. Liz Bales is a proud member of the Fear Free Advisory Group and was recently featured as part of the Fear Free panel – “Enrichment in the Built Environment” at the 2017 Cat Writers’ Association 23rd annual conference.
What influenced your decision to become a veterinarian?
I think I was born wanting to be a veterinarian. I spent my childhood with horses, cats and dogs. I not only loved being with them, I loved understanding their nature and helping to heal them. By the time I was 18, I started working for a veterinarian and the rest is history!
How has veterinary medicine changed since you started practicing?
I have been a veterinarian for 17 years. A lot has changed in that time. I have been most fascinated with the strides made in understanding cat wellness. When I graduated, we were just starting to appreciate the needs of cats – that they are not just small dogs. Now we have the evidence-based research to understand the unique physical and emotional needs of cats in the indoor environment. We know so much more about how to set up our homes and how to feed them so that we meet these needs. When these needs are not met that’s when the most common physical and behavioral problems arise. I think this is incredible information! Simply by changing the way we house and feed cats, we can make them significantly more healthy, and maybe even save lives.
As the inventor of the NoBowl Feeding System™, a Fear Free℠ Preferred Product, can you tell us more about the system?
How you feed your cat is just as important as what you feed your cat. Cats are hunters. Providing cats with the ability to hunt for at least 5 small meals a day in the house is the gold standard for cat feeding and the very best way to enrich their environment. With Doc and Phebe’s 5 a day feeder, you use the portion filler to fill all 5 feeders and hide them once a day. Your cat spends its day hunting each one and batting it around, like it would a mouse. Playing with the feeder dispenses the small portion of food or treats for your cat. Your cat rests until hunger motivates it to go hunting again.
What is your proudest accomplishment so far in veterinary medicine?
I have to say it is not one moment. I am very proud to be a part of the movement that is raising the standard of care for cats. Cat parents love their cats and want to do the very best for them, but so many have never been exposed to this incredible information and don’t have the tools to implement it. I am extremely proud that I have brought Doc and Phebe’s 5-A-Day Feeder to the cat parent. Cats are finally able to hunt and eat 5 small meals a day in the house, and it is really changing their lives. I get letters and emails every day from cat parents who tell me that their cats are no longer scarfing and barfing, not waking them up at night, and are finally active and playing….and achieving a healthy weight. That’s pretty awesome.
In your experience, what are some common misconceptions or misunderstandings about feline health?
We think spoiling our cats means treating them like tiny humans and feeding them heaping bowls of food and endless treats. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are actually making them sick. Feline obesity is up 90% in the past 10 years. Additionally, the inability to be their true selves is causing the behavior problems that we humans just can’t live with.The #1 cause of death for cats is euthanasia for behavior problems. It is an epidemic. When I learned this, my whole career changed. If people could understand just one thing to change their cats lives it is this – cats are hunters. They are mentally and physically healthy when they are hunting and eating at least 5 small meals a day. Let your cat be a cat and watch how happy and healthy she or he becomes.
How did you become involved with Fear Free℠?
I met Dr. Becker at a veterinary conference in 2015 where he was speaking on Fear Free. We had the chance to talk and get to know each other, and I shared with him my passion for environmental enrichment education and creating the tools to implement it in the home. Dr. Becker was very encouraging of me in my mission and introduced me to many of the folks on the Fear Free team. We share the same goals – reduce fear, anxiety and stress for our pets. We can help do this in our homes as well as in the veterinary office.
What are the most important things our community needs to know about Fear Free℠?
A fear free trained professional understands both the physical and emotional well-being of your pet. We have the techniques to alleviate fear, anxiety and stress, and we want to share them with you. In addition to fear free veterinary visits, there are Fear Free trainers who can help you train your pet with positive, Fear Free training methods.
Fear Free is committed to providing you with cutting edge resources and education to give your pet with a Fear Free home – a home full of Fear Free experiences and plenty of enrichment to help your pets live happy, healthy, full lives.
As a panelist for the 2017 CWA Conference on “Enrichment in the Built Environment,” what can you tell us about Fear Free℠ resources for cat writers and bloggers?
Fear Free Happy Homes launches this summer! And it’s free for 2017. Here you will find videos, blogs, articles and tips from the top experts in the field of pet welfare with amazing advice on everything from feline enrichment to kitten socialization. You’ll learn great tips and where to find the best tools for any feline job. And, Fear Free will collaborate with your local shelters to find every pet a loving Fear Free Happy Home. So there is much to be excited about!
What are three top tips for cat owners to better provide enrichment for their cats both indoors and outdoors?
Hunt! No food or treat should be served. Cats should be hunting for their food. It makes cats happy and healthy and is the ultimate in environmental enrichment.
Hide and Climb – make sure to provide lots of places for your cats to climb and hide in their indoor environment. From cat trees and enrichment walls, to beds and cardboard boxes…the more the better.
Have a relationship with a veterinarian that understands the needs of you and your cat, and uses the latest techniques to reduce fear, anxiety and stress in both you and your cat. And make sure your cat gets a check-up at least once a year!
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Yes! You may have noticed in my answers…The NoBowl Feeding System is undergoing a rebrand. The same great product will be known as Doc and Phoebe’s Mouse Company’s 5 A Day Feeder.