Experts gather to advocate for cats

Cat didn’t get their tongue. Experts from around the country met in Palm Springs, CA, Feb. 5-6 to chart a course of action to help cats at the CATalyst Summit. Cats don’t fair as well as dogs when it comes to veterinary visits, they are more often abused than dogs, and they are relinquished to shelters more than their canine cousins – not to mention the plight of millions of stray and feral cats.

As an outcome of the meeting, the American Association of Feline Practitioners and the American Animal Hospital Association agreed to craft new guidelines for veterinary professionals (subject to their respective boards’ approval) on the latest and greatest techniques and protocols for treating cats, even how to make their practices more cat-friendly. Hill’s Pet Nutrition promised to fund similar guidelines for the general public, which I will write with assistance from the Winn Feline Foundation, journalists/pet book authors Amy Shojai, Pam Johnson-Bennett and Arden Moore, editor/writer Beth Adelman and others. These guidelines will be released in 2009.

“”We all went into the meeting with different perspectives, and left agreeing to focus on helping the cat,”” said Dr. Jane Brunt, past president of the American Association of Feline Practitioners. Jim Flanigan (cq), director of marketing at the American Veterinary Medical Association, spoke to the group, offering new data which supports the unfortunate predicament cats face – not receiving the kind of veterinary care they should. In my talk, I suggested cats are the Rodney Dangerfield of pets: they get no respect.

Part of the problem is that cats need a public relations makeover. Misconceptions and myths have been repeated so often in the media and within popular culture that they’ve been accepted as fact. Perhaps cats need a new spokesperson – a celebrity cat lover. Since his character loved cats in the movie “”Meet the Parents,”” one Summit attendee is hoping Robert DeNiro will do a series of ‘cats are cool’ public service announcements. Since data illustrates that the old notion about cats being pets for women only is false, De Niro could say, “”Real men can love cats, too.””

This was the first CATalyst Summit. The goal is to create an organized coalition of experts and organizations to advocate for cats, which the American Association of Feline Practitioners and the summit sponsor, Pfizer Animal Health, are now working on.


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